A Guide to Cycling in Edinburgh: Bike Hire, Cycling Routes + Where to Lock Your Bike
Another hotspot in the UK for cycling, there are few better places to be out on two wheels than Edinburgh.
But just what makes the Scottish capital such a popular destination for cyclists?
Edinburgh Cycling Statistics
Certainly, it’s undeniable that cycling is thriving in Edinburgh. For instance, a Bike Life survey carried out as recently as 2017 found more than half of those surveyed own at least one bicycle, while levels of cycling rose significantly from 2010. With about 200 miles of bike routes, roughly half of which is traffic-free, it’s not hard to see why.
And by the general standards of Britain’s bigger cities, it’s also particularly well-equipped with cycling infrastructure. Just about all of Edinburgh’s roads are accommodating to cyclists, with plenty of off-road bike paths, on-road cycle lanes and forward stop lines at traffic lights in place.
It is extremely busy, though; its official population is at about the 500,000 mark, and having attracted 1.75 million visitors from abroad in 2016, is the UK’s second-most popular tourist destination after London.
So, especially if you’re cycling during the city’s Fringe Festival in the summer, the most largest arts festival in the world, be prepared – you’ll bump into an awful lot of people.
Cycle Paths in Edinburgh
This Ordnance Survey map shows you the best cycling routes in Edinburgh lasting no more than two hours or extending longer than 40 kilometres:
For a more scenic cycle, try the ride of about 25km from South Queensferry Bridges into Edinburgh; it takes in stunning views of each of Scotland’s three Forth bridges, especially beautiful at sunrise or sunset. You will also see the outskirts of the city, cycling through the coastal Dalmeny estate, later passing the largest Napoleonic collection outside France in Dalmeny House before turning inland at Cramond and arriving back into Edinburgh.
And be sure to visit Edinburgh’s ‘other castle’, Craigmillar Castle, perhaps best-known from being used as a safe haven by Mary Queen of Scots. About 10km outside of the city, it’s easily accessible while on your bike.
If you’re a more confident cyclist, don’t forget the loop around the west of the city, either, which should take you a good hour-and-a-half.
Edinburgh Bike Hire
It doesn’t matter if you’re travelling without your own two wheels; since September 2018, Just Eat Cycles in Edinburgh has been the city’s official cycle hire scheme.
It’s extremely easy to use – download their app on your phone, use it to find a bike near your location, unlock the bike using the app, and get riding. You can also park the bike in 66 different stations dotted all over Edinburgh, or at a virtual station by indicating where the bicycle is marked as you finish your ride.
There are three passes available to you: £1.50 for a single trip of as long as one hour (each half-an-hour after that costs £1), £3 for a day pass, or £90 for an annual membership, offering you as many ‘one-hour hires’ as you like all year round.
Other places to hire bikes are also available around the city, such as Biketrax (hybrid, mountain, road, folding or electric bikes, and more), Pedal Forth (lightweight hybrid bikes), Cycle Scotland (mountain, hybrid, road, tandem and electric bikes), and Leith Cycle Company (touring hybrids).
And, if you need to lug around a lot of gear/people you can even hire a cargo bike in the city from the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling company.
Bike Shops in Edinburgh
The city is also full of great stores you can check out aside from the usual big-name brands, namely the aforementioned Biketrax, Edinburgh’s premier independent bike shop. As well as offering bicycles for hire, they offer a wide range of models for sale, as well as a bike service, as well as spare parts, clothing, accessories and any other cycling gear you may need.
Or if it’s an electric bike you’re after, head to Electric Cycle Company on Granton Road, which has a great variety of e-bikes and cargo bikes to choose from, as well as also offering numerous service options.
Second Hand Bikes in Edinburgh
And if you’ve already tried Bikesoup.com in search of second-hand bikes in Edinburgh but have failed to find something right for you, pay a visit to Eastside Bikes on London Road. Not only do they have a great selection of used bikes, but they are all reconditioned to a high standard and have had parts replaced where necessary. They also guarantee their bikes for three months against everything but punctures, so your fears will be allayed should something go wrong with one of them soon after your purchase.
Another absolute gem in Edinburgh – and a great place to pick up a cheap second-hand bike – is The Bike Station. This is a charity that recycles donated bikes, sells them at affordable prices, and then uses the proceeds to help people across Scotland get cycling. It’s an amazing projectsthat’s well worth a visit.
Where To Lock Your Bike in Edinburgh
Given how busy a city it is, it should come as no surprise that Edinburgh is a notoriously dangerous place to leave your bike unattended; just last year, it was estimated that there were 2,240 stolen, compared to 1,522 in 2017.
Thankfully, there are plenty of bike racks located all over the city for you to leave should you hop off for a while.
And if you’re a student or a member of staff at the University of Edinburgh, then you’ll have access to their Central Area bike stores located all across campus.
Meanwhile, at least 128 new secure cycle units were promised to be introduced over the next two years last October, so the city should become even better-equipped in this regard fairly soon.
So, keep yourself and your bike safe around Edinburgh, and you’ll find it’s a truly great place in the UK to go cycling.