Bike/Scooter Rentals in Europe: How Do They Work and Are They Worth the Trouble?
At first, we were hesitant to try rental bikes in Europe. Did they work well, were they susceptible to theft, were they worth it?
The decision to try the bikes stemmed from Hannah’s nostalgic longing to ride a scooter. Admittedly, I wanted to try the rentals too but, as for a means of transportation, the cost was not as practical nor could they get us to the next destination more quickly. The only way the scooter price was comparable to the bikes was if you shared them. We did. More about that below. While hilarious and entertaining, it’s not as efficient.
Note: If you are thinking of renting a Lime scooter versus anther brand, you should always check what promotions they have going on. The promotions happen often; sometimes they offer partnerships with certain banks, like N26, or ride packages that will safe frequent riders money!
Childhood dreams aside, time also played a large part in trying the bikes. We had limited days in Munich to explore and the English Garden is massive. Larissa went 2 years ago and only got a sniff so she wanted to see it all this trip. The bikes made our expedition so much better. No sore feet, 3X the ground coverage, and baskets for snacks.
Our first trial was on Donkey Republic branded bikes. They were everywhere in Munich. We loved them! But there are many other companies out there and not only do they rent bikes, but also e-bikes, trailers, and e-scooters!
How does it work?
Download the company’s app which attaches to your credit card and locates the nearest available bikes. You can rent multiple bikes on the same account for an infinite number of hours.
Note: the price in the photo is for 2 bikes in rental.
You can take a break and leave the bike anywhere convenient. A neat perk of these bikes is their ability to be locked anywhere with the built-in wheel lock which is operated by your phone.
If you go for dinner, walk around a garden, or go to the bathroom, it will be there when you return. Each bike has its own name that is assigned to your app when you choose it and will help the company “locate” the bike if you leave it at an unregistered drop off. When finished and leaving the bike for another rider, it’s important to find a registered drop-off location. Otherwise, the company charges you a fee. Donkey Republic’s fee is 10 euros, for example. These “drop offs” are normally in front of hostels, around parks, or near public bike racks. The app will tell you if you haven’t place the bike in a designated drop-off zone which means you shouldn’t get a surprise charge.
The longer you ride, the more value you get. We rented our bikes for the whole day, 12 hours, and it ended up costing 1 euro per hour. However, if you only use the bike for 1 hour, it costs 4 euros which is pricey compared to a short tram ride across the city.
You have to weigh the benefits and decide what’s more efficient. The bikes made our self-guided tour immaculate. Anywhere we saw in the distance, we could get to in a reasonable time. We covered over 30 kilometres and when we needed to stop for photos, a drink, or at a store, we just locked the bikes. We saved time overall not waiting for public transport and also departing and arriving right in front of wherever we wanted to go. Bikes can go in many pedestrian-only areas, but proceed with caution! Many of these areas have herds of people you need to avoid, but having a bell helps.
Things that the bikes include:
- Phone Holder on Handlebars for easy GPS use
- Real-Time Cost Calculator
If anything is wrong with your bike, you can report it on the app before your ride so you don’t get blamed for it.
What if the bike gets stolen while you’re using it?
The companies usually suggest you purchase the theft insurance. This is a flat-fee per day of use that is optional. The annoying part of the business is that if these bikes get stolen while on your time, you get charged if they can’t find it within 30 days. This can cost you nearly 200 euros. (€30 with insurance or €180 without insurance). Not to worry, this doesn’t happen a lot as people who steal bikes are after expensive E-Bikes or roadsters that aren’t bright orange with donkeys on them.
What about those scooters mentioned above?
They’re everywhere. On every block, Lime and often like branded scoots beckon kidults.
They operate essentially the same way as rentable bikes. The only differences are you have to scan a barcode on the scooter to unlock it with the app and the limit of scooters that can be unlocked with one account is 5.
In many cities, you can ride them in the bike lanes. Larissa hit a top speed of 27.6 km/hr on a Lime scooter while shredding the bike lane in Warsaw! That’s not possible on sidewalks where there are often cobblestones, ledges, and people.
The app also says you can’t double up with a buddy… but you can. It’s harder to maneuver and we don’t recommend buddy riding in a busy area, but the novelty is worth it at least once.
The main campaign against scooters is the cost. In Germany, the cost is around .50 cents a minute. For a 10 minute ride, that’s €5. Yikes. However, the price varies by country. In Poland, a 10 minute ride costed about €2 with the conversion.
We found the customer service to be pretty good with the companies we’ve tried so far! On one occasion, Larissa unlocked a scooter, wheeled it forward, and it collapsed. The scooter was broken at the base but we hadn’t seen the damage because the last rider leaned it on a pole in a way that allowed the scooter to stand. The company apologize for the experience we had and refunded our day’s rides after we submitted a “broken vehicle” form. Since the rental time was 33 seconds, there wasn’t any doubt from their end that we didn’t do the damage.
Overall, you’re paying for convenience with these items. We recognize that day tickets for public transport in many places is cheaper, but we loved being on our own schedule, stopping and starting whenever, saving emissions, and having the chance (with the bikes) to burn off the previous night’s 5 pints.
Happy Wandering, Sailors! Keep Working Hard 🚲