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Hiring a bike vs taking your own: what's best for cycling holidays abroad?

Should you treat yourself to a shiny new steed when you travel, or stick with your trusty companion? Here’s what to consider to ensure you enjoy your time in the sun

Escaping British weather to cycle up and down the incredibly smooth roads typically found abroad is an absolutely great way to spend a holiday; but how you go about sorting your bike for the trip can make a huge difference, both in terms of how much you enjoy the rides and the practical considerations when getting there and returning home. 

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You could either hire a bike from a local bike shop at your destination, or dismantle and pack your own into a bike bag or box to transport with you abroad. There’s a lot to consider, including how much faff time you’re willing to put up with, whether adjusting to the fit and the handling of a different bike is something that’s going to bother you, plus the differences in cost between the two options. Below we'll discuss the pros and cons of each option…

Hiring a bike: the pros

Test out a wonderfully fancy bike that suits the terrain

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While we're all attached to our bikes, if you're hiring one then you potentially have the chance to test ride a lovely bike that you’ve probably never ridden before. In some hire centres, you can get your hands on a real top-end fancy one.

You’ll find that many bike hiring companies abroad stock a great range of mid-range to top-end performance bikes, so there’s a very high chance there’ll be something you’ll be keen to try that’s within your price range. Bikes are expensive, and so it’s great to be able to have the full flexibility of riding a bike for multiple days to see if it rides just the way you were hoping it would.

Hiring a bike can enable you to ride something that’s better suited to the terrain. If you’re going to popular destinations such as Mallorca or Gran Canaria, a lightweight climber’s bike is definitely going to make some of those vicious climbs that bit easier than the aluminium endurance or carbon aero one you may have at home.

> Just how good is Mallorca for cycling?

If your bike at home is a rim-brake model, you may prefer to ride a bike with disc brakes for superior braking power to better deal with the demands of riding abroad. Disc brakes can offer more control than rim brakes before they lock up for tackling sharp corners, and are much more effective in the wet. Of course, while on holiday you’d hope to also be taking a break from the rain, but mountain weather conditions are notoriously unpredictable.

Say no to chores: the bike hire company ensures it’s in working order and clean for you

Hiring a bike saves you from your usual chores. Giving your bike a thorough service before taking it with you on holiday is very important to help you stay safe and also get the best out of your limited time riding in the luscious conditions abroad. 

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Although even with a hire bike, you will still be wanting to give it a quick check over before hurtling down a mountain. But the servicing should all be ready and done for you, plus if there is anything you’re not happy with, it’s on the hire company to sort out.

> 13 easy pre-ride bike checks (plus 6 vital ones) to ensure your ride is problem-free

To avoid making your bike bag dirty you’re going to need to clean the bike before it gets packed. This is even trickier at the other end as you won’t have your usual brushes, buckets and cleaning products to work with. Hopefully the conditions will have been dry though so you can just wipe or brush down, which is much simpler and quicker. 

It’s nice to give a hire bike a quick rinse down before handing it back, but you don’t have to worry about giving it the same in-depth clean you’d give one of your own. There’s also no need to dismantle your bike before you leave and rebuild it as soon as you arrive, and the same again on the return journey. 

No faff getting to and from the airport

Bike hiring companies often offer to deliver bikes direct to your holiday address so you don’t have to concern yourself with this side of the logistics at all. 

Sometimes this is included within the bike hiring package, other times it’ll be an add on. Either way it’s much easier than lugging around a large bike bag/box with you on public transport. 

Cheaper for short trips

With the cost of transporting the bike on a plane and then the big bag/box to and from your accommodation on both sides (in the UK and abroad), it could very easily work out cheaper to hire a bike, particularly if your trip is less than a week and you’re happy choosing the mid-range model. 

If you’re mixing up your holiday with some sightseeing alongside the days on the bike, it’s even more likely to work out cheaper.

No concerns thanks to local support

If you experience a mechanical issue that you’re unable to fix yourself, quite a lot of bike hiring companies will offer additional support during your trip. 

Mechanical issues also can’t all be sorted out with the contents of your saddle bag, you could perhaps suffer from a broken spoke or derailleur. These sorts of issues are of course a lot rarer, but if you’re packing in a lot of miles it’s useful having a nearby bike shop to help you out and this support is easier to come by if you are hiring with the shop. 

