Submitted by a user in the Rome section of reddit.
“I’m looking for a city bike with gears to use around the city, but it’s a lot harder to buy a used bike in Rome than we thought. One place we looked was at Porta Portese, but there wasn’t a great selection there (only about a dozen or so notwithstanding all those shops there, even went on Sunday during the market).”
Before we make recommendations, we must warn readers that cycling in Rome can be a fraught and dangerous business.
Hazards include gridlocked traffic with motorinos (motor scooters) splitting lanes at high speeds, double- or triple-parked cars with doors that swing open without warning, vehicles turning violently without indicating (or indicating the wrong way), drivers who never check their mirrors, drivers who are driving over the speed limit while sending texts while talking while gesticulating, vehicles – including trams – that jump red lights, pedestrians who cross without looking, huge pot-holes, and tram-lines that can grab your slim bicycle wheel and throw you onto the ground if you approach them at the wrong angle.
We urge you, should you undertake this perilous activity, to wear as much hi-viz and protective gear as possible, and never go anywhere without a high quality, EU-approved helmet. Take it very easy, realize that in practical terms you never have the right-of-way, and never assume that anyone behind the wheel of another vehicle even knows you exist.
That warning over, if you’re in Rome for more than a few days, you may indeed want to buy a cheap bike. And there are indeed many cyclists in the city, some of whom are very enthusiastic – Critical Mass have been campaigning in the city for a number of years, and with good reason. And while the government ‘bikesharing’ scheme was a failure in Rome (with most of the bikes involved in it having been stolen or vandalised within a few months) the private oBike scheme is still hanging on. You can see the yellow bikes parked around the city. You can download the oBike app even if you’re not a resident, and tie a PayPal account or credit card into the app. It costs 1c a minute with a minimum charge of 30c. While there are a few geared oBikes around, most of them are ‘fixies’ and quite heavy, so not the best to ride, especially up hills. Still, we recommend the scheme for stepping in where the city failed, and for its overall impact on carbon reduction.
We suspect that some used bikes found in markets may have been acquired in less than honest ways (see this famous Roman movie) and are presented with a high mark-up, but fear not: there are a number of places where a legitimate pre-loved bicycle can be acquired. Prices will vary from place to place, so you may have to do a bit of travel to get the best deal, but a specialized cycle repair shop will usually be run by a cycling enthusiast, and will also likely have a number of options available, sometimes ‘ri-cicli’ from parts of older bikes.
First, while Porta Portese market may not have offered good prices, the market’s online equivalent sometimes does. Check the website’s bicycles for sale page on a daily basis to find occasional bargains. Similarly (but even less frequent) Rome’s Freecycle list occasionally offers bikes for free. Of course if your Italian isn’t so good, these methods could present linguistic difficulties, so you could also try joining and searching – or putting an appeal – for a bike on the Expats Living in Rome Facebook page.
In the offline world, the best bet for a bike shop bargain – and in the city center too – is Collalti Bici, a crowded and friendly bike repair, sales and rental place at Via del Pellegrino 82 near Campo de’ Fiori. Their stock is so huge it overflows into the cobbled laneway, and we’re sure they are prepared to negotiate on price too.
For the full hipster treatment, head out to Pigneto. At Zio Bici (‘Uncle bike’), Via Adriano Balbi 2, you’ll find a wax-moustachioed bike enthusiast with a specialized stock, both new and used. This is the kind of place you would go to get a folding bike or even a pennyfarthing to ride while puffing on your rosewood pipe if you really wanted, though we suspect the prices may reflect the cool image that the shop conveys.
Further afield and with a more sporting ethos, the far end of the great ‘pista ciclabile’ (Rome’s well maintained and popular bike path along the River Tiber, which runs 10.5km north from Ponte Milvio to Ponte di Castel Giubileo) on which you can cycle at top speed without worrying about traffic, you’ll find Carpiu’, Via Ponte Castel del Giubileo 29 (right opposite the gate at the end of the cycle path) which despite its name carries a stock of new and used bikes, although mainly for the sporting crowd. To get here take the ‘urbano’ train from Flaminio station and get off at Labaro, from where it’s a 5-minute stroll.
Of course, to get the exact kind of bike you want, you may find that the prices offered by any or all of these places are similar to the ones you’ve already found (starting around €75), and you may have to bite the bullet and pay this kind of money. If you’ve committed to a larger expenditure you may want to avoid wear and tear by buying something new. The Decathlon chain of sports mega-stores are found in shopping malls in Rome’s periphery, where brand-new city bikes start at €120.
Once you’ve got your bike, you can still save money by paying a visit to the Ciclofficina Popolare, a society set up to promote and support cyclists in Rome. They teach you how to maintain and repair your bike for free on Tuesday and Thursday nights (21.00-23.00) at the Ex Lavanderia (‘Ex-Laundry’) workshop, Piazza Santa Maria della Pietà, 5 in Monte Mario. They might also be able to recommend cheaper outlets than we are aware of, or introduce you to biking enthusiasts who are looking to sell their bike privately.
Happy – and safe – cycling!