Spring is finally here, so what better way to kick off the year than with a cycling trip abroad? With the early spring UK weather being as predictable as an unscripted Donald Trump interview, many of us take the opportunity to hop away for a week’s riding in one of Europe’s many cycling meccas. With many longing for a seamless and stress-free trip, a common consideration is whether or not you should take your own bike or hire a bike when you’re out there. Is bike hire easy? Is taking your own bike really a hassle? We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of bike hire abroad and hopefully help you make the right decision.
Bike hire: The positives
Ease of travel
Without stating the obvious, travelling without having to lug your bike through an airport is certainly going to be an instant win. If you’re travelling with family or have to use public transport to get to the airport, trying to organise travel to include a large bike box does complicate matters.
Trying a new or different type of bike
You may well be considering buying a new road bike which will inevitably lead you to have to choose between disc brakes or rim brakes. Hiring a bike not only gives you access to different brands of bikes but will allow you to get a real feel of different technology such as electronic groupsets, disc brakes, deep section wheels and bike sizing. Bike hire also gives you an opportunity to try different types of cycling. For road riders, giving XC, gravel or downhill riding a go may be one of the most memorable things you have ever done, reinvigorating your love for the sport.
No need to get your bike serviced before you go
If you’re going abroad with your bike, you really should be making sure that it’s in top condition before you go. There’s nothing worse than arriving abroad and breaking your bike a couple of hours into a ride, only to find that the local bike shop can’t sort your bike until the next afternoon.
You don’t need to buy a bike box
Let’s not forget one niggling detail, to travel with your bike you’re going to need to buy or rent a bike box, and in doing so, you’re going to need to make sure that the box you get offers adequate protection for your bike and also complies with your insurance policy wording. With that in mind, solid bike boxes start at about £300 so if you’re going to buy one, you will need to go on a few trips before it’s paid its way. You also need to consider where you’re going to store it when not in use…
Easy airport transfer
Arriving at your destination and organising a transfer is generally really easy. If however, you have a large bike box, you’re going to be limited to the type of vehicle that can take you to your holiday accommodation. This can often be more costly or mean you’ll be waiting around for a larger vehicle.
No need to rebuild your bike
There are bike boxes out there which allow the bike to be stored with very little in the way of dismantling but many of the better known brands do require you to strip the pedals, wheels and handlebars off the bike. In theory, this may seem ok if you’re handy with tools but for those of us who aren’t good at bike building, correctly assembling an expensive road bike in a hotel room may not sound like an idyllic start to your holiday. It’s also worth considering that many modern disc brake road bikes have integrated cable routing which makes disassembling far more difficult. In most cases, a bigger bike box is required which is going to cost you more money.
Normally more cost effective
A quick Google search reveals that flying a bike with EasyJet costs £45 each way, so £90 in total. If you’re going on a family-orientated trip to somewhere like Mallorca or Lanzarote and planning on getting two-three days cycling in, it’s pretty much guaranteed that hiring a bicycle is going to work out cheaper and easier than taking your own. I found gravel bike hire for three days in Lanzarote for €20 per day which to me sounds like a no brainer. If however, you’re planning on hiring an enduro or downhill bike in an alpine resort such as Morzine, you’re looking at approximately £95 per day/£285 for three days’ worth of hire.
Bike box damage
As tough as bike boxes are, there is still always the danger of them getting damaged, resulting in damage to your bike when you arrive at your destination. Although Pedalcover policies cover your bike if damaged whilst in the hands of an airline, arriving to see a hole in your bike box is not a great way to start your holiday!
No stress if the bike is delayed
It’s not uncommon for an airline to leave baggage behind if a flight is full. And yes you guessed it, big & bulky items like bike boxes, surfboards and golf clubs are commonly first on the list of items which are destined for the next outbound flight. Sitting in an airport with your family, waiting for your bike to arrive certainly isn’t a good way to kick off your holiday.
Bike hire: The negatives
It’s just not your bike
If you’re a keen road rider, the chances are that you have spent a long time honing your bike position and spending money getting a professional bike fit. Getting a different brand of bicycle to measure up exactly the same as your own bike is going to be very difficult and in some cases impossible. Battling with different bar stack, reach, differing frame geometry and components such as tyres can present real challenges. Getting it wrong results in discomfort and reduced confidence when descending or riding over challenging ground. For many die-hard mile munchers and mountain bikers alike, this simply is not an option and in its self, the only reason needed not to consider bike hire.
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We have already touched on cost but as a general rule of thumb, if you are riding for more than four days, taking your own bike will save you money. In some cases, the cost of bike hire or availability of premium only bikes means it can be cheaper to buy a bike box and pay for the bike to be flown out than it is to hire a bike when you get there!
It really depends on how much riding you’re doing and what sort of holiday you’re going on. For some people, the thought of riding a hire bike would be enough to cancel the holiday, yet for others, it offers a totally stress-free, cheap and easy solution. If you’re a dinosaur like me with a rim brake equipped bike with more than three days of cycling planned, then taking your own bike is worth the additional effort. If you’ve got a modern disc-equipped bike and don’t own a bike box, perhaps bike hire is for you. If you are hiring a bicycle, don’t forget you’ll need to insure it as many hire shops don’t include cover if the bike is crashed or stolen. For more information, get in contact with us here.
Top tips when riding abroad:
- Pack your shoes and pedals in hand luggage just in case your bags go missing.
- Don’t forget to take your own water bottles.
- Take your own saddlebag toolkit with you (check out our saddlebag essentials blog here!)
- Don’t forget that brakes on European bikes are set up on the opposite side to what we are used to. The safest method when road riding is to use both brakes with the same amount of force. For mountain biking, a good hire shop will happily switch your brakes to UK ‘spec’.
- Take your own Garmin/Wahoo mount. It’s not likely that the hire bike will have a compatible computer mount.
- Take your bicycle measurements before you travel and don’t forget a small tape measure to help you fine-tune the fit.
- Is the hired bike insured? Probably not, call us before your travel!
- Do you have travel insurance to cover you for a cycling holiday? If not, Pedalcover offers cycling travel insurance to cover all forms of cycling.
- Make sure you take an approved lock with you. If you’re leaving your bicycle in the hotel bike store, it must be locked using an approved lock. It’s always easier taking your own as it’s not guaranteed that the country that you visit sells Sold Secure locks.
Do you think it’s worth hiring a bike when abroad, or is it not something you’d consider? Let us know in the comments!