Christmas Tree by Bike: 2015 Edition

Here’s this week’s “5 Random Things I Did This Weekend” post, complete with our annual picking up of the Christmas tree via Velib.

1) Chateau Cake Deliveries

First up on the docket was a wedding cake delivery out to a chateau in the countryside.  Normally we’d use Autolib for this, but we recently decided to get a Zipcar membership, since sometimes the delivery drives would be slightly further than our little electric Autolib can take us (range of 75KM one-way).  And we don’t want to have…ummm…another incident.

So after picking up the car a few blocks away (brand new with only 300KM on it!), we loaded up the cake:


From there it was an hour drive out into the countryside.  I’ve actually ridden out in this area before, as it’s not super-far as the crow flies from Paris, but it’s just messy to get to with traffic/routes/roads.  We probably would have made it with Autolib this time, but the cake size might have been challenging.


The location definitely delivered on wow-factor.


The wedding reception was still a few hours away, so we didn’t get a chance to take any photos of the cake in its final resting spot, but here’s two of it before we left the Cake Studio:

IMG_1838 IMG_1843

We also always take a ‘proof of life’ type photo after dropping it off, especially in cases like this where we’re leaving in cake in its non-final location (the event kitchens).  As much as we’d like to believe the event staff won’t damage a cake, most Parisian event folks aren’t used to handling large and heavy American-style wedding cakes (this one probably ~30KG/~60bs).  We always prefer to place it in it’s final spot, but sometimes that’s not possible.

As far as we know – no problems after we left this time!

2) A Forest Run

After dropping off the cake we headed across the street to go for a run.  It just so happened there was a small parking lot area that provided the entrance to a large forest/park.

In case you’re wondering, this is what most of our runs look like at the start…as I wait for my 19 devices to acquire whatever they need to acquire.


From there The Girl and I made our way down a surprisingly steep hill, which was made far more complicated by the wet leaves and mud.  I’m pretty sure we could have slid down the entire thing like a giant slip and slide had we wanted to.  I lack a photo from that, so here’s an owl instead.



Soon after we arrived on a meandering bike path where we split ways for a little while to run by ourselves.


We’d eventually meet back up just prior to heading back into the woods and up the hill.  A perfect little run squeezed into the end of day.

3) Christmas Tree via Velib

It’s that time of year again when we pickup our Christmas Tree and…well…bike home with it via Velib.  It’s become a bit of an annual tradition for us, and this year was no different.  We headed over to the recently renamed Queen Elizabeth Flower Market to pick out our tree:


There wasn’t a lot of choice quite yet, but we wanted to get a tree earlier this year, since we’ll be travelling later in the month of December.


After selecting our Sapin de Noël, we loaded her up on the Velib.


Lucy decided she wanted to run after me.  A healthy plan until she found the end of her leash:



It’s not a terribly far journey by bike.  Perhaps 3-5 minutes of careful pedaling.  The Velib is fairly heavy so the whole lot is quite stable.


Less you think we’re the only ones that take our tree home via Velib, that’s not actually the case.  I’ve seen numerous others over the years as well.  Gotta do what ya gotta do!

4) Climate Changing Velibs

After ensuring our Christmas tree had proper structural support in case Lucy decided to climb it while we were away (or cause it to faint), we headed out to a movie across town (Hunger Games).  It so happened that the best time available was on the Champs-Élysées, only 10-15 mins by Metro away (as public transport was free due to the conference!).

As we exited the movie, we noticed that they had setup numerous Velib and related stations all the way down both sides of the Champs-Élysées.


Each station allowed you to pedal to illuminate lights in that area of the Champs-Élysées.  It also displayed your wattage:



Turns out, the Velib’s power meter definitely needs a wee bit of calibration (feel free to insert your own obligatory power meter joke here).  It was saying 200w, yet I’m pretty sure I was throwing down more like 300-350w on this thing without trying too hard, or raising my seat post.


In addition to the Velibs, they also had giant human-hamster wheels.  Pretty self-explanatory:


All of this in support of the climate change conference that kicked off this week here in the city (well, technically just outside the city in Le Bourget).

