I got to ride bikes twice in Italy. The first time I almost died. But I chose to ride again because it was still wonderful in a chaotic way.
E-Bikes – a game changer
I rented a bike in Rome and also in Florence. Both were electric pedal assist. Riding them is so incredibly easy – you could blast around without ever breaking a sweat. E-bikes are a “no excuses” type of transportation.Continue reading
The annoying thing? Every city or municipality has partners with a different bike share company. In Rome I downloaded the app for Lime, signed up for an account, added my credit card, and found a nearby bike. Then in Florence I had to do the same thing on Ridemovi. A first world problem for sure, but still annoying.
I almost died ☠️
I set out from my hotel in Rome for the gluten free grocery store: Celiachiamo Lab. I fired up google maps with bicycling directions and set off. But there was trouble at one very complex intersection:
I was on the one-way road, on the right side (opposite the green arrow above) getting ready to turn right. What I didn’t realize is that when the light turned green the signal with the red arrow also turned green to merge together.
To give you an idea, I turned where the small black car is in the next photo. Not realizing more traffic was also going to be going to be merging – where the box truck is:
Luckily the front of traffic was a swarm of motor-scooters starting from a stop. They were able to quickly stop, honk at me, and let me clear the area 😰
In retrospect, the proper right turn probably should have followed this bikeway on the right:
See that sign with the bike and the arrow? ⬆️🚲 Well that means bikes ahead only. I missed that. (Barely) Live and Learn!
Once I cleared that intersection I was on a separated bikeway that was divine 🤩
Run whatchu Brung
I also observed what the local riders did… 🕵️
Before I left the US, I had a picture in my mind of Italians riding bikes. It’s the home of the the Giro d’Italia. Surely everyone would be riding Bianchi, Pinorello, or Colnago bikes – all with Campagnolo components.
Some folks were riding Bianchis and Pinorello bikes, but they were people that looked like they were serious about riding – going on bike-packing tours, or putting out some serious watts.
The bike I spotted that most closely resembled the picture in my mind was owned by a college-aged kid at the train station. He had a 1970s Motobecane. Sure, it’s French, not Italian, but it was vintage and it was cherry 😍
Everyone else just seemed to ride whatever they had.
Nothing really stood out amongst the regular bikes, but a couple brands seemed to be popular.
B’Twin is a store-brand of a sporting goods retailer called Decathlon. As the largest sporting goods retailer in Europe, I imagine it’s a bit like Dick’s Sporting Goods. Decathlon also has a Rockrider brand of mountain bikes and I also saw several of those.
Imperial was the other brand that showed up a lot. You can see another in the background of the B’Twin photo. This one I really liked the color scheme on – especially the matching basket, grips, seat, and spoke-guard.
Strangely I couldn’t find any information about this brand on the internet. <Insert Jackie Chan “What?!?” Meme Here>. Seriously, internet dead-end. It’s not this Imperial Bicycles – they make components and exactly one model.
But these bikes were everywhere, both vintage and clearly brand new as the above photo would suggest. Maybe it’s a model or a style and not a brand?
Dangerous but Delightful
Riding in Italy was a bit harrowing at times. Their roads are very narrow, the intersections complex. Then you’ll find yourself on a delightful bikeway. It’s all part of the charm. Just own it. If you’re on an e-bike, riding near traffic doesn’t matter anyway because you’re going to be zooming upwards of 30km/h in seconds 🚲💨
If you have any leads on the mystery “Imperial” bike, let me know in the comments!