If you are planning to set off on a cycling holiday, is it better to take your own bike with you or hire one when you get there? This is a question often asked by cyclists who book a Macs Adventure cycle tour. To be honest, there isn’t a definitive answer. The solution will depend on a range of factors and personal preferences. Here we offer you the pros and cons of taking a bike or hiring a bike. I have experience of both. I have taken my bike on holiday with me on numerous occasions and I have also hired bikes for cycle tours.
Advantages of taking a bike on holiday
You know the bike fits and is comfortable. This is an important point if you have booked a cycle tour that includes a lot of challenging cycling where comfort will be vital for maximum enjoyment.
You know how to work the bike. Again, familiarity and comfort will be a high priority if you will be cycling a lots of daily miles while on holiday. It's your chosen bike. Presumably, if you have bought a bike, you will have spent a long time deciding the right one for you. If you take it on holiday you can enjoy your lovely bike to its full potential.
It could be cheaper to take your own bike. While many hire bikes can be cheaper, if you plan to hire a top of the range carbon racer you may find it works out to be more expensive than bike carriage on a plane.
You’ll learn about your bike. If you take a bike on a plane you need to know how to dismantle it to put it in a box or bag for carriage. You will also need to be able to put it back together at the other end. This can be a useful exercise in teaching you more about the mechanics of your bike.
There is the bonus of extra packing space. If you take a bike box or bag you can add some of your other luggage, such as cycling clothes, helmet, shoes, track pump, to the box, which could save you the cost of normal hold luggage. I know cyclists that take only a bike box and hand luggage for a week’s cycle tour holiday.
Think about boxing clever. If you are doing an A to B cycle tour you could take a bike in a cardboard box to point A (ask local bike shops for old bike boxes). You then throw away the bike box at the airport or the start point of the cycle tour. At point B you will need to find another way of packing the bike for the return journey. Using a disposable bike box can make the holiday a lot easier in terms of what you need to carry with you while actually cycling.
Disadvantages of taking a bike on holiday
The possibility of potential damage. All too often there are reports from cyclists about mishandling of bikes by airport staff. (We are not saying this is a fact, just anecdotal.) Even when bikes are well packed in a box or bag, damage can occur in transportation. This has never happened to my bike (and I have travelled with a bike on a plane numerous times) but some friends have ended up with cracked carbon frames, broken derailleurs and bent components.
There could be high costs. Many airlines charge what seems to be an unreasonable fee for bike carriage. In many cases it will cost upwards of £100 return (European flights), which can often be pricier than bike hire for a week abroad.
Don't overlook the hassle factor. Taking your own bike on holiday means you will need to spend time (allow at least an hour or two) to pack your bike in a box or bag. (You will need to have a box or bag or hire one and this adds to your holiday costs). Then when you arrive on holiday, you need to put the bike back together again.
Be prepared to be nervous. Leaving your beautiful bike with unknown airport staff and knowing it will be thrown into the hold can make you feel very anxious about your bike for the journey to and from your holiday.
Holiday transfer hassle. Not all transfer companies have the capacity for transporting lots of bikes in boxes. Ask before you book.
Advantages of bike hire on holiday
It’s simples. You book the bike hire through Macs Adventure before setting off. Then you simply arrive on holiday, go to the hire shop, collect the bike, adjust it to fit and set off on your holiday.
Bike is good working order. You can be pretty sure that hire bikes will be well maintained and in full working order when you arrive.
There's the joy of upgrading. If you ride an aluminium bike at home you could take the opportunity to hire a lighter and more efficient carbon fibre bike on holiday.
Easier A to Bs. If you are planning an A to B cycle tour it’s easier to hire a bike at point A and organise to drop it off a point B. Ask Macs Adventure about how to go about this.
Benefits of cutting costs. Bike hire often works out cheaper than bike carriage, especially if you are traveling as a family or larger group and can ask for hire discounts.
You'll have the right bike for the terrain. When hiring a bike you can stipulate mountain bike, hybrid, road racer or whatever so as to suit the route and terrain of your holiday.
Disadvantages of bike hire on holiday
Think about the comfort factor. A hire bike is not your bike and hasn’t been bought to suit you individually. This might mean that it is not as comfortable as your own bike. You could take your bike seat and pedals with you so you have a few home comforts on a hire bike.
Sometimes hire costs more. To hire a bike that is the equivalent of your beautiful carbon racer or full suspension mountain bike may well cost more than the carriage on a plane.
Hiring an bike can be inconvenient. You might need to locate and travel to a bike hire shop from your hotel, which can add cost and hassle to the start (and end) of a holiday.
Some hire bikes are unattractively big and solid. Many hire places will purchase bikes that they know will withstand the test of time and use. This can mean that these bikes are more solid and heavier weight. While this is good for the hire company it might not be so good for your cycling holiday.
You have no idea what standard of bike you are hiring. Looking on a website or in a brochure at the bike you have hired it's impossible to know if it's good, bad or ugly. I have heard both sides of the story: Great hire bikes and woeful hire bikes. (With Macs adventure you have the advantage of recommended bike hire so that should easy the anxiety.)
Top tips for bike hire or taking your own
Check the cost of hire versus plane carriage.
Check the bike hire spec (ask lots of questions about bike sizes, ranges, gearing, seats etc). Learn how to pack your bike in a bike bag or box. Look on YouTube for helpful videos.
Look into the advantages and disadvantages of a soft bike bag versus a hard bike box (or even a cardboard box). Don’t let someone else dissemble your bike for packing. You need to know how to put it back together again so it’s important you do this yourself.
Don’t forget spanners and Allen keys. Check the route and terrain of your cycling holiday to ensure you are taking/hiring the right bike
If you plan to hire a bike, take your own bike seat, pedals, cycling shoes and helmet so you can fit these components for extra comfort.
Ask for recommendations for bike hire or book with a trusted cycle holiday tour company.
Macs Adventure offer cycling holidays in the UK, Europe and Worldwide with options for bike hire (or taking your own) on most tours. Visit https://www.macsadventure.com/cycling-holidays/