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  • Mark Smith

A Man and His Bikes

You know what it’s like at the end of a long ride. Your head feels like a cannonball, your hands go numb and crotch surgery seems unavoidable. Such was my situation one day a couple of years ago when I turned onto a street in Issy-les-Moulineaux, a suburb about three miles from home, and came upon another cyclist who appeared to be in roughly the same condition. Being an introvert and competitive by nature, I don’t usually talk to such cyclists. Rather, I watch them come into my sights and plan my attack. If my victim looks particularly wasted, I wait until I’m on his back, then blast past the poor beggar, making clear, at the expense of reduced life expectancy, my vast reserves of energy, lest he get any ideas about counterattacking. I savor such pathetic victories, but at my level you take what you can get. On this occasion something different happened. Before I could launch my lethal assault, the cyclist pulled up beside me and spoke—in French…but with a thick American accent. My plan disintegrated and we fell into conversation while chugging up last climb of the day. My new acquaintance turned out to be Sam Weaver, owner of Paris Bike Company, a tiny shop in Malakoff, a Paris suburb, from which Weaver rents high-quality road bikes to visiting cyclists from around the world—Americans, Australians and anybody else who comes knocking. Sam and I said goodbye at the top of the hill and I thought no more about the encounter for at least two years—until last week, when it occurred to me to renew that fleeting acquaintance and perhaps fulfill my weekly blog duty. He had every right to have forgotten our chance meeting, but Sam hollered into the phone like a circus barker, “Sure I remember you. Come on over!” Weaver welcomed me and my bike into his tiny shop cluttered with bikes, tools and a large inflated rubber ball that serves as his office chair. And thus began two and a half hours of cheerful conversation about all the usual fascinating things that occupy the mind of the dedicated cyclist—bikes, bike parts, bike rides, bike accidents and so on. What is it about these simple machines that engage their adherents so roundly? I think it must be that bicycles represent possibility, the ability to go nearly anywhere unencumbered and without debt to any source of fuel other than our own. Bicycles are freedom enablers. Sam also told me how he ended up running a bike company in Malakoff, France. A native of Ohio, Weaver first moved to Los Angeles, where he began developing his true passion in life—bike fitting, which is the soft science of fine-tuning a bike’s geometry to an individual cyclist’s body. Sam was on a bright career path in the booming California bike industry…when a bend in the road suddenly appeared. All in the same week of 2005, Sam got married to a French doctoral candidate at UCLA, she got her PhD in Microbiology, and they moved to Paris to start a new life. Over the next few years Weaver learned French, overhauled the young couple’s new house, helped raise two little girls and worked as a mechanic in a Paris bike shop. But he never lost sight of his goal to start a business in the bike industry. When some friends from L.A. came to Paris for a visit but couldn’t find decent road bikes to rent during their stay, a light went on in Sam’s head. But I’ll let him tell you the rest of the story. When you get to Paris, go see him at the Paris Bike Company. It’s worth the trip.

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