Is Paris Vélib’ (Bike Rental) a good option?

Biking around Paris can be one of the most enjoyable ways to see the city, with time-honored sites  seemingly looming at every turn, and quiet, charming little streets and nooks to explore. While not yet the most bike-friendly city in the world, Paris is slowly giving two-wheelers the right-of-way on city streets, with bike paths and special lights for cyclists being added constantly.

Since 2007, Paris has prided itself on its Vélib’ bike-sharing system, which has put around rental 14,000 bikes and over 1,200 stations around the city. All you have to do is pay €1,70 by credit card (plus a refundable deposit) select your bike and return it to any station within a half hour. Super- simple, in theory.

But…how reliable and safe is it?

The Vélib’ option can be a good one for short rides to-and-from a select destination. But when it comes to taking all-day excursions or self-tours of the city, and for inexperienced urban cyclists, the city-run bike scheme is probably not the best choice. The bikes are on the heavy and cumbersome side, and most will find stopping every half hour to exchange a bike rather annoying and time-consuming. What’s more, with Paris’s heavy traffic and often reckless drivers, you could find yourself in some sticky situations. Speaking of sometimes-aggressive drivers: you’re behooved to always wear a helmet, and if you’re using a Vélib’, you’ll be stuck purchasing your own, as none are available to rent at the stations.

The bottom line? Unless you’re an experienced urban cyclist with your own helmet and don’t mind using a bike with limited power and rather clumsy riding, you’re probably better off (and safer) taking a guided tour on two wheels, including one of these great options:

Paris Day Bike Tour

To hit up all the classics, check out this tour of some of Paris’s most famous sites. Whizz past the Eiffel Tower as you make your way over the striking Alexander III Bridge and view the Seine river down below. You’ll also get a look at the Louvre Museum’s iconic glass pyramid and budding flowers in the Tuileries Gardens.

Duration: 3.5 hours
Price: starting at €30
Tour details here.

Paris Night Bike Tour

Riding at night is always risky and doing so in a city you don’t know is even more challenging. Take the stress out of biking after sunset and join this guided tour past the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral and Princess Diana’s flame. There’s even a chance to stop off for a Berthillon ice cream mid-ride.

Duration: 4.5 hours
Price: starting at €30
See details here.

Versailles Bike Tour

On the outskirts of Paris lies the impressive Chateau de Versailles. With more than 2,000 acres at its disposal, it would be next to impossible to see all the grounds on your own. Instead, hop on a bike and let yourself be guided through the Versailles’ verdant and sumptuous royal gardens, Grand Canal and village market. There’s even the chance for a picnic and time to explore the castle and grounds on your own.

Duration: 8 hours
Price: starting at €85
See details here.