One of the easiest and most liberating ways to travel by bicycle is traveling without a bicycle — renting, that is. For many, renting a bike after arriving at a destination is the perfect solution.
If you have ever considered traveling to a far-off land and renting a bicycle once you arrived there, here's a short breakdown of some of the places you might find a bicycle for rent.
A great place to start is the local bike shop. The shop itself may have some bicycles on hand that they can rent out for the day, week, or month ... or, if that doesn’t work, the shop may be able to point you in the direction of another business or individual that can rent you a bicycle.
In many countries, the local tourist/travel agencies often have bicycles for rent. Their selection of bicycles is often limited to just a handful if that. But these small offices are certainly worth a try.
In many bicycle-friendly countries (like Switzerland, for example), the train and bus stations are a good place to ask about renting a bicycle. Many of the more popular stops have a wide variety of bikes on hand that you can rent by the hour or by the day.
A growing trend in large cities, like London and Vienna, is that of bicycle kiosks — unmanned stations where bicycles can be rented with the swipe of a credit card. These kiosks work like gigantic vending machines, where you specify a certain amount of money to be charged, and out pops a bicycle for your use. Most charge by the hour or by the day, but in some cases the bikes can be kept for longer durations. Some city kiosks even allow you to borrow one of their bicycles for 30 to 60 minutes free of charge — as long as you get the bike back to another kiosk in the allotted time period.
All around the world are large and small bicycle touring companies in the business of renting out bicycles and taking customers on tours of varying lengths. Whether or not you plan to go on one of the guided (or self-guided) tours with a company, you can often rent a bicycle from them and set off on your own.
Beaches and other tourist areas are popular places for bicycle rental businesses. Designed to cater to people like you, they've often got a whole stash of bicycles on hand for rent.
In some parts of the world, you may not be able to find anyone willing or able to rent you the type of bicycle that you want or need. In this case, there are a number of online bicycle rental companies that will deliver the bicycle of your choice to your starting destination (whether that is your home base or some other address), and you simply box the bike up and ship it back to the company once you are finished with it.
Finally, there is always the option of simply borrowing a bicycle from a local individual. In many of the more remote regions of the world, this may be your only option, in fact. And while this may sound less than ideal, borrowing a bicycle from a native is a great way to meet someone new and, at the same time, get a super-low price on your rental bike.
This story has been updated and was originally published on June 2, 2011.