5) The Christmas Markets

After being a human hamster, we passed a wind turbine that they had setup on the middle of the Champs-Élysées, and then behind it (hard to see) are two massive solar panel installations (perhaps 2/3rds of a football field in total).  All for the conference.


But, our real goal here was the Christmas markets, which is an annual occurrence.


We wander down through them at least one night during the holidays (but often run through them more often).  Now most of what’s for sale here is…not so awesome.  A lot is quite simply touristy trinkets or low-quality stuff.  There are exceptions of course, but in general our favorite thing in the markets are the fresh churros – made on demand if you ask.  Oh, and served with Nutella.  Because everything is better with Nutella.


We did notice they expanded the ice skating rink this year, from a ‘track-like’ installation to more of a full-on rink, complete with carefully guarded trees.


After the market we walked the rest of the way home, a few miles all in.  First passing the Ferris wheel that’s installed each winter at Concorde:


And then past the National Assembly building, which had people projected onto it.  My understanding is that it’s in lieu of protests that were planned for the climate change conference (due to understandable security concerns in the city, no large gatherings/protests are being permitted at this time).


Of course, the French having a long-standing tradition of finding a way to bend the rules (and being experts at protesting), staged this impressive shoe protest this weekend  instead.

Since Sunday evening we’ve seen more than our fair share of presidential motorcades going by us.  Japan last night, then another flag I didn’t fully recognize today.  And Obama late last night as well, helicopters and all (I believe he’s the only one that gets helicopter escorts).

With that – no doubt an interesting week ahead in the city!  Speaking of which, don’t forget to register for the DCR Open House in just two weeks!  It’s gonna be an awesome day of events!

Thanks for reading!


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  1. simon

    was that climate change velib using the prototype Limits power meter ?

  2. morey

    the look on The Girl’s faces as she’s standing there in the cold waiting for your devices… is priceless.

  3. Eli

    Any sufganiyot at the market?

  4. ampestijn

    When most people say ’19 devices’ you assume it’s a figure of speech
    But with you there is no way to tell.
    What devices were there?

    • Indeed, figure of speech. I think this time I had:

      1) Polar A360
      2) Garmin FR920XT
      3) Garmin FR630
      4) Suunto Traverse
      5) Styrd Power Meter
      6) Garmin HRM-RUNv2
      7) RunScribe Left Foot
      8) RunScribe Right Foot
      9) Generic ANT+ footpod
      10) Scosche HR sensor
      11) GoPro Hero4 Silver

      I had a BSX unit with me, but forgot to put it on before running.

      I think that’s all…

    • Steven

      Have you run with Stryd on a treadmill? Besides having to use 2 watches to get pace and power I seem to get lower power indoors than on a track at similar pace/perceived effort.

    • Yup, I have indeed. Though, I haven’t done much in terms of detailed comparisons yet for effort vs power. On my list…

  5. Robert

    Another gorgeous cake by the girl!

    Also just wanted to note she didn’t look to thrilled waiting for everything to sync up before your run.

  6. Really, team America was the only one to bring a helicopter?

    link to vine.co

    I’m loving the irony of having a helicopter escort and lines of cars to deliver one man to a climate conference. Thank goodness these are the people we chose to attend and vote on the future of the planet :)

    • To be fair, it may actually be local police helicopter as his escort, hard to tell at night. Though, cars were indeed flown over (as is the norm).

      It is amazing in general though watching the various motorcades today zip across the city, just how many cars are with each one (for even the smallest of countries). I suppose it’s required though.

    • hehe sorry just wanted an excuse to watch that video again :) Hopefully there are enough other people in security etc. to fill the various cars so it’s probably not as wasteful as it looks. If Paris were to try saving energy I can think of a certain tower with 20,000 light bulbs that might be higher up the list. It is pretty when it sparkles though!

  7. Peter

    In the week if big climate conference, you should say that everything is better with Nutella, but unfortunately it is full of palm oil, for which every day is destroying large areas of rainforests.

  8. “It was saying 200w, yet I’m pretty sure I was throwing down more like 300-350w on this thing without trying too hard, ”

    Could it be that this Velib measures the power (electricity) that was generated, while a powermeter on a road bike measures your input ? That would explain the difference.

