Le French vélo

This is my old bike, the one I had when in college in France, too many years ago to dare confess the number of decades.  Since I left France and entrusted her to my relatives it has managed to survive, though a tad rusty with faulty brakes that should be changed outright.  Yet, I still find her, somehow not giving up on me.

Weather has been terrible lately, something some of you may have guessed since I keep posting.  But rain in France is soft and if you do not mind hiding under the slightly jutting roof of a closed fish store, you might survive the humidity and keep riding a few minutes later, until the next squall.

Cold and rain have never stopped me.  I cherish them and would have rode more if it were not that I did not feel like buying the needed outfit which is long, very long gone from the wardrobe I also left in France with the bike.  Eventually, drizzle can soak you.  All are covered and shivering but I still ride with my sunglasses, in shorts and shirts as if nothing, enjoying my preferred outdoor temperature, 18C.  When I lived in the states biking season stopped for me in November and sometime could start as early as late March.

But then again I am French and we, as a people, are second only to Dutch and Danes in our love of biking, in the constant presence of biking in our everyday life, the more so in summer holidays.  We shop with our bikes, we go to work with them, we ride them for relaxation on week ends, or exercise maybe, we fall in love with other bikers.  And of course, we watch the Tour de France religiously.

We also learn to ride on our elders old bikes.  The one I learned to ride with was probably used by my dad during  WW2.  A heavy contraption with no gear that gave me great legs at the end of summer.  There are no hills in this area but the roads are rarely flat, and distances long.  I think a couple of relatives learned with my bike, though it is a big frame one so kids could not use it.  I was never told, it was a given it would happen.

My bike is a Peugeot with ten gears though I have not dared use them this time around.  After all, the weather has barred me from rides longer than 10 minutes stretches and I need to recover my legs fast as biking is impossible for me in San Felipe.  My bike is also a "half race", that is, a light frame but not too light and thus sturdy enough for my big frame.

It is a very un-american looking bike.  It has fenders on each wheel.  It has platforms to carry things (with rubber bands in the front bag, a red one so faded that it has a strange fuchsia hue).  If I lived in France by now it would have a basket in front or carrying bags on the bag, maybe both if I lived in a small town.  All bikes in France have fenders, except those of the Tour.  All bikes in the US look strangely naked for our eyes, making us wonder what silly Americans do when it rains.  And then we laugh when we see their mud splattered backs.  All US bikes we see seem to us very impractical.  It also has lights, with a dynamo to generate the juice, no batteries required.

And yet it is not quite your average French bike since it has what is now for me very uncomfortable running handles.  In France, 90% of bikes you see in streets have nice, high handle bars that allow you to ride in an almost vertical position.  But when I bought it I was into long Sunday rides, or fast dashes to downtown from campus to buy books at my favorite libraries.  I did not do that mistake in the US and I got then a stately UK bike, a Raleigh, with high handle bars.  I brought it back with me to Venezuela but never use it: too many potholes, too much insecurity as such a bike forbids me to ride alone in San Felipe's streets.  They would rob me of it just for its exotic look

I love my bikes and if I ever can retire in France, or at least spend a couple of months a year I will bring my Raleigh and restore my Peugeot, the former for my shopping at the open air market and the second for long bike rides on the amazing amount of bike paths that exist today in France, at least in touristy areas.  That is if my health allows though the Raleigh one I may be able to ride into my sunset.

Why should I buy a new bike when I am already blessed with two bikes with a soul?