Sunday was my first bike ride in Paris!  Spring has finally arrived to France, and Sunday was a beautiful 65F and sunny.  One of the guys at work, Thierry, talked about going on a lunchtime ride this week, and I figured it would probably good to get some kilometers in before then.   Daniel had given me directions for the best route from Paris to Orsay, so I decided to test them out.  The ride can only be described as Epic (in truth, all rides can only be described as epic.)

Saturday afternoon I picked up my new bike from Cycles Doll (yeah, I don’t know how they came up with that name), so today also served as a first real test ride.  The frame is a Giant TCR Advanced, outfitted with a compact double SRAM Rival grouppo and a set of Mavic Kysrium Elites.   Fred at Cycles Doll made it a webpage! I’m going to go ahead and say the frame is laterally stiff while remaining vertically compliant.  While I’m at it, I’ll call the wheels “bombproof” and the grouppo, “crisp, positive, and precise.”  You’ve now read every bicycle product review ever written.

You can click below for my bike route to work – it probably ended up being more like 30km after getting lost a few times.

View Bike Route to work in a larger map

Riding in France is really different (besides my only passing familiarity with traffic laws.)  People actually give you plenty of room on the road, and only pass you when safe to do so.  No pickup trucks buzzed me, and no one shouted “Lance!”, either.  At a red light a little boy in his car seat excitedly waved at me until I waved back. It’s really pleasant – in the US he just would have flipped me the bird.

There are certainly some negatives to riding in non-rural France, which really all fall under the heading of navigating in France.  They have a penchant for traffic circles, which although more efficient than traffic lights, are a little confusing when you don’t really label the five or six roads that meet at the circle.  Street signs are usually small signs tacked onto buildings rather than on streetposts.  Roads also change names every few blocks or so.     Bring GPS.

As for Uni-watch, the best was seeing a guy out wearing a full BBox kit.  This is rather hilarious, (three of you just said, “Ha, BBox?!?”) but I’m having trouble coming up with the appropriate American sports analogy for the rest of you.

It’d sorta be like showing up to play softball wearing a full Washington Nationals uniform, if the Nats were so bad that the club was demoted to the minor leagues.  Which is  maybe not a terrible idea given last season’s performance.  The difference between cycling and American sports is that American sports are all regionally affiliated (Well, except for the Dallas Cowboys, they’re America’s Team.  And the Patriots.  And the Steelers.  And the Colts.  They’re America’s team, too.  And Brett Favre.  He’s also America’s team, because he’s just having fun out there.)  So if you’re from Washington, you cheer for the Nats, no matter how much they stink.  Even though the Bears haven’t been able to find someone decent to throw a football in twenty-two years, if you’re from Chicago, you cheer for the Chicago Bears.

In cycling, teams don’t really have any region affiliations.  Well, unless you’re a crazed Basque separatist, in which case you cheer for Euskatel-Euskadi.  But usually, at best, teams are nationally affiliated.  So there are French teams, but they’re not “Team France” or the “French Horns” or what have you.  Instead, teams are simply registered to a country, and maybe (but not necessarily)  have a lot of riders from  said country.  There are eighteen teams at the top tier of cycling, call the UCI ProTour.  There are currently two French teams, AG2R-La Mondiale (named after two French insurance companies) and Francais des Jeux (named after the French national lotto.)  There are three American teams, Team RadioShack, Garmin-Transitions (the GPS manufacturer and lens maker), and HTC-Columbia (the mobile phone company and sportswear company, respectively), none of which have any regional or city affilitation.  They’re named after who’s footing the bill – it’s much more of a “hired gun” mentality.

So, even though BBox is a “French team”, they’re a terrible French team who were so bad they were demoted (along with Cofidis, another terrible French team) from the ProTour.  The French aren’t very good at this sport they invented.  If you’re going to cheer for a French team, at least FdJ has better looking jerseys.  Although maybe a little later in the season I’ll put up a post covering who you should be cheering for.

Also, I rode past a woman at a bus stop wearing a Bears jersey.  I’m disappointed I didn’t see who’s jersey it was, so I’m going to go ahead and say it was a Kordell Stewart jersey.

I rode past a woman at a bus stop wearing a Kordell Stewart jersey.

I also discovered during the ride that I’m in terrible shape.  It turns out that not riding a bike between October and April negatively effects your cycling performance.  Some things haven’t changed, though – I still descend like a family man.