So we were all set with our temporary membership cards with Velib and we picked our bikes. Now, for all the years that I've been riding 2 wheelers I still needed to give myself a bit of a warm-up, getting used to riding these bikes with a different geometry.
My body was in a very upright position and my arms were higher up than I would normally hold them. The saddle was wide enough to accommodate my ample bottom, although it wasn't a soft gel saddle. The pedals were probably slightly more forward than I'd been accustomed to. Overall it felt quite strange. Things were abit wobbly as I circled the block several times. People looked at me quizzically, wondering why I was wasting my money hiring a bike just ride around in circles. I almost wanted to explain to people - "I am a real cyclist, honest. I just need to get used to this new fangled thing!"
After a bit of jiggery pokery and fettling with our bikes to get a better set-up, we were zooming through the bright lights of Paris.
Fred had a cunning plan of changing bikes after 25 minutes of riding so that we could avoid paying anything for going over the 30minute mark with the same bike. So when we arrived at the Quai d'Orsay we stopped at a station and decided to make the change. Typically things didn't quite go according to plan. The people ahead of us in the queue didn't know how to operate the console, and we had to help them with it, which took a few minutes. He managed to hook his bike back into the station on the 29th minute, but it turned out he hadn't hooked the bike in correctly so he was still charged anyway!
Tip - when you hook your bike in the Velib station wait for a beep sound which confirms the bike is properly in place and your rental period has finished.
We then set off with new bikes and continued our journey, having decided not to try that trick again!
Our journey was more than 2 hours in total and it cost us 5 euros each. It's more than we'd expected to pay, but still it was not bad considering the distance we travelled.
The following day we became more accustomed to the system and were soon real Velib dab hands. We knew how to adjust the bikes for a better fit, we could collect and deposit bikes in a jiffy, and we were pretty good at finding our way around Paris - also helped by the various green and white bicycle direction signs.
Our trips on Monday:
Ledru Rollin Metro station to Hotel de Ville - 16 minutes
Chatelet (Boulevard Sebastopol) to Gare de l'Est - 13 minutes
Gare de l'Est to Pigalle - 10 minutes
Pigalle to Republique - 19 minutes
Republique to Bastille - 17 minutes
As seen, alot of distance was covered that day. As all of the journeys took less than half an hour, we didn't pay anything to use the bikes, which was great - and we had glorious weather to boot.
Just be careful that some of the stations we went to - notably at Pigalle and at Republique had nowhere to return the bikes to so we spent a few more minutes riding to another station (not usually more than 200m away) to where we could deposit our bikes.
Also, when choosing a bicycle to pick up at the Velib station have a quick look at all of them and check out the one you would like first before you make your selection. Some of the bikes are not in the best nick and it takes time if you have to keep changing bikes.
This was a different cycling experience to the fast and furious commute around London, or even the daft commuter races that take place. This was very laid back and pleasant. It was also quite a weight off your mind parking your bicycle and knowing that you didn't have to think about locking it or wondering if it would still be there when you returned to it!
I definitely recommend Velib.