A tale of two bike rentals, or what to request for cycling on vacation

A line of rainbow-colored beach bikes, parked outside a shop.

Renting bicycles for vacation two-wheeled adventures with friends and family (and solo ones) is one of my favorite things. I’ve rented bikes all over the world for me, and all over the US with my sister and her kids. In fact, my sister and I have an upcoming e-bike tour in San Francisco that includes riding across the Golden Gate Bridge and taking the ferry back (with bikes) from Sausalito. Don’t worry– I’ll be documenting and reporting on it as soon as it happens.

But renting bikes doesn’t always go well.

Case in point: my sister recently reserved rental bikes online from the beach condo resort where she and the kids were staying for a long weekend. They were part of the accommodations package. When she went to the main desk at the resort to begin the pick-up process, here’s a bit of what happened:

Sister: We’re here to pick up three bikes I reserved. What sizes do you have?

Desk person: They’re all the same size (this is totally false), but the seats are different heights.

Sister: Oh, okay. Are the seats adjustable?

Desk person: We don’t have any tools for adjusting them. You would have to go buy one (while not false, this shows ignorance of the fact that the seats are all quick-release and therefore all adjustable without tools).

Sister picks up bikes, but there are no locks or helmets anywhere in sight. She doesn’t think about this until later, and is very unhappy. They can’t use the bikes to ride to the beach because of no locks (and no helmets). By the time they get back to the rental desk, it’s raining, so they give up and return them, unhappy.

My sister had much more to say about her unsatisfactory experience, but the upshot is this:


Let’s contrast her experience with mine when I rent beach bikes from an actual bike shop near that same resort. Here are some things they know and deal with that the resort bike people either don’t know or don’t care about:

Every time I’ve ordered from Cyclopedia, they delivered and picked up the bikes themselves. We didn’t have to be there even, because they were locked them outside our condo. And the lock combo is pre-set by these folks to be the last four digits of my phone number.

When our bike rental period is over, we leave them locked outside, and the bike shop van comes to get them, knowing the combo because my phone number is on their form.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

I’m writing this tale of two bike rentals because if you aren’t a regular cyclist but enjoy riding bikes on vacation, you might consider renting from an actual bike shop rather than whatever place you’re staying. I’ve had great experiences and great conversations and gotten great tips from bike shops all over by renting directly from them.

Readers, what kind of experiences have you had while renting bikes on vacation? I’d love to hear about them: the good, the bad, and the atrocious.

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