Riding the rails

The Prague Post

Railway rentals make it easy to target destinations

All aboard! Your bikes, that is. If you’re itchin’ to try your legs on the Greenways but don’t have a bike, don’t let that stop you. Czech Railways has bike rental centers at 13 of its stations throughout the country.

Even if you don’t think you can make it all the way to Vienna, you can use the Czech Railways system to hopscotch around the countryside, riding a train to a rental center and then bicycling only through the most scenic (or least strenuous) sections of the Greenways.

Czech Railways introduced the bike hire centers about three years ago. “Last year, when we only had centers in east and south Bohemia, we had about 800 customers,” says Petr Šráhlavský, spokesman for Czech Railways. “We opened two new centers this year, both in Moravia, and there has been more interest than before.”

Renting a bike through Czech Railways offers a number of advantages, the most obvious being that you don’t have to own a bike to ride one. The other outstanding feature is that you can rent a bike at one station and return it at another. “”In this way, our service is much more advantageous than most similar services in the country, where you have to return the bike to the same place,”” says Šráhlavský.

The one-way arrangement gives you more time to explore the countryside and landmarks between destinations. My husband and I decided to try it by renting bikes in Jindrichuv Hradec with the goal of riding to Telc.

Rental costs are quite low, ranging from 50 to 200 Kc  per bike. Each station has different prices. For example, if you rent in the Ceský ráj (Czech paradise) region, the cost is 150 Kc; for one day. When we rented in south Bohemia, we paid 100 Kc for six hours.

Along with the rental fee, you’ll need two picture IDs and a deposit, which also varies by station. In Beskydy the deposit was 1,000 Kc, while in south Bohemia it was 500 Kc.

“On average there are eight bikes at each station,” says Šráhlavský. “It is therefore better to make reservations, the sooner the better in summer.”

Through the Czech Railways Web site, we e-mailed a reservation twice but never received a response. I finally had a Czech friend call to make the reservation. However, when we arrived and gave the name for the reservation, the clerk pulled out my original e-mail. “The best way for [non-Czech speakers] to use our service is to reserve the bikes via the Internet,” confirms Šráhlavský.

Another advantage of renting a bike through Czech Railways is that you don’t have to pay the cost of transporting the bike on a train. “If you look at the Web site, you will find a list of lines where you can travel with our bikes for free,” says Šráhlavský. “But each customer has to buy a regular ticket.”

We found the bikes to be in good condition and well equipped. Each had a headlight, bike pump, bell and a small bike bag containing a lock. Czech Railways does not rent helmets, nor does it stock children’s bikes. However, Šráhlavský says there are children’s bike seats available that can be attached to adult bikes.

My husband picked out our bikes, and he and an attendant tested them. While no one spoke English, they were very helpful, as well as very patient with our limited Czech.

While our goal of biking to Telc went unfulfilled, we were rewarded with a beautiful day of biking through lovely countryside, along with sore bottoms and sunburns. It’s definitely an experience we will repeat!