What you need to know about renting a bike in France
If you are planning a cycling holiday to France and don’t want to bring your own bike with you, then you will need to look at organising one to rent. Thankfully, due to the popularity of cycling as a holiday activity, renting a bike in France is very easy. You will also find that rental bikes are readily available in most areas. This is especially the case in popular cycling regions such as the French Alps and Pyrenees. This post goes over topics such as the types of bike hire available, average costs of rentals as well as some handy tips to keep in mind when organising your rental.
Renting a bike in France -what sort of bikes are available?
The type of bikes available to rent in France will often depend on the region you are travelling to and the store you visit. Generally speaking, road bikes, mountain bikes (which are referred to as VTT bikes in France) and hybrid touring bikes are normally available for rent. As the popularity of gravel riding has increased there are now some options appearing for gravel bikes as well. If you plan to be riding in any mountainous areas we would highly recommend you check what gearing is available on the hire bike – especially in relation to road bikes. It is now common for what is known as ‘compact gearing’ to be fitted to most bikes and this will allow you to have the right amount of gears to get you to the top of the climb.
Can I rent premium model road bikes in France?
Many bike stores now also offer premium road bikes as options for rent. These bikes are top of the range, have a lighter/more aerodynamic frame and also have high-end components. This means they will typically be equipped with top of the line groupsets such as Shimano Dura-Ace, Sram eTap or Campagnolo Super Record. It isn’t just the groupsets which are high end but also the wheelsets too. In addition to this, the frame material will also be the highest quality carbon fibre.
Top-end road bikes are more readily available to rent in the bigger cycling regions and in stores located close to the famous mountain climbs of France such as the Alps, Pyrenees, Mont Ventoux etc. This will give you an opportunity to see what it is like to ride a high-quality road bike such as a Specialized S Works SL7, Pinarello Dogma F12 or Cervelo S5 to name a few. Of course, the exact makes and models of the premium road bikes will differ depending on the rental hire store you are hiring from. Hiring bikes of this quality will also come at a more expensive hire rate and you can expect to pay around twice as much in hire fees as you would for a mid-range or beginner model bike.
Can you hire e-Bikes in France?
e-Bikes are a great way for people who perhaps don’t share a high level of fitness to explore the surrounding area by bike. The popularity of e-Bikes is now reflected in the bike hire market, and they are now available for hire in most areas. Generally speaking, they are more readily available in the hybrid or eMTB variant, although some bike hire outlets will also offer e-road bikes for hire. In France, there is a speed limiting restriction on e-bikes where the motor will cut out at speeds over 25km/hr. This is generally not going to pose any issues when cycling uphill but it is something to keep in mind – especially if you are riding an e-bike in a group of people who perhaps are on road bikes.
The other thing to be aware of when hiring an e-bike is the range of the motor. This will vary depending on the battery, the size of the rider and other factors such as which mode the rider chooses to engage the motor. As batteries improve the distances which e-Bikes can travel between each recharge are also growing. To give a rough indication, based on a trip we recently undertook, there were two riders in our group on e-Bikes. With careful management of the battery, they were able to get to the top of the Col du Tourmalet and back without the motor running out – a round trip of 90kms with over 1500metres of elevation gain. We would recommend you ask the bike hire store what the battery range is so you can plan your rides accordingly.
How much does it cost to hire a bike in France?
The answer to this question really depends on the type of bike you hire and the length of the hire period. We have done some research on this topic and summarised this in the table below. It gives you a good indication of what you can expect to budget for in relation to bike hire costs. Typically speaking you may also be able to take advantage of discounts if you are looking at a longer hire period, however, this will vary from store to store. We have also outlined the costs in multiple currencies.
How easy is it to hire a bike in France?
Whilst it may be possible to walk into a bike store and organise a bike hire for the same day, we really recommend pre-booking your hire well in advance. This is especially the case if you are planning to cycle during busy holiday periods. France is the second most popular destination for cycling holidays so you should not take it as a given that there will be a bike in your size readily available if you haven’t booked beforehand. Typically bike stores will stock hire bikes in the most common sizes, so if you require a very small or conversely very large frame it is another reason to pre-book in advance.
Can I organise to hire a bike online?
Many bike stores now offer options to organise your bike rental exclusively online. Depending on the online setup of the store this is either facilitated by an online booking form or via email. We have compiled a list of bike hire locations that you can find in the popular cycling regions of France. This is included in the table below. To make the table as user-friendly as possible we have also outlined the type of bike hire available from each store and included links to their websites.
