How to Crowdsource Your Next Bike Vacation

The rise of the sharing economy has put dozens of tools at your fingertips, allowing you to connect directly with locals, and save yourself some money in the process.

When it comes to traveling to a new city, getting your hands on a bicycle has never been easier. The rise of the sharing economy has put dozens of tools at your fingertips, allowing you to connect directly with locals, and save yourself some money in the process. Long gone are the days of dissembling your bike, boxing it up, loading it into the oversize cargo section of an airplane, and hoping for the best. Now, you can simply hit the ground, pull out your smart phone or tablet, and within a few clicks, find yourself pedaling around the streets in no time.

First and foremost, consider finding yourself accommodations that include complimentary access to a bicycle (or two). Peer-to-peer platforms such as Airbnb, Couchsurfing, and Tripping allow you to skip the expensive and nonspecific hotel room, and rent a character home, private suite, or shared room directly from the owner. And, an increasing number of these listings are sweetened with a pair of wheels, particularly in neighborhoods with a bike-friendly reputation.

During a December trip to Venice Beach, CA, our family specifically choose an apartment on Airbnb that included the use of four beach cruisers for the duration of our stay. Facing a six-hour drive down to Los Angeles from San Francisco on Christmas Eve, tracking down an open rental shop became one less thing we had to worry about. The four of us then spent an extraordinary Christmas Day riding the Santa Monica Boardwalk in the California sun, a break from the norm that we won’t soon forget.

If you’re looking for a little more flexibility and variety, the Spinlister site and app offers just that. A simple search by zip or postal code allows you to rent a ride from the owner. You can find something for everyone: road bikes, mountain bikes, beach cruisers, city bikes, kids’ bikes, cargo bikes, and even tall bikes. Not only are the prices reasonable, but borrowing directly from a resident provides an extra level of service, giving you access to advice about route planning and local hotspots.

Last (but certainly not least), it is increasingly likely you will be traveling to a place with its own bike share system. Most systems offer 24 and 72-hour casual memberships, which start at just $7 per day. This includes an unlimited number of trips with no extra fees if kept under a half hour during that period. Smart phone apps, like Spotcycle, can help you track trip distances and find stations. However, some cities, such as Toronto and San Francisco, have fairly limited service areas, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons before committing to this option.

Undoubtedly, the growth of collaborative consumption is changing the way we travel, something abundantly clear when attempting to explore a new city by bike. The traditional methods of renting a room and/ or a bicycle can be expensive, time-consuming, impersonal, and rather inconvenient. The peer-to-peer marketplace – meanwhile – has the undeniable benefits of saving time and money, while facilitating personal connections that will help make your trip a memorable one.

Chris Bruntlett is a Residential Designer and father of two, living the car-free dream. He cherishes the ability to live and work in a dense, vibrant, and sustainable city and contribute to that vision on a daily basis. @Cbruntlett


  • Kathleen

    In the past couple of months, I have become very familiar with a similar service in Austin called, SPOKEFLY. Instead of having to request bikes in advance, you can rent the closest bike, quickly through the SPOKEFLY app. Austinites lend their unused bikes to renters and earn a profit with each ride taken on the listed bike.

    Getting around downtown can be a hassle but it seems as though these bikes are stationed all around the city! Parking anywhere on available bike racks helps a lot as well.

    Here’s the link to the app:

  • Oren Ofer

    Just thought I should mention a website I’ve had some pretty wonderful experiences with, specifically for bike tourists (and don’t let the name fool you!):

  • Timo

    Probably a bit biased here, but we try to make bike renting easy and fun. Not “expensive, time consuming, impersonal, and rather inconvenient.” To me, trying to meet a random person for a random bike somewhere seems much more inconvenient! Please visit our website and check out our rental bikes.

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