If you’re looking to hire a bicycle in York your options are somewhat limited. There used to be two or three companies offering a hire service but this now seems to have been cut to just the one – Cycle Heaven. Fortunately they don’t seem to be abusing their monopoly position by charging extortionate rates.
Bike hire starts at £10 for two hours, a day is £20 and a full two weeks is just £100. Although they now have three outlets across the city the main hire hub is from their shop next to York Railway Station – just turn right out of the main entrance, walk about 20 yards and you can’t miss it. Just be aware that if you want to pay cash (rather than credit or debit card) for your bike hire you’ll need a £150 deposit and some form of photo ID.
They also offer a range of bikes (plus free helmets and child seats on request). For general around town cycling you can get one of those European-style Gazelle bikes with their comfortable upright position. For cycling any kind of distance out of York they provide more lightweight racing/touring hybrids. And if you wanted to explore, say, Harrogate or Knaresborough by bicycle after catching the train you can hop on a Brompton – which can be folded and stored in a luggage rack.
Cycling In York
Whilst there are cycle lanes along some of the city’s roads getting about York by bike definitely isn’t scary like it can be in other bigger cities. Because the road system is so higgledy-piggledy, traffic never really moves at any great speed and is regularly stopped at junctions by red lights. Perhaps because you can’t get anywhere particularly fast drivers tend not to be too aggressive in their manoeuvring (the difference between York and Leeds here is stark).
York is also pretty much flat as a pancake, with only the very occasional gradual incline – so getting around doesn’t require any great physical effort and you won’t end up dripping with sweat. Apart from a handful of streets in the immediate city centre where you have to get off and push, cyclists are pretty much free to go where they please (except pavements!).
Cycling Around York
If you’re looking for bike routes out of York the Sustrans website is a good place to start. Sustrans are a charity dedicated to the promotion of cycling and they also maintain cycle routes across the country. If you go north on Route 65 you can head out to Beningbrough Hall – a stately home and grounds maintained by the National Trust. If you go south out of York on the same route – along a decommissioned railway line – Selby is about 15 miles and makes for a very pleasant day’s ride.
Both the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors offer much more varied cycling terrain than York and its immediate surrounding area. Rather than hauling your hire bike out of York into the hills you can hire bikes from a number of places when you arrive.
At the west edge of the North York Moors Sutton Bank bikes offer a decent hire service. Further east you’ll the Dalby Bike Barn in Dalby Forest where there are plenty of mountain bike-friendly trails. If you fancy heading into the Yorkshire Dales then the Dales Bike Centre is an option for exploring the north-west corner. 3 Peaks Cycles are based in Settle further south but are on the far west edge of the national park.