A two-week holiday in the Algarve and the cycling shoes swapped for hiking boots. Sunday morning was no different from any other sunny day in the Algarve save that is the day when most of the Portuguese cyclists take to the road. Whether numbers were boosted by Rui Costas win last week as the new road race world champion is not known but cyclists were everywhere.
We had planned a walk at Odoleite near Alcoutim on the banks of the River Guardiana that separates Portugal from Spain. The drive to the start was punctuated with stops as we slowed behind groups of cyclists as it seemed all of the Algarve was out on a bike except me. On the A290 we came across some police outriders and a car with flashing sign “Cycle Race In Progress” , we were pushed off the road and to my amazement a peleton of about 100 bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes and hybrids with riders of all sizes, all looked to be going at similar pace and on reflection I assume it was an organised sportive.
The rest of the journey followed a similar pattern, one disturbing aspect was that on more than one occasion we saw gel wrappers being freely discarded on the road but given the roadside lifter generally there does not seem to be a great deal of civic pride in keeping the countryside tidy. It would certainly not be acceptable or tolerated on a Sunday club ride in UK, it also seems to be the practice for groups of local cyclists to ignore red lights.
Our walk proved very enjoyable but I decided that on my next trip the cycling shoes would take precedence and after a coffee on Faro Island and a chat to the local paper delivery boy I decided on a bit of research into the cost of hiring a road bike against the cost of including my own Cannondale as Easyjet luggage.
My first stop was Bikeland on the N125 at Guia and I was frankly staggered by the costs to hire a road bike, 25€ a day for an aluminium frame and a whopping 40€ for a carbon frame, add to this 2.50€ for a helmet and 3€ for cleated pedals. There is a free delivery service up to 20km from the shop but only if you hire for 3 days or more.
The second shop we visited was Funbike, a new company on the N125 at Vilamoura and although the prices we slightly cheaper at 30€ a day for a road bike either carbon or aluminium, the main saving came if hiring by the week which came in at 105€. Helmet hire is 1.50€ a day and there was no problem delivering to the local hotels.
The third shop we contacted was Algarve Bike Hire at Armacão de Pera between Albufeira and Carvoeiro and prices did seem a bit cheaper at 17€ a day or 75€ a week and these prices include helmet, lock pump, spare tube and puncture repair kit. The only anomaly here was that a days hire was 9am to 6pm the same day so if you returned the bike at 9am the next morning that was considered 2 days !!
Certainly the costs at Algarve Bike Hire were very competitive and it would probably be cheaper to hire if you were here for 1 week, beyond that if you do not mind the hassle of packing up the bike Easyjet may just have the edge but you would need to factor in the cost of a bike box although many successfully use cardboard bike boxes, usually free courtesy of your local bike shop.
The difficult equation in this exercise is that the cost of our 5 door hire car with air-conditioning is just 8€ a day, it just doesn’t make sense !!