Instead of waiting on on single spot for someone to pick you up you are sitting on a bike, already heading for your destination. Once a Pickup Truck or a big truck shows up you rise your thumb and smile. (Or use a sign.) Some prefer to park the bike at a good hitchhiking spot and wait there for a ride.
For countries that are illegal to hitchhike, you can hitchhike with your bicycle with less problems with the police, because people will think you have a flat tire and need help to get somewhere, rather than associate you as a hitchhiker. This works especially well if you have full biking spandex clothing and a helmet.
Others again have a folding bike and can put their bike in a normal car trunk/boot or as well on the back seat if it is a folding bike. Being able to easily detach the wheels also enables a normal-sized bike to fit into nearly any car -- the problem usually arises with people's belief in what is possible, not with actual space limitations.
One can also use skateboards or rollerblades, but do expect to rely on hitchhiking more for long distances.
- You (almost) never get stuck in a bad hitchhiking spot.
- You can let your bike carry your luggage instead of your spine.
- You are more flexible because you don't depend on traffic or public transportation. That means you can explore little beaches, rivers or villages with your bike and hitchbike further afterwards.
- You might have an easier time dealing with the Police (if you look like a professional cyclist)
- You can bike to truck stops or service stations instead of hitchhiking there.
- You get a lot of attention if you are running on your bike with all the luggage.
- You can enjoy beautiful parts of your trip on a slow pace with your bike and skip bad or hard ones hitchhiking.
- It's amazing in cities as you don't need to spend money on public transit or stress about black-riding. Also, it is so much easier to look for dumpsters and find food or cardboard.
- It is very easy to find a good and secluded spot for wild-camping, even in urban areas.
- You have a really interesting and visible story (a bicycle). Taborda and JackFang found out that people are much more friendly and helpful as they easily believe you when they see the bike and bags - also good when asking for hospitality.
- Extra madperson/hero points for hitchhiking with a bicycle :)
- It's harder to find someone who has room for you and your bike resp. who believes in being able to fit you in. It also takes more time to get in their car, making it difficult in busy roads. You might consider getting yourself a fold-up bike, which uses significantly less space.
- Hitchbiking with 2 people or more can be very difficult together.
- You need good bags which should be easy to remove from the bike.
- It's not that obvious for the driver that you want a ride. (It makes it easy to have the bike in a big bag -- that will also help on not making cars dirty with chain oil.)
- In countries with tiny cars and few trucks it's really hard.
- You have to choose which road to hitchhike on wisely. Hitchhiking on highways is faster, but be careful not to get dropped off at a bad spot because you can't just cycle away from it, since it is illegal to cycle on highways, and could be dangerous (though it can feel much safer than some busy secondary roads without a shoulder).
- Bikes cost money. Repairing and maintaining bikes can cost money as well. When the bike or parts get stolen it may be very frustrating.
Hitchhiking with a foldable bike
Fold-able bikes with a 16 or 20 inch diameter are decent for commuting within a city. You can even bike out the city to find the closest service station. Within most European cities you don't need public transportation but you also can ride a bus normally by folding the bike and placing it in a bag. You may find a 24 inch too large for the average family car. However a larger wheel theoretically allows you to commute faster within a city. In some general stores in Europe the cheapest 20 inch folding bike is around 120 euros. Anything smaller has around the same speed as a scooter or a skateboard, but much more expensive.
If achieving long distances is your goal, biking to a good hitchhiking spot such as a service station, then hitchhiking is a reliable option. When hitchhiking, hiding the fold-able bike out of the driver's sight can increase the chance of getting a ride rather than showing the driver the bike, even if it is a fold-able bike. This is because many people who may consider to take you can use the bike as an excuse and say that they don't have the space. Showing the bike to a driver may build trust, however. So consider whether or not to show the bike in it's folded form when hitchbiking.
With folding bikes coming to popularity particularly in more densely populated cities, more drivers are starting to recognize them. What this means is that while pedalling on the road to your destination, it is possible to get a ride by sticking your thumb out for *any car passing by. Some drivers will recognize that you are riding a fold-able bike but they may not understand what you are doing. Having a sign may be helpful depending on the traffic speed.
