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Exploring the bike scene in Buenos Aires

There’s a funny story they’ll tell you on the Buenos Aires walking tour – it concerns the pigeon population of the city.

As the legend goes, the founders of the city were so desperate for B.A. to look and feel like a ‘true’ European city that – along with aping the architectural styles of Paris, Venice, Vienna and Florence (to name a few) – they also paid to have pigeons brought across the Atlantic and introduced here. Obviously the pigeons took to life in South America, they multiplied in number and quickly flourished. The rest is (slightly dubious) history.

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In the past five years or so, cycling in the city has enjoyed a similar flourishing and, while bikes have been commonplace as functional modes of travel for many years, their popularity as a leisure or lifestyle item has never been greater.

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Rouen is a bike shop in the Palermo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. The area is bristling with cafés, artists’ spaces and boutiques. It’s a creative hub and a highly desirable neighbourhood, especially with the young. Rouen opened its doors in 2012 and has enjoyed success by bringing fresh and modern-looking bikes onto the market, modelled on global trends for single-speed city cruisers and elegant town bikes.

Most of the frames in the store bear the Rouen badge of honour, but they also have a few other second-hand bikes – including this beautiful (but tiny) vintage Pinarello. If I were about 20cm shorter I might have been tempted to buy it!

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A few blocks away, Michael, working at Muvincorp, another of Palermo’s hip bike stores explains that local government has had a part in the rise on popularity:

“The bike lanes have been here for about five years now and people who wouldn’t have felt safe before to ride in the street are now riding a lot. I see a lot more women riding bikes now than before the lanes.”

At Muvincorp one of their biggest struggles is importing top quality products from outside of Argentina – the import tax is so severe that they have to add big mark-ups just to keep things profitable. So if you want a Brooks England saddle you’re much better skipping over the border to Uruguay and visiting one of their sister stores.

The Uruguayan connection is the reason behind one of the store’s coolest pieces – a spray-painted single speed created by a Ururuguayan graffiti artist called Pum-Pum. The eye-watering paint scheme may not be for everybody, but we like it a lot.

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Tom Owen is a cycling writer who travels the world in search of two-wheeled adventures. He’s ridden bikes in Bali, Vietnam, Andorra, Spain, Cambodia, Thailand and the UK. This winter he’s going to South America to explore the cycling culture of Bolivia, Argentina, Colombia and many more places. Tom is going to be writing about his experiences for us, so make sure you check out our blog to keep up to date with his travels.

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