  9. David Tunney

    Do you ever fancy, or do you ever, just go for a run? No gadgets just say to the girl “I am off out, back in a while”

  10. Peter

    Hello Ray, last picture is “The Standing March” link to thestandingmarch.com. It is to remind politicians to act on climate change.

  11. Jonathan

    Fun weekend. I just moved to Versailles from the states. I spent both Saturday and Sunday riding around Chevreuse and the surrounding forested valleys. It’s absolutely stunning with some decent climbing out of the valleys. Check out the 17 tournants, not quite alpe d’huez but entertaining nonetheless.

  12. DC Runner

    I’m thinking that the power displayed on the velib meter is probably measuring the amount of electricity passed to the light after the inverter, so the 100 or so extra watts you were generated were lost (not means a physicist here, I think technically converted into heat).

    I’d love to see what kind of numbers you get if you put a power meter on a velib and compared to a route ridden at roughly the same speed on a regular bike. Seems like swapping out the pedals should be easy. I know those things are heavy and inefficient, but it would be fun to see exactly how inefficient.

    • Anonymouse

      Wouldn’t the power Ray throws down on the Velib and a normal bike be dang close to the same as measured at the pedal? How much converts to moving as opposed to overcoming the bike’s mass and the lousy crr of the tires would be a different issue. Am I missing something?

    • eli

      The shoes and pedals would need to be the same (platform pedals are less efficient) but also position. On the bike share bikes in DC the position is very different from my road bike so had a major impact on the muscles used to generate power. (Yes road bike to road bike may vary a bit in geometry but not by that much)

      If the recording includes speed then we can see how much the efficiency changes

    • Kevin D.

      My wife is a keen touring cyclist, she has tried clip in pedals but they weren’t for her ( she has had knee replacement )
      She prefers a broad platform pedal with raised studs that help grip. When she was researching pedals she came across this:
      link to bikeforums.net

  13. Mike Hensen

    I’ve seen that look a few times waiting for my 305 to sync…not impressed ;-)

  14. John

    So cool! Thanks for the Paris photos

  15. tedder

    Hey, I recognize Chevreuse! I rode there in October. Happens to be the same trip I rewarded myself at the Cupcakery.
    link to strava.com

  16. Jamie

    That cake looks amazing.

  17. Uwe


    I wonder how the cake was made transportable over a distance of 75 km by car? Is there an internal skeleton like structure to support the tower of three cakes? What if you had to slam on the brakes?

    Best wishes

    • Yup, definitely a skeleton. You can actually see an example of the interior structure in this cake we did back in July, I included a few photos in this section (towards end of it): link to dcrainmaker.com

      As for driving, we drive very very very carefully (and slowly). It’s usually a bit tense. :)

    • Have a look at the film “Kings of Pastry” if you can find it somewhere http://kingsofpastry.com

      “Finally, these pastry marathoners racing the clock must hand carry all their creations including their fragile sugar sculptures through a series of rooms to a final buffet area without shattering them.”

  18. Jake

    I wonder what the carbon footprint for all those motorcades is.

  19. 19 devices! Lol. Only with you could that be true!
    How is the French coming along Ray? After what, almost 2 years(?) you guys must be getting pretty fluent. I only ask because as I read those signs I think ?!?

    • It depends on the topic area. Day to day stuff I’m pretty good at (as well as reading), but other things are trickier (i.e. real estate/legal stuff).

      It’s been tricky though because while I’ve lived here a few years with all the work travel I did, I was always in countries that didn’t speak French.

  20. mark

    How do you stop the cake from falling over ? is it very base heavy ?

    • The base is super-heavy, it gets lighter as it goes up – though, still very heavy (20-30KG roughly). There’s also a wooden dowel down the middle of it, which holds all three layers together from any movement. We tend to do that more for bigger cakes that travel further.

      This actually isn’t the biggest cake at all she’s done (nowhere near). But I really like it, it’s ‘different’ for a wedding cake, rather pretty.

  21. Josh

    Things I did this weekend, scratch the heck out of my new 235. As a loyal garmin customer Ray, Garmin did a swap for me for free even though I bought thru CT. Kudos to them! Curiously, after yet another run today with wildly accurate HR data, and as an owner of a rhythm +, am I better off holding out for software fixes on the HR data or swapping this watch for a 230? Your opinion is very valuable and at this point I feel I ask enough questions to contribute my $20 to the site. Just need a runner icon :).

