Rent versus Schlep

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If you are flying to your next cycling destination, you may be asking: Should I schlep my bike or consider bike rental once I get there?

I went through some thinking on this a few years ago, crunched the numbers, and the definitive, mathematically-derived answer was to schlep the bike. We found carbon frame road bikes for ~500$ per person per week, or about $1000 Canadian dollars for a couple. Or, we could bring our own for a $50 charge on Air Canada. Done.

Oh, wait. Fifty dollars each way. Per person. So the cost was now $200 versus $1000 for bike rental. Who wouldn’t schlep to save $800? We could borrow one hard case box from a friend, and rent the other from our local bike shop for $5 a day. We were up to $235, but still well worth it.

Oh, wait. We had planned a week of cycling and a second week of visiting friends, so the bike box rental would be $70, putting us up to $270.

And where would we leave these bike boxes whilst traveling around the foreign land? The solution seemed to be to bring them with us in our rental car. We scoured the Internet for a good deal on one big enough to hold 2 bikes, 2 boxes, 2 suitcases and 2 people. The magical car that was big enough was a van, and it was only a couple hundred more to rent than the car. We were now up to $470 – still saving more than $500 over renting a bike. One can buy a lot of cheese and baguettes and vin rouge for that kind of dough.

When we picked up the hard shell box from our friends, they said, “Have a great trip. Oh, one of the wheels is a bit wonky.” The bike store box was fine, but the truth of the matter is, if you have a box that is solid enough to protect your carbon baby, it is a bit like rolling a gas barbeque around the airport – awkward even if you don’t have to kick one of the wheels every third step to make it roll straight. But the important point here is, although dragging unwieldy bike boxes around the airport did detract somewhat from the chic world-traveller look we were going for, the cost savings of $500 counteracted any humiliation we suffered.

Upon arrival we picked up our ‘mini’ van that had just enough space for two boxes, two bikes, two suitcases, and two adults. Awesome. The thing about ‘mini’ vans is they are significantly less mini than motorcycles and subcompact cars, which seemed to be what everyone else was driving. It turns out minivans are not the ideal vehicle for ancient mountain towns.

In one such ancient mountain town, we met a fellow Canadian cyclist, a solo traveler, who had no car and no bike. He had a small duffle bag containing a few bits of clothing and toiletries, pedals, and cycling shoes. He was a minimalist, not burdened by 4-wheeled or 2-wheeled vehicles, nor by advice-giving life partners. He took trains, and then walked or taxied to his hotels. He rented bikes. The shops delivered the bikes to his hotels and proceeded to do a professional fitting. The bikes were new or maybe one season old. They were well maintained and in tip-top working order. He told us all this as he sat lazily sipping a beer, watching us search through our tools (also schlepped across the ocean) in search of an elusive 5mm Allen key to complete reassembling our bikes.

What a sucker this guy was, wasting his money! He had missed the added adventure of disassembling, transporting, and reassembling his bike, not to mention the cool factor of learning to park a minivan in a mini spot on a maxi slope. But was there perhaps some method to his madness? I concede there may be times when renting beats schlepping.

Bike rental versus bringing your own

The pros of renting include:
• Traveling light. This also makes it easier to move around once you have reached your destination – hop on a train or bus or a domestic flight with carry-on only.
• The ability to change equipment if your needs change – e.g. maybe swap out for a mountain bike for a day.
• Getting equipment that is in great condition and not having to worry about maintenance.

The pros of bringing your own include:
• Reduced costs.
• Having equipment that fits you and that is familiar to you.
• If you are doing a Humdinger tour, we will store your bike box for you!

My conclusion? If I am driving, I will bring my bike, but if I am flying, and there is decent rental available, I will rent.  Many bike shops do rentals, including some of our locals – check out Parry Sound Bikes  and the Crank and Sprocket in Orillia.  Rent or schlep? It’s up to you – but do get out there and explore the world on your bike!

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