Paris: Cheap bike rentals, when Velib’ won’t do

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Renting a bike in Paris
Just because you can't Velib' doesn't mean you can't bike. Photo: drewleavy

By Bryan Pirolli in Paris—

(Updated June 28, 2011 to reflect new Velib’ policies)

Tourists coming to Paris look with desire at Vélib‘, the city’s public bike-share program. Until recently, when tourists asked me how to rent one, I was forced to dash hopes. For, until recently, you couldn’t hop on a bike unless you possessed a European chip-enhanced credit card.

That changed in the past few months, however. You can now register for a one or seven-day subscription on their Web site with any MasterCard, Visa or American Express card. They will then give you a code to tap into the kiosk screen at any of the city’s 1,200 Vélib’ bike stations.

Note that a one-day subscription costs €1.70 and a seven-day subscription costs €8. Both allow unlimited, free 30-minute rides. Also note that when you subscribe to the service, a €150 “hold” will be placed on your card and will be in place until your subscription expires. Read more on the Vélib’ Web site.

Not in the mood for Vélib’?

If this all sounds like a hassle, fear not: Parisians have been renting bikes since long before the Vélib’ cycled into town. So if you’re not in the mood to join the bike share, but still want to zip around the grands boulevards on two wheels, here are a few places to rent inexpensive bikes so you can play Parisian for a day.

Bike rentals

Toys Paradise
22 Rue Léon Jouhaux 75010
€12 for a full day

After a picnic along the famed Canal Saint Martin, grab a bike from this playfully named corner shop. The service is far from whimsical, but the owners know what they’re doing and the prices are right. You might see me here since it’s where I also head (often) to get my flat tires fixed. I’m not good at avoiding glass on the streets…

Gepetto and Velos
59, rue du Cardinal Lemoine 75005
€15 for a full day
http://www.gepetto-velos.com/

Over in the Latin Quarter, this packed shop offers all sorts of bikes for sale and for rent. Fortunately it’s located towards the upper half of the St. Genevieve Hill, so you can rent a bike for the day and coast downhill, keeping in mind that you’ll have to bike back uphill to return it. They also have guides available to ride with you if you are interested.

Free Scoot
63 quai de la Tournelle 75005
http://www.freescoot.com/
€35 for a full day for a basic scooter

Located right by Notre Dame, and with a second location on Boulevard Voltaire, Free Scoot offers a solid selection of bikes, but more interestingly, affordable scooter rentals. If you don’t feel like pedaling, hop one of the many scooters that they offer to get the full European treatment.

Bike Tours

If you’d rather take a bike tour and learn about the sights you’re seeing, Paris has several companies that will take you on group tours.

Bike About Paris
http://www.bikeabouttours.com
€30 for a 3.5-hour tour

Bike About Paris is among the most recommended bike tours in the city.  The tour includes some off-the-beaten-track sights and stories along the way.

Fat Tire Bike Tours
http://fattirebiketours.com/paris/tours
€28 euros for a 4-hour city tour

One of the biggest bike touring companies, Fat Tire takes visitors in and around Paris. Check their Web site for day and night tours of Paris, a visit to Monet’s gardens in Giverny and a tour of the Normandy beaches by bike.

Rules and Etiquette

For all rentals, be prepared to leave a deposit or an identity card–this is standard procedure to make sure you don’t ride away forever with the bike.

While you’re on the road, helmets are optional but recommended. Adhere to the numerous and clearly marked bike paths located alongside the traffic lanes. Stopping at red lights and stop signs is normal for bicycles, and none of us are exempt from getting pulled over by the police, even on two wheels. Trust me, I know.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli

About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.

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4 thoughts on “Paris: Cheap bike rentals, when Velib’ won’t do”

  1. Velib is good for 30 minute to 1 hour time slots (costs 1 euro per slot to 1 hour plus the 1.70 ‘right to use’. Not good for a days hire or tour of the city!

    The idea is you return the bike at the next stop – if you can find one and it has space, there are problems with the scheme.

    After 1.5 hours your bill goes up at 8 euro per hour (first 1.5 hours costs 7 euro). A day costs 183 euro! If you cannot get your bike back within 24 hours the 150 euro deposit is taken, just hope you do not to take ill or get lost in the city.

    I have just paid 70 euro being 35 euro for 7 hours of Velib for two cycles. The 1.70 euro just allows you to pick up the bike for short time slots within a 24 hours period plus payment for time.

    Note the terms and conditions at the stations are in French even after selecting your native language.

    Reply
  2. Erm.. sorry but the Velib system accepts Visa, Blue Visa, Mastercard AND Amex. Your addresses seem good but the price of rent stays a bit “expansive” compared to the velibs. For only 1.7 euros, you can use the velib as much as you want (the first 30 minuts of each trip are for free) during 24 hours so for me it’s more interesting.

    Good article though, useful for tourists ;)

    Reply
    1. Hi Nora,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it now looks like Americans can participate in the Velib’ program!

      According to the Frequently Asked Questions page on their site (http://en.velib.paris.fr/How-it-works/FAQ2), Visa, MasterCard and American Express are all now accepted.

      However, according to Bryan, one of our Paris correspondents, the machines still will not accept American cards. But it’s still possible to use the system: You can now register for a subscription on their Web site. They will then give you a code to tap into the kiosk at the Velib’ station. And you’re set to go.

      They also state that a 150 euro deposit will be held (but not charged) when you sign up for a short-term subscription. You must have enough money in your account (for debit cards) or enough credit (for credit cards) to cover this 150 euro “hold.”

      Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’re happy about this change!

      All the best,
      Tom

      Reply
  3. Really great recommendations! I love Vélib but it can sometimes be more of a hassle than anything else – especially trying to find bikes in tip top shape and a place to park it later! Renting a bike from a company can make city transport much more hassle-free.

    Reply

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