University of Cambridge

Try Before You Buy Scheme

4 – 8 Week Bike Loans for University of Cambridge Staff

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The Try Before You Buy scheme has been designed to give University staff the opportunity to trial a bike over a number of weeks. This could be to trial commuting by bike for the first time, or to trial a new type of bike such as an ebike or cargo bike. With options of 4 or 8 weeks staff can live with the bike and have the confidence to know if it works for them.

The scheme is subsidised by the University and in order to offer the scheme to the greatest number of staff, it is geared towards trialling a bike, rather than functioning as an on-going hire solution.

You can choose a bike and any accessories, then you’ll be asked to choose a date and time to collect the bike and we will then send a confirmation email with details of the venue and what to bring.

If you need any help or advice before booking, feel free to get in touch and we’ll answer any queries you have.

Collections and returns take place monthly at the Downing Site in Central Cambridge. You can find us at the Green near the Courtyard Building under a red Outspoken gazebo.

We also offer the scheme from our offices on Cowley Road in north Cambridge, if you can’t make any of the dates. Get in touch at the link below to arrange a time.

PLEASE NOTE: The scheme is currently only available to University of Cambridge staff. Students and visitors are not eligible.

Each employee can borrow for a maximum of 8 weeks in total.

We also require a feedback form to be filled out at the end of the rental.

Hire Process

Collecting the bike

When you sign up you’ll book a 15-minute slot where we will hand over the bike and accessories. Our friendly team will show you how to use the bike and answer any questions. 

The bikes will be supplied with locks, lights and panniers. We can also supply a helmet (billed separately) if you require. Helmets can be requested when you make your booking.

Returning the bike

At the end of your loan period, you’ll need to bring the bike back. Instead of booking a slot you will simply need to return the bike at any time during the return session.

In the meantime, we hope see you out on the cycle paths of Cambridge before long!


What Bikes are available?

We have a variety of bikes available that range from city bikes to e-bikes. Unfortunately we cannot always accommodate specific model requests, but we can help you finding a great alternative.

City Bikes

Our city bikes are Gazelle Esprits (in both 3 and 7 speed). We have chosen these bikes because they have a comfortable confidence-inspiring upright ride, low maintenance and fuss-free features like integrated lights, hub gears, rack, mudguards and enclosed chains, making them perfect for everyday use.

Gazelle Esprit C3 (RRP £549)

Weight ~ 17kg

Gazelle Esprit C7 (RRP £649)

Weight ~ 17kg


Hybrid Bikes

Raleigh Strada (RRP £425)

The Raleigh Strada is a great option for comfort on mixed-terrain routes. The very wide gear range is perfect for travelling further and in hillier areas with a more sporty position. Mudguards, panniers, lights and a lock are also included.

Weight ~ 13.5kg

Electric Bikes

Gazelle Orange C7 HMB (RRP from £2049)

These bikes share many attributes with the Esprit comfort bike, such as the comfortable upright ride and low maintenance features like integrated lights and hub gears. They have a powerful Bosch mid-drive motor, and super smooth braking and front suspension forks.

Weight ~ 26kg

Ebco Urban 3L (RRP £1999)

The Urban 3L has a low-step alloy frame, allowing for easy access and providing a comfortable upright riding position. It features Tektro 9-speed gear system and Hydraulic disc brakes, as well as a sturdy rear luggage rack. The bike is available in small size with removable battery.

Weight ~ 22kg


Ebco Urban 2T (RRP £1399)

The Urban 2T features a step-over allow frame for easy access. It is suited to getting around town and exploring the countryside in comfort and style, making it both an ideal commuting and leisure bike. Shimano 7-speed gear system, Clarkes Hydraulic disc brakes and rear luggage rack are the main highlights. The bike is available in small and medium sizes with an unremovable battery.

Weight ~ 20kg


Folding Bikes

Choose a folding bike if you regularly need to get to the station or put your bike in the car for a part of the journey. We use bikes which are world renowned for being the quickest, simplest and all round best in the market.


