Biking is our favorite way to see the world. Whether you're on a leisurely ride through your neighborhood or cycling hundreds of miles across Europe, there's no denying that bike vacations are a blast. Compared to other modes of transportation, biking on vacation allows you to assume the perspective of a local, weaving through streets with efficiency and ease. Not to mention, it's a great way to stay active while on holiday!
Once you're sold on the idea of a city bike vacation, we know that the next step - actually planning that bike vacation - can feel daunting. That's why we're here to help! Check out our top bike vacation tips for planning your perfect trip, below.
Bike Vacation Tips for Before You Leave:
1. Pick Your Destination & Season
Let's put the bikes aside for a moment. What cities, states, or countries have you dreamed about visiting? Have your answer ready? Good. If the city you're thinking of is a "first" or "second" city (the first- and second-largest cities in a region, respectively), it's probably bikeable. Once you have a location selected for your city bike vacation, research local weather trends to decide which time of year you'd like to visit.
2. Check Out the City's Bike Map
Many cities offer printable PDFs of their local bike paths. As you begin planning, you can use this map as a point of reference to pick a neighborhood to stay in. Take a look at your destination city's website, or do a quick Google search. In the unlikely event that your city doesn't offer an online bike map, plan to stop by the local tourism office when you arrive and pick one up.
No official bike map? The next best thing is to make sure you have your Google Maps layers activated to show bike-friendly routes.
3. Travel with a Bike-Friendly Airline, Train, or Bus
Bringing your own bike with you on your city bike vacation is the ultimate luxury. And, it's not as hard as you might think. In recent years, many airlines have eliminated their oversized bag fees for checked bicycles! Our ambassador @rebelwithoutacar has some awesome bike travel tips here.
On flights, we love using the Ara Backpack as our personal item. It'll fit your laptop (up to 17"), has additional padded pockets for your tablet and other devices, and has a hidden side pocket that's perfect for storing your passport/wallet.
If you're traveling within the US, check out Bikeabout and select your destination to check out bike-friendly airlines, trains, and bus lines.
4. Ride a Bike that Fits your Style
If you’re not able to travel with your own wheels, plan ahead to rent a bike at your destination. You'll have excellent (and sometimes even cooler) options to choose from!
Our best bike vacation tip is to find a bike that lets you be you. Like shopping? You'll need a bike with carrying capacity. Like riding at night? You'll need lights. Want to carry kids? Try to get a cargo bike rental from a shop. If you're renting, consider splurging on an e-bike! It’s glorious to cover so much ground in one day and to not feel taxed and sweaty.
Even if you plan to rent your bike upon arrival, remember to pack your bike bag in your luggage! Both the Kinga and the (slightly larger) Domino bags attach to most handlebars, and will fit all of your daily essentials: wallet, keys, sunglasses, phone, bike map, sunscreen, etc. Bonus: both Kinga and Domino also turn into crossbody bags you can carry into shops and restaurants!
5. Stay in a Bike-Friendly Neighborhood or Hotel
You've got the city. You've got the bike. Now you just need a place to stay! If you're looking for bike vacation tips for North America, check out this list of 170+ bike-friendly (meaning: near a bike share or on a bike route) hotels, motels, and inns.
Bike Vacation Tips During the Trip:
1. On Your First Day, Take a Group Bike Tour
Regardless of whether or not you plan to bike for the rest of your vacation, hands down, the best way to get your bearings in a new city is to take a bike tour. Local bike tour operators probably know the city better than anyone else! Not only will you find new spots to revisit later in your bike vacation, but you'll also get a feel for the biking etiquette and culture of your destination. We like the bike tours on AirBnb Experiences as they are often led by locals.
2. Check Out Bike Benefits
Bicycle Benefits is an organization that works with local businesses to offer special discounts to people who arrive by bike. Depending on where you're taking your bike vacation, you can find deals for things like escape rooms, hotels, coffee shops, bike shops, and so much more. Check out the interactive map on their site or look for their sticker on local storefronts!
3. Visit Local Bike Shops
We love visiting local bike shops, especially those that have a huge stock of unique accessories (like, ahem, the newest Po Campo bags). They also often have free and for-sale bike maps. Bike shops are also a great source of information for additional bike vacation tips and community cycling events that might be on while you're in town.
4. Use Google Maps
Bike directions in Google Maps are not always accurate, but they'll give you a good idea of where bike infrastructure is located and how to get from Point A to Point B. Google Maps is especially helpful when you have a specific destination to get to in a hurry! Just turn on that voice navigation and go!
5. Use Bike Way-finding Signage
Sometimes it’s nice to put away the paper map and phone and to just follow the city-prescribed bike routes denoted by signage. Our favorite cities for this include New York, Vancouver, and Portland! You'll ride on safe and convenient bikeways, most likely past bike-friendly businesses with lots of bike parking.
6. Stop and Smell the Roses
Our most important bike vacation tip! Remember: you’re not commuting to work, you’re on vacation. There are so many nooks and crannies in cities, hidden public art, tucked away watering holes, and bakeries. Pretend you’re in a parade, adopt an upright city posture, ride leisurely, and look around! Some of our favorite memories come from wandering off the beaten path into something we weren’t planning.
Bike vacations are the best. You get to see all the sights and sounds at your own pace, without having to worry about finding parking! We hope our tips have helped you start planning your dream bike vacation. Let us know if you have any other helpful tips!
What city would you like to visit on your next bike vacation?