A French Girl's Guide To Riding Bikes While Looking Très Chic



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Catherine Baba pedeling in some killer heels. Photo: Courtesy of Citizen Couture/Jason Jean

Paris is experiencing an awesome warm spell — it's almost 80 degrees here — making the hot-weather styles in the streets as exciting as what's coming down the catwalks for spring 2012. We're especially smitten with and marveling over all the cool French girls on their bikes. Whether they're pedaling to work in the morning on their rendered classic cruisers, or heading to the café for an evening aperitif, every gal looks like a Truffaut character or a prime candidate for the blog Bikes and Babes — and effortlessly so. "We don't really ride bicycles for sport. We do it to get from one place to the next, so we just wear what we'd normally wear," explained Dorothée Joannard, as she hopped off a "vélib" (a bike from the city's bikeshare program) in the Latin Quarter. She was decked out in tiny shorts, a flowy top, and ballet flats—"Because I'm tall, I almost always wear flats," she explained, adding: "But I ride in heels sometimes, too."

Everyone here seems to ride an old-school style cruiser — the kind with the bent handles and the fender-covered wheels, and a body with a bar in front that swoops down rather than coming straight across to meet the top of the seat (this actually makes riding so much easier if you happen to be wearing a skirt or something form-fitting since you can step over the bike, without having to hike anything up). Even the vélibs are modeled after this classic style, which again, lends itself to the notion of fashion and function being equal requisites here.

Baskets are also omnipresent: wicker, wire, or plastic, and almost invariably in front. Of course they add to the overall retro appeal, but they also make total sense. French girls don't just carry their baguettes and groceries in them, they also toss in their bags and purses. And while baskets are almost a given, helmets are not. Though we're not condoning chucking your headgear to the curb and letting your locks flow in the wind, we're merely reporting the fact that helmets are not standard-issue accessories in the rues de Paris.

But what's the coolest-looking thing about the biker girls of Paris? Probably just the sheer number of them. The more there are, the more they stand out. And thanks to the vélib program, taking out and returning a bike is a faster and easier operation than locking one up with your own bike chain. And they sport baskets, to boot! It can be one's primary mode of transportation, or a spur-of-the-moment ride — tra la la, simple as that. Needless to say, we're psyched for New York's own bike-share program to take off.  Until then, find yourself a "Tom Cruiser" and cross your fingers for a nice long Indian summer.