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How to Rent a Bike in London

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I love riding my bicycle at home. We have Electra Townie bikes that are very much like a Dutch bike in that your feet are more in front of you. They are so comfortable to ride.

So, we decided on our last day in London to rent Santander bikes in Hyde Park and ride around. You can download the app and see how many bikes are near you so we did that and saw that there were like a dozen bikes at the main entrance to Kensington Gardens on Bayswater - just a short walk from our hotel. There were a lot of bikes so we thought we could use the app to unlock them. Nope. It was supposed to send us a 4 digit code to unlock he bike via text. It never did. Then we noticed a kiosk next to the bikes that we could rent from but the big "HIRE A CYCLE" box wasn't live. It just pointed us to other areas with bikes available. Um, hello, we are looking at well over a dozen bikes for rent.

So, we walked a little further down Bayswater to the Lancaster Gate station and found a rack with a couple of bikes and the kiosk worked so we rented a couple of bikes.

Take the time to set your seat to the right height. It's easy to do. But, the bikes are pretty beaten up and the location we picked ours from was not our best life choice. None of the paths into Hyde Park across from the racks allowed us to ride into the park. We were going to have to ride about a half mile back down Bayswater ON THE ROAD. You can't ride bikes on the sidewalks in London except where marked.

Now, the road right there had a little marked bike path alongside the road. But, still..... it's London and other bikes were coming at me from behind and passing me on the car lanes which caused me anxiety and I had 3 pretty big issues going on.

First, my seat was too low for me. By the time I noticed, I was in traffic with no ability to get off the road and fix it as we screamed down Bayswater in traffic. I have bad knees that were very stiff and sore from all the walking at that point and the low seat was causing me to have to bend them a LOT more than they were happy to do. Instant severe pain with every pedal and nothing I could do about it right then. Second, the bike had 3 gears - in theory. First gear was just me peddling like crazy but not actually moving the bike forward. Third gear was basically towing a truck with your legs. Second gear, on my bike, held on for about 3 seconds and then popped into first gear. So, guess what gear I had to ride in? And, the third issue I had was that I didn't realize that road was an uphill slant. So, I was in 3rd gear on a busy London street towing a truck with my angry knees.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? My husband was loving his life about 50 yards in front of me trying to glance back to see where I was but really couldn't without risking a crash into the curb. It was a good solid 10 (or 10,000) minutes of me wondering how long it would take for the ambulance to come when I had my heart attack on the street.

Once we got back to the place we originally tried to rent the bikes and got into the park, it was lovely. Note that you can't ride on any path - only the paths that don't say "No bikes". It will either be written in bold white or have an icon of a bike with a slash through it. Now, some people just ignored those, but I'm a rule follower and there IS a fine if you are caught.

We followed the paths and ended up riding over by the Serpentine and where they hold the concerts. I saw parts of Hyde Park I hadn't seen before. It was easy for the most part as it's largely just flat. People generally are out of your way and, of course, you ride on the left - especially on the parts that are JUST for bikes. We didn't have a map - we just rode and it was fun until we got tired of it and had to find our way back. The smart thing to do would have been to put the bikes in another rack (we saw a couple) and then found a bus back to the hotel. But, we kept riding. I told my husband we had to find a rack that was NOT the one we rented from because there was NO WAY I was riding on the road again. I always tell people that bike riding in London is a series of near death experiences just because of what I see. But, now I can say that as someone who has actually seen death on a bike in London - LOL

We ended up putting the bikes in the rack we originally tried to rent from and then noticed that right across the street from that park entrance in front of Queensway tube station was a smaller rack of bikes we could have rented from and just walked them across the street - no near-death experience required.

Would I do this again? Yes - but probably not in Hyde Park again just because I've done it, now. But, I would go to another park and rent a bike and see that park. E-bikes are available on the racks, too. And, there are other brands like Human Forest and Lime bikes but they aren't docked so you just have to randomly find them.

The Santander bikes were like £ 1.65 per 30 minutes, and you CAN'T use your Oyster card to rent them even though they are through Transport for London. There might be a few minutes of free time in the beginning, I can't remember. Using the Kiosk, you can rent up to 4 bikes on one transaction. It's easy to do. Just remember to wait for the green light when you return the bike or it might not register as "returned" and that is a costly mistake.

It's not hard to rent a bike in London and I hope this guide gave you some insight on how easy it really is to do.

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