The Brompton is renowned for its quality and ease of use. With a 3 speed hub gear and integrated mudguards it’s perfect for riding around Cambridge. The Brompton isn’t compatible with racks or panniers, so any luggage will have to be transported on the rider.

Weight ~ 12kg

Raleigh Stowaway

The Raleigh Stowaway is a great folding option with a simple mid-hinge mechanism to collapse the bike. The 7 speed derailleur gives you a wide range of gears to tackle any inclines. A small amount of luggage can be transported using the panniers, which will be included with your loan.

Weight ~ 14.5kg

What Accessories are available?

Child Seat

If you need to drop off a small child on the way to work, we can have your loan bike set up with a child seat. Our child seats have been safety tested and come with a kitemark.

This child bicycle seat is only suitable for carrying children with a maximum weight of 22kg (children with recommended ages from 9 months to 5 years of age, their weight being the decisive variable). 


Bike Trailer

We have bike trailers available which are suitable for children aged just a few months up to 5 years old. These trailers also double as a buggy, so they are perfect if you need to head to the shops for example. There’s a really easy hitch for quick changeover and a special sling harness to ensure safety of your precious cargo.

The manufacturer’s recommended maximum height is 117cm, and maximum carrying capacity of 45kg (i.e. total of all children and luggage).

Book a Bike

Welcome to the University Try Before You Buy Booking Page

For collection from Downing Site please only make bookings on the following dates: 

Wednesday, 17 July 2024

 Wednesday, 14 August 2024
Wednesday, 11 September 2024

We are at the Downing Site once every 4 weeks. For collections please prebook a 15-minute time slot, returns are available any time between 11:30-14:30.

If you wish to collect and return from our office outside of the dates above, please contact us on and we can help you with your booking.

Please select only one bike per booking.


Scheme FAQs

How much does the scheme cost?

The scheme is subsidised by the University, costs are as follows:

4 week loan – £10

8 week loan – £20

Are the bikes insured?

The bikes are insured against theft providing specific conditions are met. 

The bikes must be stored within a secure location overnight, such as in a locked garage. When in use and left unattended the bikes must be locked to an immovable object (such as a Sheffield bike stand) through the frame using the lock we have provided and must not be left unattended overnight. Any damage or thefts must be reported to us within 24 hours and in the case of criminal damage or theft must also be reported to the Police and a crime number taken. If in doubt contact us for guidance.

In the unfortunate event of a theft, the person or business trialling the bike would need to pay a contribution towards the insurance excess of £100 if all conditions are met and the bike is insured. If the conditions have not been met, for example the person trialling had not locked up the bike while leaving it unattended, they would be liable for the full replacement cost.

Are you able to deliver a bike direct to my home or workplace?

Yes, we can deliver and collect loan bikes within the Cambridge area. 

Deliveries and collections will be arranged after you have made a booking and will be billed separately.

Deliveries and collections within Cambridge will be billed at £48 each way (so £96 in total for delivery and collection).

If you live in one of the surrounding villages, this rate will be £58 each way. If you are further afield then please get in touch for more information.

Please consult this map to see the two areas we operate this service in.


What happens if I have a mechanical problem, such as a puncture, during the trial?

The bikes have been chosen because they are robust and all bikes are serviced before going out. However, no tyre is completely puncture-proof and mechanical issues can happen.

If this is the case, you will need to contact us asap and we’ll book the bike into our workshop (see our website for opening times). You are responsible for getting the bike to us at your cost, however we do offer a collection and drop off service at a small fee. See here for details:

Providing the repairs are not due to improper use, we will fix them at our own cost.

Can the bikes fit on a bike rack on a car?

This depends on the bike and the manufacturer’s specification for weight limits on your rack and car. Weights are given for each bike in the details above. Note that a cargo bike will not fit on a rack or on a train. All of our e-bikes are over 20kg so do bear this in mind if you are intending to use a rack as most are limited to 20-23kg. The Gazelle Esprits are our heaviest regular bikes. We know from experience they can fit on high roof racks, but are quite cumbersome to do so. If you have any concerns or questions do contact us to discuss.