Cycling in France: A Checklist for Renting a Bike

By Maggie LaCoste

Nothing can ruin even the most perfect cycling vacation than bike trouble, whether it’s your bike or a rental.

I would much rather be biking!

I’ve found this out the hard way, perhaps you have too. As a result, I’ve learned that asking the right questions upfront when you rent a bike, checking out your bike and tires before you hit the road, and making sure that you have a good emergency repair kit will minimize the chances of getting stuck out on the road.  So as a follow up to my last post, I wanted to review the list of questions that I ask before I decide on a bike rental company.  Finding the right rental bike for the roads on your itinerary will help you avoid equipment problems on the road.

Here are the questions I ask when I am researching bike rental companies for an upcoming trip:

  • What type of bikes does the company rent?  Is there information on the website regarding the bikes?  Some of the prominent brands in France are Gitane, LaPierre, Giant, Scott, Specialized and Trek.

    One of my favorites: Trek all terrain bikes with puncture proof Bontrager tires
  • Unless the equipment is specified online, ask if the bikes have the following:  Shimano or comparable components, 24-27 gears, rear carriers for panniers, tire repair kit, spare tube and pump, bell, heavy duty lock, water bottle holder
  • Unless you have your own panniers, ask if they have panniers for rent and how much they cost.  It is also very helpful to have a handlebar bag/map carrier.  If you do not bring your own, it is well worth it to rent one.  They are perfect for keeping lunch supplies, snacks, cameras, wallets, and of course, your maps and wine!
  • Are helmets included in the rental fee or are they available for an extra fee?  I always take my own helmet, and I recommend you do the same, but in the event this is not possible, it’s good to know if they are available and the cost.
  • In the event that you will be cycling along a river, canal or on varied surfaces, ask about the suitability of the bikes for those surfaces.
    All terrain bikes are best for gravel and dirt trails

    Many times rental agencies will have city bikes for local travel, and upgraded bikes for longer-distance travel and/or travel on surfaces that are uneven or largely composed of gravel and dirt.

    French Gitane bikes are another favorite

    I have found that information on upgraded bikes is not always readily available, so ask.  Also, high quality rental agencies are going to be a great resource for the best local trails, so tell them about your itinerary and ask for their recommendation on which bikes to rent.

  • Does the company own and service the bikes or do they partner with other companies for bike rentals?
  • How often are bikes serviced?
  • Is there an emergency number to contact in the event of problems on the road?  Will the company reimburse you if you need repair services on the road?
  • Does the company offer delivery services within the city/within the region?  If so, is there a cost or is it free of charge?
  • Does the company offer one-way drop off services, if so, what is the cost?
  • Does the company offer luggage transfer services, if so, what is the cost?
  • What is the daily cost of bike rental?  Is there a discount for multiple days, if so, what is the cost?
  • Is a deposit required to make a reservation, if so, how much?
  • Is partial payment required when picking up the bikes?  If so, what is the amount?
  • Is theft insurance included in the bike rental?
  • Does the company accept credit cards or do you have to pay for the rental in Euro?
  • Is it possible to read the bike rental agreement that you sign at the time of rental in advance?  Some of these forms are rather lengthy and it helps to be able to review them in advance, in case you have any questions.
  • In the event that you are interested in help with itinerary planning, hotel or B&B reservations or other trip services, ask if the rental company offers these services and what the fees are.
    Some bike rental agencies also offer great self-guided tours

    Some of the best self-guided tours are available from local bike rental/bike tour companies, so if this is something that you are interested in, ask for more information.


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