Hiring a bike: the cons

'It's just not 'your' bike 

If you’re hiring a bike abroad, you’re likely planning to make best use of the rental period and will be packing in lots of long days in the saddle. 

> Should you get a bike fit? The 9 pitfalls to avoid

Unless you’re hiring the exact same model you ride on your home roads, the geometry and riding position varies a fair amount between bikes. Even ones that are the same size or bikes that are marketed as, for example, a race bike or an endurance bike. 

If the bike doesn’t fit you properly or isn’t quite what you’re used to, you could find it cause you some discomfort, such as more knee and neck pain than usual; especially over big days, and after multiple days in quick succession in the saddle. In the vert worst cases you could cause yourself an injury, but of course knowing your measurements such as saddle height and preferred reach could greatly mitigate the chances of this happening.  

Discomfort at the rear from an ill-fitting saddle can also ruin an otherwise great ride, and signs of numbness or pain can cause even more serious problems long-term. 

> How to avoid saddle pain and get comfortable on your bike

People come in different shapes and sizes, which is why there’s such a large variety of saddle designs to accommodate us all. You’ll have really lucked out if the bike you have on hire is fitted with your saddle soulmate. To ensure you stay comfortable, it’s well worth bringing your own saddle along if you go down the hire route. 


Confidence crippling?

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If you’re not used to a particular bike, you may find that you’re not as confident on descents or when going around corners, and this may take some enjoyment out of the ride for you. 

The cost of hiring a bike

Even though the price of hiring is offset by the handling fee airlines charge for transporting a bike, and the cost of taking it to and from the airport on either side, hiring a bike becomes particularly expensive if you’re staying over a week. 

Bike shops will knock down the hire price per day the more days you book the bike for, which does help but it still adds up.

In terms of airline handling fees, you can expect to pay £45 per flight with Easyjet, and with Ryanair it costs £60 per flight.

To give you an idea on hire prices, you can hire Bianchi’s endurance Infinito XE equipped with Ultegra from Ciclo Costa Blanca in Spain for 90 euros for three days. It works out slightly cheaper per day when hiring for longer, it’s 160 euros for seven days. 

You can of course go cheaper. For another example, you can hire Orbea’s Orca M20 with 105 at 25 euros per day for up to four days, then it’s 22 euros per day if hiring for five to six days and  then for seven days it costs 125 euros. 

What condition is the bike really in?

While hiring a bike does save you having to get yours in tip top condition, that’s not a guarantee that the one you’ll be hiring really is in the excellent condition as the photos online make out. You’ll only really find out once you have the bike in front of you, and if the bike is not up to scratch that could be too late. 

Many bike hiring companies are fully booked out, or the chance of finding one in your size is quite low, so going on the hunt for an alternative bike once you’re out there may not be a risk you’re willing to take. 

It’s very important to do some research and check out reviews to ensure you’re going with a bike hiring company that does provide an excellent service, of which there are many. 

Taking your own bike: the pros

Savings in the long run

If cycling abroad is your favourite way to spend a holiday, and therefore you bring your bike with you on week-long or longer trips, or even multiple ones throughout the year, it can work out cheaper to invest in a bike bag or box. 

It’s your bike, so everything is set up to what you’re used to

Your own bike should be comfortable to ride as you’re used to holding yourself in that position on a regular basis. 

> How to make your bike more comfortable - check out our 14 tips

Familiarity is also great for descending with confidence and enjoying the ride. 

If anything goes wrong on the ride itself, you also know your equipment so you’re more likely to be able to quickly fix issues by the roadside so you can swiftly continue on a ride, rather than waiting for back-up support. 

Taking your own bike: the cons

Bike bags and boxes are expensive, and you need somewhere to store it

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Bike bags are a fairly considerable investment, with higher end ones costing as much or more than an actual bike. You’re going to want one that’s strong enough to protect your bike from potential rogue baggage handlers to make sure that it arrives safely, and you also want it to last for years to come over multiple trips.

The best bike bag, box or flight case would protect your bike from anything short of a direct artillery strike, require as little faff as possible to get your bike into it, not make too big a dent in your luggage weight allowance and cost a sensible amount of money.

The cheapest hard case to make it into our bike bag buyer’s guide is the £349.99 Bonza Bike Box 2, and the best version we’ve tested is the BikeBox Alan Triathlon Aero Easyfit Bikebox which is a whopping £610. 

