If you’re planning on renting a bike for a day, a year, or even a couple of hours, there are a few things you should know first. What type of bike is best for you? How do you make sure your bicycle is the right size? What are the rules surrounding bike rentals (e.g. wearing a helmet, paying for a bike, returning it, etc.)?
It can get overwhelming for first-timers, so we put together this guide to help you breeze through your bike rental!
Austin is a very bike friendly city, so getting around on a bicycle should be easy. If you are planning on visiting Austin, consider renting a bike from one of the many shops around town. Rental shops provide customer friendly service, transparent pricing, as well as on demand assistance and repairs.
A rental bike can come in handy if you want to explore the many hike and bike trails around Austin, or beat the traffic and ride around the city on your bike. Here are a few helpful things you should know before renting a bike to ride around the city.
1. What type of bike is best?
There are a wide variety of different bikes that you can rent depending on your preferences and needs. The main kinds of bikes that you can rent are: Road bicycles, city bikes, cruiser bicycles, and hybrid bicycles.
Road bikes are best to rent if you’re planning on going fast and you’re riding on smooth pavement. These bicycles have smooth, skinny tires, and are usually lighter than other kinds of bikes. They can be rented for use of paved trails, but riding them on unpaved roads can be uncomfortable and unstable.
City bikes might also be called “urban” bikes or “commuter” bikes. A city bike might be best to rent for riding around the city since it has some features that make it easier to ride in regular clothes rather than cycling-specific clothing (e.g. chain guard, fenders, etc.). A city bike might also have built in lights for safety when riding it after dark.
Cruiser bicycles might also be good to rent for riding around the city because they are designed for casual riding. Cruiser bikes have a very comfortable, upright riding position and a large seat, as well as wide tires. These bikes work best for routes that are fairly flat, so they are probably not best to rent for use on hike/bike trails. These bikes also come in a variety of different colors so you can show off as you ride it around the city.
Hybrid bicycles provide advantages of both road bikes and mountain bikes. They have large seats, upright handlebars that provide a comfortable riding position, and they are best for riding around town. They can be used on either paved or unpaved roads but are not intended for off-road mountain bike trails.
When renting a bike, it’s important to know that you are renting the right size. Here are the basics: The bike size is measured from the crank to where the seat post starts. Using a bike size chart (such as this one: http://whatsizebike.com/bike-sizing-chart/) will likely come in handy and will help you decide what size bike to rent so you can ride in comfort. The bike rental attendant at the rental shop will also be able to help with measurements and finding a bicycle that’s the proper size.
Another important thing to do before renting a bike for a cycling adventure is to check the weather. Austin pretty hot and dry year round, so the weather will likely not be a problem, but it’s always a good idea to check.
4. Bike Routes
There are many routes and maps for bicycling in Austin and there are many roads with bike lanes. Almost any bike rental shop will likely have a map of bike routes that you can take around the city. A good online resource is http://bicycleaustin.info/getaround/routes.html. The City of Austin also has a Bicycle Master Plan that can be accessed on https://austintexas.gov/bicycle and has information regarding bicycle laws, bicycle signals, and more.
5. Going to a Rental Shop vs. Renting a Bicycle Online
Before you start browsing for bikes online, make sure to consider the advantages of actually going to a bike rental shop. Going into a shop can prove advantageous because the owner/attendants will be able to suggest specific tours and answer any questions you may have. Renting a bike from a local shop could provide more insight into a series of tours such as landmark tours, bat tours, etc. Tour guides also serve as great local recommenders. Wondering where the BEST taco place is in your area? Have questions on how to get to the nearest watering hole? Your guide can be your guide guru.
6. Bicycle Parking
There are hundreds of bike racks installed for public use around the City of Austin. Bicycles are a great alternative to driving as you can zip around town without having to worry about parking. All buses in Austin have bike racks or bike hooks and bike parking is available at many bus stops. So if you need a break from biking, just park your rental bicycle, or toss it on a bus and continue your cycling adventure later. One thing to note is that B-Cycles need to be parked at a charging station or you will continue to be charged for the rental even while you’re not biking. An alternative to consider would be renting a bicycle from an actual bike shop rather than a charging station, to avoid idle fees.
7. Know How to Stay Safe
Before renting a bike, make sure you’re familiar with biking rules and regulations and how to stay safe while riding around town. Some of the more obvious and more important things to note include: wear a helmet, ride your bike in the same direction as traffic, know your hand signals, and make sure your bike has proper lights if you plan on riding at night. Always double-check a bike before renting it to make sure all of the equipment works properly (make sure the tires are inflated, the brakes work, etc.). Be alert to traffic at all times and yield to traffic when appropriate. You might also want to consider wearing clothing that makes you more visible, such as bright colors, or something that reflects light.
Payment may differ depending on the rental company, but most bikes can be paid for with a card and charge an hourly or daily fee. Memberships typically include 60-minute rides or you can choose a 24-hour option. Bikes need to be returned after membership expires, to either the rental shop or to a respective bike station around the city. Cash or card will both work for payment at most bike shops in the city. However, if you are planning on making reservations online, card is the way to go. Some shops will allow you to reserve a bike for pick-up and you may also have the option to pay cash in person.
9. Biking with Kids
Biking with kids may prove to be challenge in terms of bike rentals, since most bike rental stations only provide one size adult bikes. However, some bike rental shops may have more models and sizes available. Another option is to ask for an attachable kids seat when you rent your bike, this avoids the need to rent an additional bike. There are also plenty of beginner cycling tours around Austin, if you decide to rent bikes to ride with your kids.
10. Treat the Rental Bike Like Your Own
Avoid paying extra fees for repairing a damaged rental bike by taking extra care when riding it. Remember to always: yield to pedestrians, stay off the sidewalk, obey traffic lights, and ride in the same direction as traffic. Follow these simple rules while riding your rental bicycle to avoid damage to yourself and the bike, and ensure a happy rental experience.
Overall, Austin offers a diverse range of options in terms of bike rentals and there are many tours to take either around the city or off-road. Many bike rental shops offer multi-speed city bikes that are great for urban cycling adventures. At Austin Bike Tours and Rentals, we offer bikes equipped with water bottle cages and racks and all bike rentals include lights, helmet, and roadside assistance. Any bicycle rental shop will also provide bike maps of Austin and advice for what to do and which routes to take.