    • Thanks for the support! I’ll see what we can do about another icon. ;)

      As for it, I’m optimistic they’ll stabilize. I think December would be a ‘make or break’ month for it, in my opinion. Meaning, I want to see them sort out where things stand by the end of the month, as beyond that it gets into the new year and CES/etc… Obviously the ELEVATE sensor is a long term ‘product’ for them, but I want to ensure that any tweaks are software-based and not hardware. And of course, they’ll no doubt iterate hardware too long term, but I don’t want to see that be the solution for any short-term concerns.

  22. Nicolas

    Hey, for once, a place I know :) The beautiful Château de Méridon. Living nearby, I’ve climbed the road leading to this place quite a few times ! One of the few climbs in Vallée de Chevreuse… Not as hard as the climb to Château de la Madeleine (really close also) though. But I guess you know these places ;)

  23. Robert B.

    Looking forwards to the full DCR runscribe review, early noises from fellrnr suggests he likes it. i’m suffering Achilles problems, in the space of a month I’ve raised my cadence from 160 to 170 with the aid of a metronome and will be aiming for the magic 180 sometime in January. However my stride has always felt awkward. most of this will be due to one leg being 2 cm longer than the other, hopefully this will allow me to see how much I spend on each foot and work towards smoothing out my stride.

    I see the FR630 now offers stride balance so that could also be a option too, can’t wait for that review.

  24. Derek

    Hi Ray! Digging those casual shoes on your Christmas tree day, what are they? Thx!

  25. Grant

    I notice that on the Velib you weren’t wearing a bike helmet, out of interest do you normally wear one, either on the Velib or when you are out on one of your road bikes?

  26. scott Buchanan

    Hi, sorry can’t find anywhere else to put this but ended my run yesterday at round 12:45 at the Cupcakery. To my suprise it was closed. No obvious reason. Paris running aint the same without a post run cupcake or 3 :) Have there been changes to the shops opening hours?

  27. Faisaal FS

    You could be a religion~! long term love for the site. Merry Christmas!

  28. Jeff E.

    Hey Ray,

    I need to get my xmas list out and want to put the Forerunner 630 on it if you give it a favorable review. Are you close to posting the review or will I need to blindly put my gift list together. BTW, it’s easier to justify the cost net of the DCR discount! Thanks for your continued reviews.

    • I had hoped to have it out this week, but I wanted to dig a bit deeper on a few things after a recent update (and get a bit more LT data), so next week it is.

      At this point, I’m trending towards being torn on it. I think their change in touch screen technology was a poor choice, it’s just sorta annoying (versus ‘just working’). Not a fan.

      I think that there’s so many features on the FR230/235 that make it a really tough sell on the FR630. I guess if you really want Running Dynamics (though the V2 version is coming to Fenix3/FR920XT), and really want the Lactate Threshold test (which still seems suspect), then it’s a good little option. But again, the touch screen just isn’t what it should be. Sorry, probably not what you wanted. :-/

    • K1ndler

      Hey Ray

      I wonder what the recent update is? Is it 3.13beta or is there something newer coming out soon?


  29. The Eric

    Hey Ray, as always great articles. Really enjoyed the LIMITS articles btw. I thought it was excellent reporting and appreciate it. Any updates on an Epix review?


  30. Anthony

    Love the picture of theGirl waiting for your devices to acquire!
    Brilliant. she looks in awe of the gadgets !
    good stuff.

  31. The Paris night markets are the best. We were out there for almost two weeks about this time last year. The Vin Chaud with a sausage are a great way to end the day.

  32. Emiliano

    Sorry Ray, a churro without “dulce de leche” is not a churro at all.

  33. Long time listener first time caller.Tried it out last weekend.
    The Velib power maxed out at 200 watts or as they visualized it with the little icons next to
    the power readings: Mini fridge.
    I was throwing somewhere around 600-700w (trying hard :) and only noticed this on the 3rd time.
    Someone should come up with a bike share scheme where a battery is actually charged while
    riding which gets “downloaded” onto the grid once the bike is back.