Cycling Edinburgh

I want to go on a bike ride - but I haven't got a bike

How to hire a bicycle - or buy one second hand - in Edinburgh.

By Mike Lewis
First published: December 2007. Last updated: June 2019.

Edinburgh's a great city for cycling. But what if you're new in town - or here on a visit - and don't have access to a bike? Fortunately, there are several options open to you.

If you're only in Edinburgh for a short while, you can hire a bike by the day, week or month. A single day's rental is quite pricey - typically £20 to £25 - but the cost drops to £15 or less per day if you take the bike for a week or more. The price will usually include a lock, pump and repair kit, and sometimes a helmet. But you'll probably be charged extra for a pannier or saddle bag.

Edinburgh is a great cycling city. These cyclists are climbing the hill behind Arthur's Seat.

If you want to rent a bike for a particular event - to join one of the many organised bike rides around the city, for instance - be sure to pick it up well in advance. You'll need time to have it adjusted and to get used to riding it. I've also heard of people who've booked a hire bike but found it wasn't ready when they came to collect it - perhaps because the previous renter had returned it late. So it's a good idea to allow some extra time.

Where to rent

Edinburgh's largest bicycle hire outlet is Biketrax (11-13 Lochrin Place; 0131 228 6633). They have a very wide range of machines available, including 21- and 24-speed city bikes (hybrids), 16-speed lightweight road bikes, mountain bikes, Brompton folding bikes and electric bikes. All rentals include helmet, lights and a lock.

Pedal Forth (17 East Cromwell Street in Leith; 0131 554 9990; closed Sundays) have a good stock of lightweight hybrids (all brand new in 2017) which are available at competitive rates. The firm has the advantage of being located close to the North Edinburgh cycle network, so you won't have far to pedal to reach traffic-free routes.

Cycle Scotland (29 Blackfriars Street; 0131 556 5560) offer a good choice of mountain bikes and hybrids, as well as road bikes, electric bikes and even tandems. They will deliver and collect to/from your hotel for a small charge, and will suggest itineraries for a tour of the city or nearby countryside. Group discounts are available.

Another useful option is the Leith Cycle Company at 276 Leith Walk (0131 467 7775). This friendly shop offers a selection of touring hybrids, all equipped with mudguards and pannier racks, with prices starting at £12 for half a day. All hires include a helmet, repair kit, lock and pump. The staff are happy to give advice on where to go and how to get there. Guides can be provided if you require them. The firm also has an outlet at Archerfield in East Lothian - see their website for details.

Self-service bike hire

Just Eat cycles can be rented by the hour - ideal for casual users.

Like many cities around the world, Edinburgh now has a self-service bike hire scheme. Known as Just Eat Cycles, it is aimed at people who want to make short trips around town without the expense of owning a bike. To use it, you will need a smartphone and a debit or credit card. You use an app on the phone to register for the scheme and then to locate the nearest available bike. You can then ride for up to one hour at a cost of £1.50, with a further £1 for each additional 30 minutes. When you have finished your journey, you return the bike to any of the 50 or so stations around the city - not necessarily the one you started from.

Frequent users can buy a day pass for £3 or an annual pass for £90. But even with these passes, you can only ride for an hour at a time. After that, you must either return the bike and start a new rental, or pay the additional £1 per 30 minutes.

A somewhat different scheme is run by Scotrail (the company that operates Scotland's train services). Their Bike and Go system costs £10 for an annual membership and then £3.80 for a hire lasting up to 24 hours, with a maximum rental period of 72 hours. There is only one pick-up / drop-off point in Edinburgh - at Haymarket Station. Unlike with Just Eat Cycles, you don't need a smartphone. You simply collect a key for the bike at the station's ticket window. At the end of the hire, you return the bike to the same station and hand back the key.

Tour plus rent

If you are visiting Edinburgh and want to see the sights - and you like the idea of doing so on two wheels - consider joining a group tour led by a local guide. A good example is the tours run by Baja Bikes. The cost of the tour includes the hire of the bike (and helmet), with child seats, e-bikes and tandems available as optional extras. And having done the tour, you have the option of extending the rental period so that you can explore the city in more depth on your own. Straight rentals, without the tour, are also possible.

The standard Baja tour costs £35 per person and lasts three hours. It takes in many of the more attractive parts of the city, including the Royal Mile, Holyrood Park and Duddingston Loch. Or, for a higher fee, you can opt for a private tour based on your own preferred itinerary. The tours, which run throughout the year, go at a relaxed pace with plenty of stops. Although the company asks for advanced booking (which can be done on line), they don't expect payment in advance and they have a generous cancellation policy. Baja Bikes also run tours in 150 other cities around the world.

Buying second-hand

If you want a bicycle for more than two or three weeks, buying second-hand might work out cheaper than renting. But you'll need to make sure the machine is in good condition, and that it won't let you down when you're on a ride out of town. If you don't feel competent to check the bike's road-worthiness yourself, buy from a cycle shop rather than a private seller. That way, the bike will come with a guarantee - usually three months - and will have had at least a basic safety check.

A bike will get you to the countryside around Edinburgh quickly and easily.

One of Edinburgh's leading second-hand bike shops is Eastside Bikes (1 Cadzow Place, 0131 466 1740; closed Sundays). It usually has a selection of road bikes, mountain bikes and hybrids in stock, but if you don't see what you want, it's worth discussing your needs with the owners. They'll go out of their way to source a particular model, and will carefully restore it if necessary. The shop also offers a full repair service.

Soul Cycles (1 Brougham Place; 0131 228 5913) sells both new and second-hand machines, and usually has a good selection of adults' and childrens' models in stock. You might be able to pick up a basic adult bike there for around £150, but most models will cost £200 or more.

Pedal Forth (for contact details, see above) usually have adult bikes from about £200 and kids' machines for £70 to £100. All their bikes are serviced, safety-checked and road-tested before sale, and come with new chains, cables and tyres where necessary.

Other bike retailers occasionally have used machines for sale, but, not surprisingly, most prefer to concentrate on selling new models. Cycle Scotland (see above) is a good place to look for a bargain, as they regularly sell off their old rental bikes.

One final possibility would be to pick up a second-hand cycle at the Bike Station (250 Causewayside; 0131 668 1996). This is a community project which accepts donations of old bikes and refurbishes them for the benefit of the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged groups. They also sell refurbished bikes to the general public as a means of raising funds.

The Bike Station often has bikes for sale from around £95 (£30 - £40 for kids' models). Even if you only use it for a couple of weeks, that might still work out cheaper than renting. And when you've finished with it, you can donate it back to them. All their bikes are road-worthy and guaranteed. Note that the Bike Station is only open Tuesdays to Saturdays.

Private sellers

If you can't find a suitable model at the outlets mentioned here, your other option is to buy from a private seller. Look for advertisements in the press or on notice boards in community centres, cafes, supermarkets and the like. Or check some of the many websites where you can buy second-hand goods, such as Loot or Ebay. But do be cautious about bidding for a bike without seeing it. For that reason, Gumtree is a good choice, as it makes it easy for the buyer to meet the seller in person and to examine the goods before buying.

If you do buy a second-hand bike from a private seller, be sure to satisfy yourself as to its road-worthiness. If necessary, pay a bike shop to give it a service before you set out on a long ride. And remember to budget for any essential accessories. A good-quality new cycle helmet could add significantly to your costs.

Whether you rent or buy, you'll find a bike is a great asset in Edinburgh. It's the fastest and most economical form of transport within the city and an excellent way to explore the nearby countryside. You'll also be able to join some of the many organised rides that are listed on this site. Happy pedalling.

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