I've been asked quite a bit about whether it's possible to find one-way bike hire for Paris-London, or vice versa. i.e pick up in Paris and drop off in London. The short answer is 'no'. Here's the long answer, including a summary of all your options (other ideas welcome!)
Whether its possible to hire a bike in Paris, ride the Avenue Verte and drop it off in London (or vice versa) has become a regular query here at Freewheeling France. I've had the same question posed several times, so I've collated some options below to help make this trip easier (and more attractive) for people who need to hire a bike to make this happen.
Usually these queries come from people from countries other than France and England – Australian or American tourists who want to ride this iconic route while they're over but who aren't for the most part taking a 'cycling holiday', or cyclists from other European countries who don't want the hassle of shipping their own bike to Paris/London and then home again. Often they also require panniers, child seats, trailers or other accessories to help make the trip happen.
For shorter distances, this isn't usually a problem as there's a great network of bike delivery companies in France that will drop bikes off to you at one location and collect them from another, as long as both spots are in their catchment area. And there's the rub with long-distance routes like London-Paris.
So, for everyone out there who's wondering if it's possible to arrange one-way bike hire to or from Paris or London for an Avenue Verte ride (or indeed any other London-Paris bike route), here's what I've come up with so far.
Option 1: Ride your own bike and have it shipped back
The UK-based Luggage Mule offers a door-to-door delivery service that caters for bikes (and all sorts of other luggage). It's a three-day service to/from France, which costs (at the time of writing) £44.99 each way. Jordan Makin, the company's MD who comtacted me about the bike service, says it's cheaper than most airlines and the door-to-door service means bike can be sent back to a hire shop in London/Paris, or to your home with little bother. Bikes can be booked online in the same way other shippers book boxes and suitcases. Luggage Mule takes hard bike boxes as well as cardboard bike boxes and soft bags, as long as the bikes are sensibly dismantled and packed in the usual way. See the website for more info.
Option 2: One-way hire
Philippe at ALLOVELO bike hire in Paris says he can arrange one-way hire, but the cyclist would need to arrange to have the bike shipped back to Paris at their own cost (see Luggage Mule option above).
The story was much the same from the Paris Bike Company, with Sam writing:
"Hello Freewheeling France! Thank you for the question. The only way for that to happen is if the client gets in touch with a London bike shop to have it shipped back to me. At that time of year [summer] my bikes are booked out quite regularly so the bike would need to get back to me as quickly as possible. You can have the client contact me directly to see what we can do. firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again!!"
I wonder if there's a potential new business opportunity here for bike hire companies in London and Paris (or indeed the tourism authorities) to team up to make this ride easier for people without their own bikes.
Cycling from the Channel to the Med, and from Bordeaux via the Canel de Garonne and the Canal du Midi, are two other popular one-way rides I'm often asked about, and the more I think about it, the easier the 'ship-it-yourself' option above is the easiest solution where long-distance bike hire drop-off/pick-up isn't available.
Option 3: Buy then sell at the other end
Chris @ http://velodocteur.eu suggested via our Facebook page that buying a bike in France to sell in London might be a good option if you're riding from Paris. The French bike chain Decathlon usually has some good deals on affordable and sturdy bikes, while this bike shop in London buys second-hand bikes, meaning you could arrange any sale in advance if you were to take this option. Doubtless this could also be achieved in reverse if riding from London. I'd love to hear about other bike shops in London or Paris who would be able to handle these sorts of enquiries from cross-Channel riders.
Option 4: Go one way on public transport
Another option would be to fly or catch the train to London (or Paris if you're riding in reverse), hire a bike there and then catch the train to Paris/London and ride the bike back via the Avenue Verte, returning it to the hire shop yourself. This sounds like an expensive option, but if you get lucky with a cheap flight or a Eurostar deal (see here for the Eurostar bike carriage policy), it may actually prove comparable, depending on shipping costs and resale values, to the two options above. There is information on catching the train to/from France with bikes here, while we have flying with bikes information here.
Option 5: Get someone else to ride it back for you
Social media is a great thing, as are the various cycling forums that bring ridesr from all over the place together: see the CTC, BikeRadar and Cycle Chat, for starters. If you're lucky, you might just find someone who wants to ride the Avenue Verte in the opposite direction to you. Align your dates so that the other rider departs London/Paris after you arrive and, voilà!, problem solved. (Though you'd need buy-in from the hire company first). It's an interesting option – I'd be interested to hear if anyone's tried it for London-Paris or any other one-way ride.
Are there any other options?
Have you ridden the Avenue Verte one way on a hire bike? It would be great to hear how you arranged it, if you used any of the above options or came up with a different solution. An open invitation too, to other cyclists and bike hire firms to offer workable suggestions. Comments are welcome below.
More on the Avenue Verte London to Paris bike route
Bike hire contacts in Paris
See our bike rental listings for contacts for bike hire shops in Paris.