Bike Box Alan Triathlon Aero Easyfit Bikebox

The Evoc Bike Travel Bag Pro got our vote as the best option overall. It costs £529.95 which is still a chunky investment. 

You’ll also want to invest in one that’s stable enough to be rolled (fairly) easily about. I had a softshell bag that refused to stand upright, and couldn’t roll it more than a few steps without it falling over, so I had to awkwardly lean it against me while trying to walk through crowded areas... don’t cheap out, it’s not worth it! 

Be sure to check out our guide on how to find the right bag or box here. 

Bike bags are often quite big, taking up a lot of space in your house or garage for much, much more of the year than you actually spend using the bag. That’s something else you're going to have to weigh up. 

Lots of faff: Time out of your holiday and awkward to cart around airports and hotels 

Packing your bike into a box or bag takes time, especially if the bag is not one you're familiar with. 

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Bike bags and boxes are also large and cumbersome, and so are a pain to drag around on public transport. It you need to hop on a coach or bus service, then there’s a very high chance that it’s simply not going to be possible. In those scenarios where there’s no train connection, that’s going to be an expensive taxi fare.

What have your experiences been? Have you had an issue which has turned you against either hiring or taking your bike abroad? Let us know in the comments below as always. 

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bianchi51 | 1 year ago

I've had success with a Moulton separated into two with each half packed into a custom made canvas bag with a shoulder strap. These bags fit into the overhead racks on Eurostar and TGV trains as well as the boots of cars. I've also taken them on the Tube, one hanging from each shoulder, with no hassles. 

Perhaps a Brompton is the ultimate travel bike. I've never ridden one but there are plenty of adventure stories featuring them on the www.


Mary Willoughby | 1 year ago

I take my own bike because I always do one-way trips - A to B, some older folk might even call them "tours". It's not usually possible to hire a bike at the start of the trip in country A and leave it at the destination in Country B.

For flights I pack my bike using a CTC Bag (yes, the bike I take is made of pig iron not carbon fibre) - at £12 this bag is a little more affordable than a £530 box and can be easily folded and transported on the bike and used for the return journey.

I understand Jet2 will transport your bicycle at no additional cost provided that it is within your 22kg luggage allowance (this is how most airlines used to deal with bicycle transportation).

IanEdward | 1 year ago

I've hired a few times now, and usually for 'bucket list' type rides where the quality of the bike is important!

I've never struggled with backwards brakes, maybe because the quality of the roads is often so much better or the traffic so much politer, or maybe just because I descend more carefully as I'm usually sneaking a ride in on a family holiday and know it isn't worth the grief crashing! 

Although I'm exceptionally fussy about saddles at home I always seem to get on with hire bike saddles, maybe just a psycological thing if you're distracted with beautiful new roads and nice weather you can ignore minor bottomly niggles.

I will always take my own tyres though, and maybe even worth taking a pump with a qauge. Our hire place in Mallorca are otherwise great but insist on supplying you with the cheapest most plasticcy Continental tyres pumped up to 130psi! They wouldn't even give us a pump to adjust pressures to our own preference.

But what I dislike most about hire bikes is creaks! I think they get washed too much and adjusted too much so it must be impossible for shops to chase creaks on every bike. I hired a nice Specialized to ride up Mt Haleakala on Maui and the seatpost creaked with every pedal stroke. Not ideal on 3000m climb! I stopped and 'greased' it with a banana skin smiley

lesterama | 1 year ago

I have conti brake set-up on my bikes. If you don't, you could come a cropper on a hire bike. I know people who have wiped out on descents because of this.

Also, I take at least a couple of long stems with me to get a position I like.

bobrayner | 1 year ago
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It's also very location-dependent. If you want to go somewhere like Tenerife, great; there are good bike hire options. But if you want to go somewhere off the beaten trail, maybe somewhere that's not already full of cyclists, you might find it a bit harder to rent a bike (although anywhere with a couple of big tourist hotels will surely also have a local who takes cash and lends you a ten-year-old Trek with loose cables).

There's also a third option which worked really well for me in the past: If you're flying to a developing country, and if your airline would charge a lot to transport your own bike, it might actually be cheaper to buy a basic bike from the local equivalent of Halfords. Ride where you want, you can do open-jaws routes and so on, then 1-2 weeks later just give the bike to somebody local who looks like they need it, or maybe some local charity. You probably won't get carbon fibre and Dura Ace, but that shouldn't matter if you're not trying to win a race - a generic cheap new bike should be sufficient to enjoy an amazing new landscape, and get fitter. It really frees you up to visit new places.