Regarding the particular brands and the specs, the important thing is to get something that thieves won't steal. The more fancy your bike is, the more likely it will get stolen. So forget about the fancy all carbon fibre frame foldable bike.
The advantage of fixed gear bikes is it's lack of maintenance required. When you have a rear derailleur you may spend more time fixing you shifters and wires than actually hitchhiking.
Tiny folding bikes like this one make BikeHitching much easier. For longer trips, you could consider a real touring bike that folds up into a suitcase or a car trunk, like this 21-speed Pocket Sport from Bike Friday (picture). If you fold your bike, drivers won't even notice you have more than just big a backpack and then HitchBiking works just like normal hitchhiking.
Tips to make hitchbiking easier
- Pack your bike (with a small plastic tarp and some rope i could pack my whole bike) to avoid oil stains in cars. Alternatively offer to put your sleeping mat underneath the bike.
- Use a small bike that enables you to take out the wheels (and even saddle & handlebars) easily, can be useful to strip it off of not needed items (like mudguards) to make packing smaller and easier
- Try to ask car drivers for a hitch, not only vans and trucks, people tend to be really helpful with cyclists, and you will find out a bike can fit in many cars (on the back seat or across the trunk and a lowered back seat). (Taborda hitchbiking from Amsterdam to Portugal just got one hitch offer where the bike actually didn't fit, on all others it was possible to fit the bike -- mostly in "normal" cars)
- If you are hitchhiking with a non-foldable bike, always take the front wheel off, and make sure it's visible you have the bicycle and are hitchhiking. Having a sign helps drivers know you are looking for a ride (as opposed to being broken down and looking for help). However, with a fold-able bike, one has the option to keep the bike out of sight for the driver, or show them your interesting bike in its folded position, depending on the situation.
It's somewhat easier in places with lots of pick-up trucks, such as South America.
- guakasite, wikitalk can confirm it's very easy in Ecuador. Hitching with 2 people and 2 bikes was very easy.
- taborda can confirm hitchiking with a bike in Europe (Holland, Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal - July/August 2011) was not that hard (actually as easy as without a bike - or even easier)
- Uyku.tulumu further confirms hitchbiking in Europe (Belgium, Germany, Austria, even Norway) seems even easier than normal hitchhiking because of the trust people have for cyclists and lack towards hitchhikers. (Did it with a normal sized bicycle, two panniers and a big front basket.)
- Jackfang further confirms that in the summer of 2015 hitchhiking with a 20inch fold-able bike was the same difficulty without one for long distance. (Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Italy) This is because when hitchhiking one can simply keep the folded bike out of sight, then when they stop just put it in their car like normal luggage. If their trunk does not fit just hold it on your lap. This probably would not work in countries where they put passengers on car roofs.
- Zenit has been hitchhiking around Europe with a bike a lot, even during various Covid-Lockdowns as recently as April 2021, and holds that Hitchbiking is even more fun than normal hitchhiking.
It is also possible to get a lift on a bike, as documented in this art project in "cycling nation" The Netherlands.
If you have roller blades you can also ask them (and electric and gas bikes) to drag you along for short distances. Beware of local laws. JackFang was successful bikehitching in Shanghai, China with Rollerblades. Do expect to communicate in the local language.
Hitchhiking with skateboards, rollerblades and kick scootering
Bikes might be too big for your purpose. Consider smaller things that can make you go faster in a city, or at the very least help you carry you heavy backpack when you spine gets tired. You might attract drivers when you are rollerblading or kick scootering in the middle of nowhere. They might offer you a ride without you hitchhiking. Watch out for the cars, try to scoot on the sidewalks. If you don't have medical insurance it might be better to just walk. For a hitchbiker's advice visit: https://chinesecanadiantraveller.wordpress.com/2015/10/20/hitchhiking-with-wheels-bike-kick-scooter-roller-blades-skateboard-foldable-20-inch-bike/
- A guide for hitchbiking with a folding touring bike
- FoldingBikeTravels.com on HitchBiking
- GreenCycle Blog
- Thoughts from Corinne
- Berner Werner about HitchBiking
- Meinhard's thoughts about HitchBiking
- Videos of Hitchbiking with 20" foldable bike around Europe by Jack Fang
- Velowiki a project started by guaka (talk) in April 2013