Why hire a bike on holiday?
Whenever I travel anywhere in Europe, hiring a bike locally has become second nature and is often my first port of call even before heading to the hotel. I've always found that having a bike to use in an unfamiliar place is the quickest way to really understand a city and its surrounding region.
It's simple as to why! On foot, you are limited by distance and walking around will only allow you to see a small segment of a city. Going on local trains, trams or buses is a good way to explore quickly, but I've often found that too much time is spent in stations or interchanges waiting for the next departure and often below ground too.
Hiring a bike abroad is generally easier than you think and requires just a small deposit or ID to obtain a bicycle for the day. I always recommend getting the insurance too as a stolen hire bike can seriously cause a lot of administrative issues and the potential reimbursement of the value of the bike if it is stolen or damaged beyond repair.
How to hire a bike whilst on a city break...
Most European cities now have a bike hire shop that not only acts as a place to rent a bike but also is an unofficial tourist office and hub for the city. Many are small, independently run businesses with staff who have great local knowledge of the surrounding area. There is generally a wide range of maps and associated information to pick up and use when you start riding with your hire bike.
Normally you need to complete a rental form or contract, take a copy of your ID (Passport or Driving Licence) and a small deposit either on a credit card or in cash. Both are returned if the bike is returned in good condition. Make sure that you do a quick check of the bike to make sure nothing is broken or damaged before setting off from the rental location to avoid any potential disputes. Check the tires too and make sure the battery is fully charged when renting an electric bike!
The bikes on offer are generally upright city bikes or hybrid models with a minimal choice of gears and backpedal brakes that can get some getting used to. It is also unlikely that you will be given a top specification model in either case, however, they should be safe, ridable and properly maintained.
Sometimes larger bicycle hire shops and rental locations will offer guided cycling city tours that often cost more than the standard bike hire, but will give you a quick snapshot of the city often in a sociable setting. The advantage is that you'll have the opportunity to swap stories or travel experiences with others.
I am not recommending any cycle rental location, but have based my findings from Google rankings and tourist board partnerships. I haven't included public hire schemes such as Mobike, Lime or NextBike as these often require credit card authorisations, App downloads and the bikes are not meant to be used for a whole day with higher rental charges.
To help you hire a bike in Europe, I have compiled a list of cycling hire companies and organised by the nearest airport here >>.