On a recent business trip to Bristol, U.K., I decided to stay in the city center and bicycle-commute to the company site on the city outskirts. Local co-workers direly predicted that I would be instantly killed by hostile drivers, demonstrating if nothing else that beliefs of car commuters about cycling transcend international boundaries.
Scanning the pages of the wonderful British publication Velo Vision, I saw the advertisment from Really Useful Bikes. I contacted proprietor Rob Bushill, who also runs a dairy and hot tub business, and he agreed to drop off a Kona Ute at my hotel. I flatted out almost right away on the first ride, but Rob graciously returned to the hotel and fixed the tire for me (he hadn't left me any tools previously).
As with so many old cities, Bristol's center city has a truly labyrinthine network of streets. Fortunately the Bristol & Bath Railway Path runs from downtown Bristol all the way to Bath, 13 miles away. I was able to take the Path out into the countryside, where I navigated a much simpler set of rural roads to take me to the workplace. The ride was a lot of fun, and since the weather was cold, I didn't have to worry about getting sweated up. I was pleased to see hundreds of other cyclists commuting on the path even on rainy days.
The Kona Ute is quite heavy and has appropriately low gearing. As a roadie who is used to clipping into pedals and hauling on drop bars, I was taken aback at how difficult riding rollers with an upright posture and flat pedals proved to be. Overall, bicycle commuting in Bristol was surprisingly easy, with drivers showing exceptional courtesy despite the many episodes of clueless behavior I exhibited. Best of all, Megacorp approved my request for reimbursement for the bicycle rental without a quibble, as they should have given how much money I saved over renting a car an buying gas. Thanks again to Rob Bushill for his great customer service!
Alison, you rock! I've rented bikes on a couple of business trips myself, but those have been in the USA.
Murph: I learned to drive in Japan. I landed in SFO in 1984 and my dad and I took turns driving from San Francisco to College Station, Texas. The left-to-right adjustment is very easy. More difficult for me was the terrifying speed of traffic here in the United States. Typical speed of traffic in Japan is about 30 mph at the very most.
Riding on the opposite side of the road wasn't too hard to get used to, but breaking the habit of looking the wrong way when crossing the street was impossible in the short term. The only close call I had was when I pulled right out in front of a fast-moving car in downtown Bristol due to checking traffic in the wrong direction. Happily the driver was paying attention and nimbly navigated around me without so much as a honk. On another occasion, a car waited patiently behind me as it slowly dawned on me that the peculiar traffic signal must mean that it was my turn to go. A couple of times I stopped in an inappropriate place in utter befuddlement at the sight of a round-about. All in all, I was amazed at how courteous drivers were. I wonder if they could somehow sense that I was a stupid foreigner.
I hope your bike rental buddy gets some more business. I've tried to rent a bike on business trips before and usually run into the issue of no deliver, short hours, unusually high prices and poor selection (that's only in the states though).
I live in Bristol and glad you liked the place. It's the home of Sustrans, the organisation that created the cycle path 20 odd years ago, and has since created many many more. This year we had to have a protest march to stop the idiot city council turning it into a bus lane!
We have lots of great cycling in town, out of town and even some off-road just over the Suspension Bridge. Not quite the Golden Gate tho We hope you get back here and do some more cycling!
I have often wondered about renting a bicycle instead of a car while overseas. My only concern would be my size (nearly 6-1/2 feet tall). It's hard enough BUYING a bicycle. I can't imagine renting one for someone of my stature.
When traveling by plane to various places in the US, I've often daydreamed about a service that rents bike shipping boxes at airports, for use on the plane.
I imagine the company having kiosks at many major airports. You go up to the kiosk, rent a bike box (or other shipping box, since bike shipping is a rather niche market.) Stuff your bike in it, then check it with your luggage.
When you arrive at your destination, you open it up, reassemble your bike, and check the box back in to the kiosk at the destination airport, and ride away.
Same for the return trip.
It does require a bit of infrastructure, but I believe with the right marketing and expansion into shipping other fragile items, it might work.
One very nice bike shipping box is the Air Caddy http://www.aircaddy.com/ This box exploits the airline box size regulations by being having a triangular wedge shape rather than rectangular prism. This profile also easier fitting into a car when transporting the box, on the way to and from the airport.
You still have to take it with you to you destination, but then save considerable time in reassembling, as the bike packs with pedals and rear wheels still on, and on most bikes you don't even have to move the handlebars. Recent checking for holiday travel showed that airlines do charge for their boxes, along with the exhorbitant fees of $75.00+ each way for the bike. That made renting a bike again at the destination the better choice.
They fold back up easily, too, into a flat box only a few inches thick, so you can store them out of the way til a chance comes up to travel with them again, when a rental bike just won't be sufficient and only you're prime steed will do. Maybe for a hillclimb of my dreams in Hawaii biking up Mauna Kea?