Jules59 | 1 year ago

Also had a great time in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria Nov 2021. We hired very nice Colnago Carbon CLX Ultegras from
Excellent friendly service; price inc bike fit, water, GPX routes, tubes, tools, helmets, lights, locks. We took our own shoes/cleats and helmets. 25euro/day. Made me realise just have much I overraeched on my own bike and I've since replaced it.

philsinclair | 1 year ago

I am a bit ambivalent on this subject. I hired a ‘high-end’ bike in Tenerife and it was awful. Brake grips completely gone, sticky and not fitting properly. I gave it back and reclaimed half my money. Friends have hired in Mallorca and had a good experience. I tend to travel with a bike bag, wheels also padded in bags from a well know sports chain store. Not so expensive. It is a hassle to carry it when flying. If I go by car, I definitely take my own bikes plus a spares kit.

growingvegtables | 1 year ago

There's another option?

I was in Los Angeles 2-3 years ago.  Did my research, and found a bike bike shop that specialised in sleek, silky, "old", steel-framed road bikes.  He couldn't rent me one; but offered to sell me one, and buy it back when I left.

Had two glorious weeks exploring LA, the Santa Monica mountains, Santa Barbara and much more ... on a DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS 1980's Peugeot.  Among the finest bikes I have ever ridden .  And I got SO much more out of the trip than the rest of the family, relying on hire cars .

tyviano replied to growingvegtables | 1 year ago

Sounds like a lovley trip and you found some great rides. I was lucky enough to cylce the PCH from San Fran to LA on a Dawes Galaxy 10 years back. Beautiful. Would you be kind enough to share the name of the store you found please?


nniff | 1 year ago
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Inflatable roof racks are a godsend - bike box goes on the roof of a standard, tiny hire car.

Jez Ash replied to nniff | 1 year ago
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nniff wrote:

Inflatable roof racks are a godsend - bike box goes on the roof of a standard, tiny hire car.

I was today years old (quite old) when I first heard of this witchcraft. Nice one!

Gromski replied to Jez Ash | 1 year ago

I was also today years old! What a brilliant, simple idea. 
I'd always wondered what you'd do if there were a couple of bike bags and only one would go in the car

Calc replied to nniff | 1 year ago
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🤯 This new learning amazes me.

markieteeee | 1 year ago

Another option is to travel by eurostar.  You can send your bike ahead (you have to drop it at St Pancras the day before) and collect at Brussels* when you arrive (* I put Brussels as I've done it three times, but presumably this works for other eurostar destinations).

Rendel Harris | 1 year ago


Bike bags and boxes are expensive, and you need somewhere to store it

Very true but there are (at least in London) plenty of bike box hire services charging around £40 a week; many also offer pickup and collection services for an extra fee. I recently saw on Twitter a facility at (I think) Dublin airport with an automated bike box rental system, which seems a great idea, ride your bike to the airport and then pack it away on the spot.

jpj84 | 1 year ago

The article assumes everyone flies everywhere - I'm driving to Provence this summer, taking two bikes. 

Assuming diesel and ferries are still available come July 🤔

Sriracha replied to jpj84 | 1 year ago

Do the bikes go in, or on, the car?

Recarobob | 1 year ago

My wife and I were in Gran Canaria in February for 3 days cycling plus a bit of sightseeing. For the 3 continuous days of bike hire the costs were about the same as taking our own bikes on the flight, but on balance we hired from Freemotion as it did away with the faff factor. However, you don't have the flexibility of going for a ride when you want to due to the weather without then paying more. If we did it again and were out there for longer I'd probably take our own bikes.

The Freemotion bikes were good but the service from the outlet in Mogan could have been friendlier and you're limited to when they're open for collecting and dropping off.

I can't comment about Gatwick, but the luggage handlers at GC airport are clearly used to dealing with lots of bikes as they were loaded and handled well from the view we had in the terminal.

Janoree | 1 year ago

I'm just back from a week riding the hills in Gran Canaria. Hired an ebike for 6 days from Free Motion, never ridden an ebike before. Absolutely loved it, my partner hired a beautiful Specialized tarmac SL7 and loved that too. I would highly recommend looking at hiring as an option, stress free and very friendly and efficient in my opinion. 

Sriracha replied to Janoree | 1 year ago

Looks like your avatar failed to unclip!

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