Fendered, Floating, and Flooded in Paris under a Pink Sky

As I was waiting to video chat with my wife and children, I decided to put the plastic SKS fenders on the Velo Cult, as some rain was forecast for the next few days. Very few city bikes appear throughout Paris without fenders. Makes sense to me! Despite a severe drought here, many people and municipal workers still use water to sweep. So even if it doesn’t rain, often in the morning plenty of puddles and wet sections have the potential to make my bobeau outfits all dirty.

I flirted with brining aluminum 50mm Honjos on this trip, just to be all spiffy when I got here. But common sense reigned and I threw SKS plastic fenders in the S&S travel case at the last minute (knowing Paris can be quite wet in the late spring). The plastic fenders can bend in the case, are less likely to scratch the bike already in a position prone to scratches (it comes with the territory), and are relatively easy to mount. At one point I had these on another bike, so upon installation, I needed to punch a new hole at the seat stay bridge. As you might imagine, a waiter’s corkscrew stands at the ready in my studio, and the serrated foil cutter performed the the job perfectly. I’d highly recommend SKS fenders for travel. They don’t provide the looks or full coverage of metal fenders, but they’re darn easy to fiddle with.

I mounted the fenders and went for a ride across town under a pink sky. Storms passing through all weekend rendered a sky the color of those lovely Gérard Mulot dessert boxes. I zipped around the 13th, 5th, and 6th, heading over the river just as the Eiffel lit up at sunset.

Just as I began to look for a bite over in the 2nd, I saw lightning flash to the south of the city. The drama of lightning behind Notre Dame caught my gaze and my imagination. But I also knew that rain was coming, and I had to make good time toward my studio apt which sits on the border of the 5th and the 13th on the south side of the city. I hustled over the Seine and bombed through the cobbles of the Latin Quarter, and then up and over Rue Monge, cutting through Square St-Médard to make it to my place on the other side of Rue Armand. I flew past Velib riders and darted between scooters. I almost made it.

The rain began as I cut through the square, and within seconds it was too much to ride in. Blinding. Under an overpass on Rue Pascal, I found shelter from what turned out to be a fantastic thunderstorm. Like evacuees from a natural disaster, Scooter riders huddled together smoking cigarettes. Soaked pedestrians came in from the rain one by one, with the women holding their shirts out so as not to reveal their bodies in a way the a drenching makes possible. We all just kind of stared at the downpour and each other. I knew what they couldn’t have guessed – I was to blame for installing the fenders.



  1. Esteban

    Media and Conflict – I teach it most semesters. It investigates the relationship between the symbolic and the real through situated incidences of political violence, social control, and dissent. This summer with an E.U. twist. Its a fun course (at least for me)!

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