First day of vacation and you’re ready to take on this new city in full force! Where is your next stop? Did you make reservations for a car? That new car smell beckoning you? When it comes to travel (especially in a big city), a car might not always be the best decision.
There’s something inspiring about renting bikes in a foreign city. I don’t know why, but that French countryside always comes to mind. That free wheeling feeling of the wind in your hair. Coming back from the market with your baguette and cheese in the basket. Listening to the birds chirp and people conversing in French as you travel down the path back to your hostel. Ok, it might not always feel this way, but you get a small idea of my thought process.
While in a car, you don’t get that feeling. More than likely, you are in your car listening to a GPS or a random radio station. You might even be switching back and forth on the dial, trying to find a radio station that plays music you’re familiar with. This takes you away from the present feeling. The feeling of listening to the environment you are in. You can’t see and hear all around you as you nervously try to maneuver the streets of a foreign city. Look at that beautiful view, then what? You have to find a place to park your car, not to disturb the motorists behind you of course! It takes you thirty minutes to get off the road for one photo!
Now imagine a bike…you simply pull off to the side of the bike path as you get a glimpse of something amazing. When it’s time to get back to your path, jump on the seat and get going again.
The other positive with the bike? You work off all of that alcohol and excess food you’re having on vacation! Ever come back from vacation, just to stare at your scale in disbelief?! I put on ten pounds this last week? What the hell did I eat?! Biking will help you control that headache, all while still allowing you to enjoy the cultural food and drink experiences that you love.
I remember our first stop coming off the plane in Berlin. As we made our way from the Uber to our hostel, we went through the city looking at what to do next. We decided on a bike tour with Fat Bikes, which we would highly recommend. While we waited for our tour, we even got to sneak in a couple of German beers at the cafe across the street. As the tour started, we weren’t sure on what to expect. The people, we did not know. There were around 12 of us, mostly couples. We made our way through the city, stopping at every site along the way that they had plotted out. What was great, was that we didn’t have to take time to get out of a tour bus or car to enjoy the view. If some people took a little too long to get to the location, we still had plenty of times to sit and admire the sights. We could listen to the locals around the area and get an honest feel for the city. Yes, we were on a tour, but it was vastly different. With the wind in your hair as your maneuvered around traffic, you enjoyed the tour that much more.
We enjoyed the tour so much that we continued to book bike tours as we made our way into big cities. Prague anyone? The city of Prague can be steep, so how to still get that relaxed feeling? How about booking with an e-bike company. The ease of making it up a hill had never been so impressive! We toured from one side of the city all the way up to the opposite side of the city, in just a short time. The guide was fantastic, but what we loved again was that you got to experience so much of the people and the culture as we traveled various bike paths through the city. It would have taken us hours to get through the various sites in a car, or even transportation. Yes, there were some couples that might have had a spill or two, getting used to using an e-bike, but they would laugh it off quickly. Up through the monastery to the hill that Stalin used to reside on, we enjoyed every moment! We also got to learn the history of Prague from a person that had grown up here. It was so interesting to hear his families take on what happened with the city, especially during the time of communism.
We try to book tours when we are heading to a city that we are unfamiliar with. The guides more than likely are from the area and know which ways to take to get you the perfect angles for photos. It’s also nice when you want photos of you and your party. It’s hard sometimes when you have to ask a random stranger to take a picture of you in front of a key site. It’s a whole lot easier to get a great picture when you have several people on a tour with you. There’s a little bit more trust in knowing who you are with. It is also interesting to hear where people are from and how they got to the location. We met a group from Ireland in Prague that had some great stories about some hostels that they have stayed in over their tour. The interesting things that you will hear on a tour!
Of course there are times that you want to take a bike tour by yourselves too. We’ve done bikes, or even ATV’s. The best experience we had in Santorini, Greece was taking an ATV across the island and just enjoying the ride. Which is almost necessary when you go to the Greek islands as we found at the beginning, it’s pretty hard to ride the bus or look for taxis in smaller locations.
Being from the bay area, our favorite bike path to go on is from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and riding over the Golden Gate Bridge over to Sausalito. There is nothing better than biking across this iconic bridge as you see motorists speeding by trying to get a quick photo of their journey. As you make your way into Sausalito, you get to try many different restaurants and wineries as you make your way through this quaint town. Having problems finding a place to eat? There is no doubt that you will have plenty of locals point out locations to go to as you ponder the possibilities.
Our other favorite city that we have rented bikes to tour has been Vancouver, Canada. This city was made for biking! All over the city, you will have many opportunities to easily navigate and stay on the bike lanes. Our favorite part of Vancouver was always biking through Stanley Park. This park is massive! When you have a bike, you can take it along the sea wall and take in all that it has to offer. Surreal views of the bridges and the waterways are all things that you wouldn’t see while in a car.
There is a time for a car and I understand that you will always have to balance the time you have on a bike compared to public transportation. We weren’t biking across the entire country of Germany for a two week vacation! Yet, you get such a different experience from biking around a city. Next time you sit at a rental car location and you try to figure out what type of car to get nervously, shoot for a bike during your vacation! You won’t regret it!