Many would feel that Paris needs no introduction. Its sweeping palatial gardens, lofty, chalk-coloured townhouses wrapped in ornate balconies, and of course the iconic Tour D’Eiffel which casts a watchful eye over the city below, are familiar to people the world over after centuries of travel writing, photography and film.
And yet beyond this quintessential image of glamour and romance lies a character unique only to Paris. A world of quiet elegance, of street-side cafes thick with the scent of espresso and cigarettes, of out-of-the-way social spaces hidden behind hues of steel and slate and silver.
Epitomising this alternative Paris is Steel. Nestled on the Rue de la Fontaine au Roi, a short walk from République metro station in the 11th Arrondissment, Steel Cyclewear and Coffeeshop oozes urban chic. What started as a quarterly, bilingual cycling magazine which aimed to bring together style, functionality and technique into one accessible space, Steel is now a thriving concept store and social hub at the heart of the Paris cycling scene.
Steel Founder and Editor in Chief, Marc Sich, told Huez “I started Steel, the magazine, to show the fixed and bespoke cycle culture to French readers. The content was mainly international in focus from the beginning, and so Steel has been translated since the first issue and sold internationally. Every issue of Steel has featured multiple photo shoots, where fashion was related to bikes in many diverse ways.”
Built on the belief that “bikes and cycling represent unlimited sources of inspiration - bikes represent handicraft, suffering and liberty,” Sich crafted a strong philosophy behind the brand. On the back of the success of the magazine, he wanted to translate this philosophy into a physical space that could bring people together. Explaining that “my will was to create a place where readers could meet us and each other, join on rides and discover, touch and try the cycle wear we featured in the magazine,” the store has since epitomised the ethos of the brand.
Sich believes that “human contact, storytelling and sharing a common passion are key elements when it comes to cycling, and so suggesting the right equipment, proposing services, gathering the Paris cycling community together to share in the pleasure of riding are key ambitions for Steel.” It is for this reason that Sich was sure to include a bespoke café offering in his concept, continuing the long connection of coffee to the cycling industry. “Who would refuse a hot drink that could gave you that small boost to go on and finish a ride?” he asks.
Asked what he loved most about the Paris cycling scene, Sich explained that the diversity of the scene is what gives it a unique and welcoming character. “Bikes are used for commuters, couriers, roadies, and so once you get to know it, every local scene has its actors and vibes. What I like the most is to see all the happy faces coming to our rides and events to enjoy the atmosphere that cycling brings.”
For anyone who might happen to find themselves in Paris, Sich has crafted the perfect ride which blends the sprawling streets of Paris with the many parks dotted around the city. At a distance of 70-80km, the group meets at the Steel store for a morning coffee before heading out across Paris towards the Bois de Boulogne public park, taking advantage of the quiet morning streets. Crossing the wood and bridge of the same name, riders can then take a lap or two around the Longchamps horse race track, where locals ride fast before climbing the short hill leading to the Parc de Saint-Cloud. At 400 hectares and designed by renowned landscape architect André le Nôtre around the year 1700, it is easy to see why Sich thinks this route among the most beautiful in Paris. Heading out through the forest towards Versailles, and turning left in front of the Cassel to climb the final hills of the Forêt de Meudon on the way back to the suburbs and city centre of Paris, the route seamlessly blends urban and country terrain into one ride.
Here at Huez we will be working closely with Steel in the coming months, so check back for details of future ride-outs with the store.
Words | Becky Stead Photos | Header & Image 3 | Damien RigondeaudPhotos | Image 2 | Marshall Kappel