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 handover slot where we will handover 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 your 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 number of range of bike types with some such as ebikes having multiple options. We cannot always accommodate specific model requests but we will always do our best to.

City Bike

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

Weight ~ 17kg

Gazelle Esprit C3 RRP £549

Gazelle Esprit C7 RRP £649


Hybrid Bike

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. Also included are mudguards, panniers, lights, and a lock.

Weight ~ 13.5kg

Electric Bike

We have three types of ebike, each with a different motor type with mid drive and rear hubs and each at different market RRPs.

  • Gazelle Orange C7 HMB RRP from £2049

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

Weight ~ 26kg

  • Batribike Nebula RRP from £1549

The mid-range Batribikes use the well-regarded Promovec motor systems. Like the Gazelle they have integrated lights, mudguards and rack but use the more common derailleur gears which many people prefer. The Nebula uses a mid drive motor for a natural power delivery and has a wide range of fit with an upright position. They have a smooth ride with front suspension forks.

Weight ~ 24kg


Cargo Bike

Babboe City RRP from £1749

The Babboe City is our most popular cargo bike, with a great mid size that can carry up to 4 children. They have a lovely balance and are really easy to use, with a natural ride feel of 2 wheels. Recommended if you are regularly carrying children and/or cargo! Suitable for children 9 months and up. We provide a rain tent to keep your children / cargo dry!

Weight estimated 50kg

Folding Bike

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 your person.

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, then we can have your loan bike set up with a decent quality child seat – children really love being on the bike. Our  have been safety tested and come with a kitemark.

This child bicycle seat is only suitable for carrying children with a maximum weight of 22 Kg (and children with recommended ages ranging from 9 months to 5 years of age – with the weight as the decisive variable). 


Bike trailer

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

The manufacturers 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, 24 April 2024
Wednesday, 22 May 2024
Wednesday, 19 June 2024


We are only at the Downing Site once every 4 weeks, so cannot accommodate collection outside of these dates. Returns are available any time between 11:30-14:30.

If you wish to collect and return from our offices, please contact us on and we will arrange your booking.

Please select only 1 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 provide 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 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, eg the person trialling had not locked up the bike while leaving the bike 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 local Cambridge area. 

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

Deliveries and Collections within Cambridge City will be billed at £48 each way (so £96 for both 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 days). 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:

Provided 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 a cargo bike will not fit on a rack or on a train. All of our ebikes 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.