Swapfiets is perhaps one of my favorite things about living in Europe. Swapfiets or Swapbike (fiets means bike in Dutch) is a company started out of Amsterdam (naturally) that rents bikes by the month. It is different than the endless amounts of bike sharing programs in that you get your own personal bike. Think of it as leasing a car, but instead you’re leasing a bike. Never again do you have to go on your app to look for a bike only to be disappointed by the app being wrong and seeing no bike. This is your own personal bike that you can rent by the month.
The company originally started out in the Netherlands targeting students but has since expanded to many cities in Germany, Belgium, and Copenhagen. Anyone can get one of these bikes now with students being offered a slightly lower rate. I have used it for a few months now and have no plans to ever go back to bike-sharing apps like Wind or DB Call-a-bike. Nor would I ever consider buying my own bike because of the free on demand maintenance offered by Swapfiets. If you’re an expat like myself moving to one of the countries listed above (or even a local), Swapfiets is probably the best thing I could think of happening to me!
How does it work (monthly payment)
Swapfiets is a monthly bike rental program. This means you are renting a bike from Swapfiets to use as your personal bike. No one else is sharing this besides you. You pay by the month via bank transfer, credit card, PayPal etc.
It’s hard to think that no one did this before because it is such a simple concept that fills such a large hole for bike riders. Perhaps companies have done this in the past but no one has done it in the modern age using Apps and expanded on such a wide scale. There’s no doubt in my mind that there will be competitors that mimic Swapfiets’ model with minor differences and they will materialize shortly.
Where is Swapfiets available?
Swapfiets as of 2019 is available in Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Copenhagen. Swapfiets is still relatively new and they’ve targeted the big cities as well as the college towns. In Germany for example, they are in the main cities like Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne etc. as well as college towns like Heidelberg and Freiburg.
The cancellation policy is very generous. You only need to give a one month notice in order to cancel your subscription. No questions asked. Amazing.
How much does it cost
They have different pricing schemes depending on the city and the type of bike you want. As they had just started out in Frankfurt, I got in on the early bird special with their Deluxe 7 gear Dutch style bikes going for €17.50 a month. The price will eventually go up to €19.50 but even this is a great deal for all the benefits.
To me, this is an absolute deal because Windbyke which is the bike sharing app in Frankfurt charges €15 for a monthly subscription. For €2.50 more a month, I have my own bike and the swapfiets bike is much nicer than the ones offered by Wind.
What if I lose the bike?
This is probably one of the biggest perks of the program. Bikes get stolen all the time in Europe and Swapfiets has a very good insurance program. If you lock the bike completely and it is stolen, you only pay €60 as a deposit and they will deliver a new bike to you. If you do not lock the bike at all, then you must pay €450. This is a huge perk and let’s you rest easy with your bike.
The bikes themselves
Swapfiets offers some fantastic and robust bikes. The bikes are custom designed by the Swapfiets team and have their iconic baby blue tire that makes it stand out. Each bike comes with their own locks and own keys (meaning no one else can unlock your bike). They have three models: Original, Deluxe 7, and Electric. Availability depends on the location. In Frankfurt, they have the Deluxe 7 model which is a beautiful Dutch style bike with 7 gears.
I absolutely love the design of the bikes and feel they are the perfect European bike for a yearning American expat. The bike rides well and the gears change smoothly for my needs. The bike has a brake on the right hand as well as backpedal brake (which I’m not a fan of). The bikes also have a front rack for you to put the ever so important basket for transporting your stuff and because it is necessary to complete the look of the European bike.
I bought a basket from Amazon (40mm in length) and tied it to the front of the bike with zip ties. I also added a phone holder to the handlebar.
They also have an electric bike model in some cities like Munich. These are considerably more expensive as you’d expect at €75 a month. I’m a huge fan of electric bikes and rented one to tour the Burgundian wine region in France.
How to sign up
It is very easy to sign up for Swapfiets. Simply visit their website at swapfiets.de and fill out an application. Here you will fill out your details, request the type of bike you want and the color. You can then call in after filling out the application to plan the delivery of your bike. Depending on the city, you can either go to the store to pick up your bike, or someone will come deliver it to you.
In Frankfurt, they were just starting up in the city and they had not made a real shop yet. Someone from the Swapfiets team actually delivered the bike to my apartment at the time I wanted. They were very professional and came on time. They adjusted the seats, showed me how to use their lock and general things to know about the system.
Real time fixing of bikes
Any bike owner knows the pains and costs associated with bike maintenance. Visiting a bike store to service even the simplest matters will set you back at least €20-30. With Swapfiets, one of the biggest draws was their on demand bike maintenance.
Through their App, you can report problems with your bike like a flat tire and schedule appointments for repairs. Someone from the Swapfiets team will come to you and actually look at your bike on the spot. If they can fix it, they will do so, otherwise they will just take the bike to the shop for repairs.
Swapping the bike
As the name suggests, Swapfiets (or Swapbike) means you can swap your bike for another one when you need to. I’m not sure if this means you can swap it whenever you feel like it but I’d imagine if you really wanted another color, you could visit the Swapfiets store to see if they have it in stock and swap out your existing bike (assuming it is the same model) for no extra charge.
As they do not have a store in Frankfurt yet, I have not had this opportunity. However, I very much like my dark blue Swapfiets.
Swapbike for tourists
So this actually just came to mind when I had friends visiting me from out of town. Although Swapfiets definitely does not advertise themselves as a short term bike rental company, they allow you to cancel with just one months notice. So if you have friends visiting and they want a bike for more than 2 days, paying €15-20 a month for a Swapfiets is a no brainer. You’d be hard pressed to find bike rental shops that will rent you a bike for under €15 a day.
You could theoretically rent a new bike from Swapfeits, cancel it the next day and just pay for 1 month. You would still come out ahead of renting it the traditional way!
Swapfiets – A bike subscription Well worth it
I think overall, subscribing to Swapfiets is a great option. For less than €20 a month, you’re getting a very high quality bike plus lock, on demand service for free, and bike insurance in case your bike is stolen. Let’s say you can buy a similar bike for €500, this means you could get 2 years of Swapfiets subscription and this doesn’t even take into account how much money you’d spend on maintenance with a bike you own.
I think Swapfiets is particularly useful for an expat who doesn’t know their timeline in Europe as the cancellation policy let’s you opt out whenever. Plus if you’re planning on being a long term expat, Swapfiets will let you try out what it feels like to have your own bike before you actually make a purchase.
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