If you are interested in riding bikes when you are in Europe, there are several ways to do so. You can rent a bike for part of an hour to an entire day or longer. You can hire a guide and take a bike tour. Here are some of my experiences:
City Rental Bikes
Over the past several years, many cities have installed bike rental systems where you can rent a bike for part of an hour or more – up to as much as a whole day – to ride where you want to go within that city.
In Paris, the rental system is called Vélib’. There are hundreds of Vélib’ docking stations around the city. For 5€, you can use up to five bikes at a time for unlimited 30 minute segments throughout the day – seven -day options are available for 15€. There are surcharges if you use the bike for more than 30 minutes. This type of rental is best for a family or small group of people who want to ride from point to point around the city.
In order to use this rental system, you subscribe online. At the docking station, you use the rental screen to enter your access code when prompted. The bike is then released and the time of rental starts. When you return the bike to the station, the rental time stops. Other cities have similar systems, but if you plan to use one, be sure to check the rules and procedures before you arrive at the docking station.
One of the advantages is that, most often, the bikes do not have to be returned to the same docking station, but can be returned to another station in the city. This is not always the case, however, so be sure you know the rules. In Strasbourg, for example, the bikes needed to be returned to the same station, so we passed on the opportunity there.
Private Bike Rental
Some small cities or towns do not have a bike rental system, but it is possible to rent bikes from an independent agency. In the small town of Vernon, France, we rented bikes so we could ride the three miles (each way) to Giverny, the town where Claude Monet’s house and gardens are located. There is a bus available, but we chose to rent and ride bikes. The bike route is beautiful – winding through a park, then along the river, and finally entering the small town.
The rental was 12€ per bike with the only time limit being that it would be returned the same day. In Vernon, the bikes are rented from the owner of the restaurant across from the train station. Each bike came with a lock, so they would be safe when we stopped to see the artist’s home.
Renting the bikes was easy and the ride was beautiful, but the bikes were not in the greatest shape. By the time we returned them, one of the tires was nearly flat, the seats didn’t stay adjusted, and not all the gears worked. I would do it again, although I would check the bike more closely before I left with it.
Bike Rental Shops
In Munich, my daughter and I rented bikes from a larger rental agency. Mike’s Bike Tours has two locations – one in Munich and one in Amsterdam. They offer bike tours, bus tours, and hourly bike rentals. Currently the rental fee is 10€ for the first hour and 2€ for each additional hour. The daily rate is 18€. We found the bikes to be in excellent condition.
In Munich, we rented bikes for two hours. We rode through the pleasant English Garden, stopping at times along the way to take pictures. If I were to rent bikes in Munich again, I would probably try to rent for a longer period of time. As it was, we were continually checking the time to make sure we didn’t get back later than we scheduled.
This summer in Paris, my daughter and son-in-law and I participated in an organized bike tour. We scheduled the tour through Fat Tire Tours, a company that offers tours in several European and American cities. The tour company conducts basic city tours, plus a few specialized ones.
We opted for a unique tour that followed the route of the Tour de France early in the morning on the last day of the Tour. A few hours after our tour we watched the professional cyclists ride on the same route.
We met at the Fat Tire office at 6:45 in the morning. There were about 15 people in our group, but there were a couple other groups under different guides, participating in the same tour. We were fitted with bikes and everyone tried them out. By 7 am we were on our way.
We rode around the city and pretended to race as we made our way up the Champs Elysees. After biking around the Arc de Triomphe, we were treated to a glass of champagne. We were all winners! We took a nice break, then continued on our tour. We stopped at the Eiffel Tower for coffee and croissants. After this light breakfast we rode back to the Fat Tire office and turned in our bikes. The tour gave us an interesting view of the city and was lots of fun.
I’d highly recommend taking a Fat Tire tour. I plan to look for one in the next city I visit.
Biking in Europe
Biking in Europe is a fun way to see the sites. It’s a great way to get some exercise and burn off the calories from the delicious food you are eating.
Have you ever rented bikes on vacation? Tell your story below.
*Photo Credits to J. Kamper, R. Kamper, and A. Stegenga