World Bicycle Day

Modern Cyclist's Practical Guide

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, cycling has grown throughout Europe, and not just in a few pioneering countries. Between new practices and resurgence of old velocipedic traditions, here is a small glossary bush – in alphabetical order – before you get back in the saddle.

Cyclist taking a new bike path on May 6, 2020 in Lyon, France. Robert DEYRAIL/GAMMA-RAPHO

Text by: Olivier Favier Follow


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To avoid the promiscuity of public transport and to treat themselves to a moment outdoors, many inhabitants of large cities prefer cycling, with or without electric assistance. The little queen delights the hearts of holidaymakers just as much for local or long-distance getaways. The experience of confinement during the Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly largely contributed to the enthusiasm for this means of transport, which is beneficial for both health and the environment.


This anagram of revolution is also a portmanteau word – made from the words bicycle and revolution – we could not say better that there are always several possible paths when you get on a bicycle. It is also the name of an international movement born at the height of the automotive reign on April 22, 1972 in the form of a demonstration – called "critical mass" – of 5,000 cyclists against a proposed motorway on the banks of the Seine in Paris. Two years later, André Dupont, alias Aguigui Mouna, ran as a non-candidate in the presidential elections. His slogan: "I am a cyclodidact, the velorution is underway.


" READ ALSO – In France, the bike makes its revolution

During the 2000s, collectives and associations bearing the name of Vélorution appeared in Paris and the region. The Vélorution movement is now present in some thirty cities in France as well as in Brussels and Geneva. The slogan of the Paris-Île-de-France group, never lacking in linguistic creativity, is a good summary of the program: "Only one solution is velorution."

VAE (electric bike)

Proponents of degrowth sometimes call it the "nuclear bike" and criticize both the source of its energy supply, the incomplete recycling of its batteries and the "extractivism" at work for the supply of its components, including lithium, which from Tibet to Chile, does not only make people happy. Nevertheless, many municipalities, led by Paris, have bet on electric to bring new audiences to the bicycle and finance the purchase of e-bikes. The assistance of the bike is limited to 25 km / h and only works as long as you pedal. These two characteristics distinguish it from the electric moped, for which the wearing of a helmet is mandatory and which must be ensured.

Recumbent bike – extended bike – cargo bike – fixie

The first, which allows to adopt a less aggressive posture for the pelvis and perineum, is reserved for cycle tourism. The second, also called long-tail, has an extended luggage rack to accommodate one or more baby seats – models that are seen circulating shortly before 8:30 am or after 16:45 pm on weekdays. The third allows the transport of goods and was first designed for deliverers. In Paris, it is also the subject of financial aid, with or without electric assistance.

Finally, the fixie, or fixed gear bicycle is not – it is an urban legend – an urban bike. It is a backpedal track bike, which must have a second brake – this is not always the case – before going on the road and remains (much) more dangerous than a normal bike. Backpedaling tends to cause the rear wheel to skid, which can surprise other users and cause a fall. Accelerations on the flat are exhilarating but risky, joints and musculature provide sudden and violent efforts that, in the long run, can generate fatigue and injuries. Its enthusiasts praise its low cost and the little maintenance it requires. Do not slip a mini-U – an anti-theft device – into the back pocket of your jeans to play the New York delivery man: the pocket will tear quickly and you risk big in case of a fall.

MOUNTAIN BIKE – VTC – VPS – Gravel bike

The mass production of mountain bikes, also called mountain bikes by contagion from the English Mountain Bike, began in the late 1970s. Mountain biking became very popular during the 1980s. Beyond the sometimes extreme sporting practices – downhill, enduro, freeride, cross-country – mountain biking continues to seduce young and old who are looking to get off the beaten track.

Sometimes all suspended, with very short developments to face the surprises of the terrain, the mountain bike has inspired other more versatile machines such as the VTC – all-road bike, which has partly replaced the old "hikers" for cyclists –, the bike with oversized tires or Fatbikea bike comfortable on snow and sand with the false air of moped, the Gravel Bike – a road bike with big tires very popular in recent years among those who like to combine sport and holidays.

