Considering a long distance cycling tour? If it is around your home city then you probably have access to a good cycle. But what if it is somewhere else – maybe a different country or even a different continent! Would you fly your cycle with you or should you buy or rent a cycle once you get to the new place?
When I cycled Berlin to Copenhagen in 2015 I bought a second hand cycle in Berlin. In my second trip to Australia and Taiwan – I flew my cycle from India to these countries. I wrote a blog post on Taking your Cycle via Airplane (Mostly for Indians). There are two points that I forgot to write in this blog post. One is about the costs involved – I will write about that soon. Second I am covering in this post : Why Fly a Cycle at all? Why not just buy or rent a cycle from a city near your long distance route? Here are my thoughts on the same,
Should You Buy or Rent a Cycle ?
Depending on the destination, there will be a nearby metro city which will have a lot of shops for you to buy or rent a cycle. If you are going to developed places with some cycle infrastructure like Europe, Australia, Taiwan, US etc… then you can get good cycles – probably better than the ones you get in India.
Buy a New Cycle:
If you are buying a new bike then you are spending a good bit of money. Ideally you would want to spend time doing research and getting the best suited bike you can for the price. This takes a few days. Moreover, you need to have a clear plan about what you want to do with it once you finish your touring. Do you want to sell it off? Then you need to have a good plan to find a buyer. This also takes a few days.
So I would suggest you buy a cycle ONLY if you have ample time to spend before and after your tour. You could also buy a cycle and then fly it back to India – in that case you need to book the space in your flight. Also take care of the custom formalities. In India, the customs charge 30% of the bike price as fees for bringing in international cycles. Though often they don’t check the documents so you might be able to get away with this fee.
Rent a cycle:
There are different ‘hire a cycle’ schemes in metros in most developed countries. Especially if you plan to do established cycling routes like the velo-routes in Europe then there may be schemes which let you pick a bike in one city and drop in another city. A few of these schemes might also provide touring gear.
The problem with these schemes are that they make sense if you are cycling for less than 10 days. The schemes assume you are doing a good 70 – 100 km a day. At that speed it makes sense to get these bikes. But I cycle tour much slower and also much longer – so for me it didn’t make any sense. If you rent a bike for over 10 days, usually you are paying as much as buying a bike. These schemes are a good option for people looking for a quick 1 week cycle tour. Say from Berlin to Copenhagen or Paris to Brussels or Budapest to Vienna. A metro city to another metro city ensures that you will get a lot of options for renting/buying cycles.
Buy a Second Hand CYCLE:
To figure out how you can go about buying a second hand cycle or any other gear in a new city, refer to my earlier post on tips to search out right places to shop.
The pros of buying a second hand CYCLE :
1) usually in developed countries even second hand bikes are of good quality
2) cheap enough even after you replace many of the parts with new ones
3) you can get a good brand for less money
4) it is OK if you lose it, prolly won’t be so expensive 🙂
5) And you don’t have to worry about selling it once you reach your destination. It won’t be so expensive so you could just leave it or sell it for less money
Cons of buying second hand CYCLE:
1) you may not find exactly what you are looking for – for a long distance ride you may want to be more sure of what you would be riding and not just pick an OK bike you get in the store in those 2 days you are there
2) getting a good second hand bike might take you time which you may not have. Even if you have the time, you may want to spend it elsewhere.
The CYCLE Fit
When you are considering to Buy Or Rent a cycle in a new city, you have to take into account certain cultural challenges – for example in most western countries the bikes are commonly of a bigger frame size than what I would need being of Indian build. In Taiwan you may get great bikes of the right size to us Indians, but what about the language challenge – everyone in the bike store may only speak Chinese! So unless you are confident with just picking up an OK bike and going off on a long distance tour on it, both these activities to either buy or rent a cycle can take a precious few days! I would say at least plan 5 days in each city for this activity.
My Second Hand Cycle Experience For The Berlin To Copenhagen Route
On my Berlin to Copenhagen cycle ride I got an awesome, second-hand, steel Trek MTB. I put in new chain, gears, cranket and so on. It became a power packed, awesome cycle. And I had a great time with it. When I reached Copenhagen I had only 3 day to sell it. Only on the last day I managed to get a good price. I had spent approx 30,000 INR (approx 350 euros) on the cycle and got about half price for it. Not bad in just 3 days. But there were chances I may not have been able to sell it at all – a lot of shops I asked, were not interested in a second hand cycle. Also one of them cited that it was a very small sized bike. So as I mentioned earlier there are often small issues which make things difficult.
The other situation that troubled me was that I happened to find a good cycle in Berlin but can I be sure that I will find one every time? I had found just 2 good cycles in all my efforts there – again this was due to the size problem – most cycles in Europe are too big for us Indians.
Moreover I got this awesome bike and then I had to leave it, sell it to another person (who by the way I added on FB as friend and he even sent me pics of the bike when he took it for his first ride) the point is that I was so attached to the bike and it was terrible to just leave it that way at the end of the ride. The cyclists I shared this with back in India didn’t seem to identify with what I was saying, but I refuse to go on another long distance cycling trip with a bike that I have to leave at the end of it, without even much of a farewell.
So considering this experience I figured that I need to take ‘my’ bike with me on the trip.
So due to all this thinking I figured flying my cycle is best for me.
SUMMARISING: Should you Buy Or Rent A Cycle For Long Distance Touring?
Mainly depends on two parameters,
- Duration of your cycle tour: For anything less than 10 days just rent a cycle. For more than 10 days – take a call between buying second hand or carrying your own cycle
- Terrain of the route: This is the x-factor. If you want to do some unusual cycling like mountain biking or snow cycling in Iceland – then you will have to rethink your gear. And your standard cycle from home won’t work. Moreover, after this tour you probably won’t need this special bike anyway – so you can consider to buy and then resell it later. Just keep the days necessary to do this.
Hope this helps.
Will write on the cost factor in all of this in my next blog on this topic.