Hiring a bike abroad can feel a bit daunting - but it doesn't have to be.
This article goes through the whole process, from deciding whether to hire or take your own to wheeling your bike out of the bike rental shop.
Should I take my bike or use bike hire?
This has to be one of the most often asked questions when planning a bike trip.
The answer is, it depends!
How long are you going for?
How wedded are you to your bike set up and kit?
What are the bike hire options like in your destination?
Will your transfers have room for your bike box?
Do you fancy trying a new bike?
1. Want to take your bike?
Our flying your bike page is for you.
2. Decide to hire?
Don't miss the bike hire section in our epic destination and ride guides. We list bike hire shops in all the destinations we cover.
Read on for
1. Five questions you should ask before hiring a bike; and
2. Six things to check before you take your bike from the shop
Five questions you should ask before hiring a bike
So you’ve decided on bike hire over taking your own. Here are five questions you should get answers to before handing over your cash.
1. What is the spec?
Okay, this could actually involve about 50 questions, depending on how much you care and how much information is provided on the company’s website. You’ll certainly want to be clear on things like:
2. What accessories do you supply with the bike?
Many hire centres include accessories like a basic lock, bottles, helmet, saddle and pedals in the price - but it’s worth checking as not everywhere does. In any event, for comfort, you may prefer to bring your own saddle, cycling shoes, helmet, lights, light and Garmin mounts. If you want to bring your own kit, it’s wise to confirm such details in advance to check they’re happy with you changing saddles and cleats for example.
Some bike hire shops can provide bike computers loaded with routes, for an additional charge (though why would you need these when you have all of our destination and ride guides?!). These and any additional accessories like rear child’s seat or tagalongs should be booked in advance if you’re sure you’ll need them.
3. How often are the bikes mAintained?
Hopefully the answer is regularly. Some shops clean, lube and repair their bikes after every rental. Others are not so good. There’s nothing worse than a bike that keeps breaking down, so it’s worth asking the question.
4. What happens if I have a mechanical problem or need assistance on the road?
A good hire shop should be able to provide you with support. Opting for a shop with on site workshop and store will help.
5. How much will it cost?
You’ll probably have a good idea of the basic price from the website. But you might want to also see whether they offer a discount for multi-day rentals, check the cost of any accessories they’ll be supplying, find out what the security deposit or pre-authorisation amount is, whether they charge a cancellation fee if your plans change and the arrangement for late returns.
Insurance is often not included in the cost of the hire. Some places offer insurance options in addition to the rental price. You should also check the small print for liability in case of damage.
Six things to check on the bike
So you’re in the shop with the bike in your hands. What next?
Don’t leave before you’ve checked these things:
Hold each one closed in turn, pushing the bike down and forward (hard) while you do so. If the bike doesn’t move, the brakes should be okay.
While you’re there, check which side the brakes are on. Outside of the UK, many countries have their brakes set up with the front brake on the left, rather than the right. It’s better to know this before you leave the shop than half way down a steep descent!
2. Brake pads
Take a look at each set to check they aren’t overly worn.
Spin each wheel to make sure it rotates straight and true.
Inspect the tyres to see each has a rounded surface and no signs of damage to the side walls. You may also want to borrow a track pump to get the tyre pressure to your ideal number.
Give them a shake to check there’s no rattle and that they’re tight.
6. Dents, scratches and cracks
This is particularly important if your bike is carbon. Make sure you tell the hire company about any of these. Dents and cracks are likely grounds for needing an alternative bike.
7. Check the setup
You really don’t want to be riding around on a bike that doesn’t fit you. Not only is it uncomfortable, you could cause yourself injury. So check it fits you and do a quick safety check to ensure the headset and wheel quick releases are tight.
Take a short spin to make sure you’re happy before you leave. If there’s anything that’s not right, ask the shop before you leave.
If you’re hiring a bike, you may well want to take your own saddle, saddlebag, pedals, cycling shoes, helmet, lights, light mounts and Garmin mounts. Don’t forget to pack them!
Also make sure you think about travel insurance before you leave home - our in-depth guide has lots of pointers that should help you choose a policy that works for you.
Take a look at our ultimate packing guide for cyclists for more.
Got a question? Get in touch!