Folding bike

The history of the folding or foldable bicycle – which folds with hinges – dates back to the late nineteenth century and knows a first mass application with the "folding Gérard", presented at the Salon du Cycle in 1894, and sold to equip the infantrymen of the French, Belgian or Russian armies.

The reference today is British, with the Brompton brand, whose unique model has continued to decline and improve since its creation by Andrew Ritchie. Very compact and lightweight, with small 16-inch wheels, the Brompton remains a craft product and an investment and is competing with the more accessible Dahon – with 20-inch wheels and central folding – and its multiple avatars.

There are also folding bikes with a large wheel, such as those made by the American Montague and removable bikes, such as the luxurious Moulton hikers, also English. Folding bikes have been on the rise in recent years to the point that they were added in 2020 to the list of bicycles benefiting from a mobility aid in Île-de-France. They are the kings of intermodality.


For passengers as well as goods, for commuting or intercontinental travel, carriers are increasingly using intermodality. Everyday travelers, especially in large cities, sometimes combine the bicycle – folding – or the scooter with the train, bus, metro, RER or tram, whether on regular routes or as an alternative in case of bad weather.

On the rail network, the TER accept bicycles free of charge subject to availability – without reservation – the Transiliens too, except during rush hour. TGV Inoui, Ouigo and Intercity have special regulations, including additional cost and/or space limits and/or a transport cover.

Also listen: The velotaf? I'm doing it this year

The velotaf appeals first and foremost to all those who do not necessarily have slots to give to physical activity between professional and family life. But it is above all a way to avoid, when you can, the promiscuity of public transport and the difficulties to park your car. Marginal a few years ago – 2% of commuting trips in France in 2015 – it is the one that has developed the most of all bicycle uses during the strikes and the pandemic. Will the French keep this good habit for the environment and for their health?


They are the royal road of the cyclist – and the pedestrian, who is the user in equal parts – they often recycle abandoned routes – towpaths and unfortunately also, the old railway lines of everyday life. Combined with shared but signposted lanes, they sometimes change into cycle routes. In 2012, EuroVelo 1 was born, making it possible to relay the North Cape in Norway to Caminha in Portugal. At 11,500 kilometres long, it is still the longest of the 19 European cycle routes.

Bicycle paths – bike lanes

The first are carriageways entirely reserved for cyclists, the second a reserved lane delimited by a marking on the ground. Unless otherwise indicated (mandatory bike path or lane), their use has not been binding since 1998, even if many motorists ignore or pretend to ignore it. The construction of temporary bike paths began in mid-April in Paris, increasing the network from ten kilometers to some 150 kilometers in six months.

Cycle touring

Paul de Vivie (1853-1930), known as Vélocio, was the founding father of cycle tourism. We owe him the generalization of the speed change derailleur – which he advocated on cycling races to fight against doping! – and the seven commandments of Vélocio, including abstaining from cigarettes and alcoholic beverages during any excursion.

A vegetarian and fervent defender of Esperanto, Paul de Vivie died in Saint-Étienne at the age of 74, hit by a tram. Every year, in June, an amateur hill climb is organized between Saint-Étienne and the Col de la République in his honor: it is the Vélocio day.

Self-repair shop

For those who want to combine cycling and DIY, they have multiplied everywhere in France. People come here to exchange, repair, improve or even assemble their bike. In the great tradition of popular education, autonomy is acquired and reflections on gender are also included. Many workshops offer single-sex sessions for women, trans and non-binary people. Hasta la Velorución, siempre!

Our selection of archives on the subject

  • Listen:

→ Why cycling is in the lead→ Pedaling in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Ireland
→ Congo: cycling, an essential means of work for women in Makoua
→ West Bank: cycling as a political
act→ How to make cycling in
the city a sport?
→ A summer by bike
→ Bike trips: a story of the little queen
→ Saint-Étienne French capital of the cycle

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