How to work out the right size of bike to hire?
One of the most important considerations when hiring a bike is making sure you get the right size. This is because it will impact the overall fit of the bike and the way it subsequently handles. You definitely want to make sure you hire a bike that is the right fit for you. If you already ride a bike then you can get a good indication of the size you will need to hire. You will also be able to quote the brand and model to the bike store so they can then ascertain how this stacks up against bikes they offer for hire. Of course, there is no one universal measurement for bikes when it comes to sizing, and the way it is determined is often dependent on the type of bike you ride. Generally speaking, most brands will show the size of the bike frame either in Small, Medium or Large or conversely by the size of the top tube so for example anywhere from 48cm – 60cms in general. Because of all the differences in bike sizes we recommend discussing frame sizes with the hire store. They will be able to best guide you as to which of the bikes they stock will be most suited to your size.
What to pack with you if you plan to go on a cycling holiday
If you ride regularly we would recommend you pack your bike saddle as well as pedals (if you use a clipless system) and bike shoes with you. The bike hire store can then easily swap these onto your hire bike, so you can enjoy a comfortable ride with equipment that you are used to. Most bike hire rentals will come with a simple repair kit that includes a spare tube, tyre levers and a small mini pump. You can also consider packing a bike multi-tool as well in case you need to make any adjustments to bike seat height etc during your ride. If you ride with your own cycling GPS computer don’t forget to bring it with you as well as the mounts to attach to your hire bike.
The type of clothing you wear riding is a matter of personal preference and style. We would also recommend packing a lightweight rain jacket with you if you plan to be riding in any of the high mountains. Regardless of any wet weather, the temperatures at the summit can vary quite greatly and a jacket will help to cut out the wind chill on the long descents. A pair of padded bike shorts can go a long way in making sure you don’t get too sore during your rides. Lastly don’t forget to pack a water bottle – cycling is thirsty work after all!
Are bike helmets compulsory in France?
No, It is not mandatory for adults to wear a helmet when riding a bike in France. Our observations have been that in cities and on cycle paths many people do ride without them. However, when riding in the mountains you will find nearly everybody wearing a helmet. We have always taken our helmets with us and used them when on our cycling holiday. Ultimately whether you choose to wear a helmet will be a personal preference. You will find that most stores will offer bike helmets for hire as well as bike rentals.
If you have never ridden a bike in France before check out our page about French road rules and other tips.
French cycling terms
Navigating bike hire in a foreign country can be tricky and especially in a foreign language too. To help out we have listed below the English translations for some French cycling terms that you will come across.
|French Term||English Translation|
|Location, location de vélo||Rental, bike rental|
|Un vélo, une bicyclette||Bicycle|
|Un vélo de route||Road bike|
|Un vélo tout-terrain, un VTT||Mountain bike|
|Un vélo tout chemin, un VTC||Hybrid bike|
|Une piste cyclable||Cycle path|
|Un magasin de cycles||Bike store|
|Casque de vélo||Bike helmet|
|Un vélo electrique||e-Bike|
|Un vélo enfant||Child bike|
|Un vélo gravel||Gravel bike|
|Atelier de vélo||Bike workshop|
Point to point bike hire in France
There are some operators in France who provide point to point bike hire. This is beneficial if you are not planning on returning to the destination where you initially rented the bike from. It is an ideal option for cycle tourists as well as those who plan on travelling to various areas within France.
French city bike share rentals
Since the City of Paris introduced the Velib bike hire scheme in 2007, their popularity has expanded. This means most major French cities and towns have similar hire schemes available. Renting from these setups is relatively straightforward. There are hub locations dotted around the city from which you can hire and drop off the bike once you are done. For example, in a large city like Paris, there are literally hundreds of these bike stations, and you will always find them in key locations such as near markets, train stations and popular tourist sites.
The self-service pay stations are set up similar to a pay parking system and in addition to this many of the schemes now also have online apps which you can access from your smartphone. City bike-share schemes can be a great way to explore a city and are popular not just with tourists but also locals as well. We have personal experience of using them on multiple occasions in several French cities and it provides a great alternative to public transport as well. As cities continue expanding their car-free cycle network, the popularity of these city bike hire schemes will only continue to grow.