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  1. #1
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    Starting a Bike rental business

    OK, I'm going to leave my decade old corporate job real soon and open a bike rental business. I live in a good location, have a good part of the business plan worked out: start with a good but small location, 30 to 50 new bikes from trail to cruise, hybrids, some kid trailers and maybe a couple of tandems, have worked out the financials, including investments, utilities, charges, liability insurance, marketing etc. I even have experience in this field, (ok that's about twenty years ago..) Has anyone in this forum done this ? Would be interested in hearing success / failure stories or just good stories. Also feedback from anyone on what they expect from bike rental shops, they like and cannot find etc.
    Sorry if I bored you with this topic. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Senior Member djbowen1's Avatar
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    I wouldnt leave your corporate job for that. Start small and open on weekends or hire someone to rent out furing the day while you work. Thats a big risk for a business that will probably not make any big profits. It does sound like a story from the show the "Good Life" on HGTV or something.

  3. #3
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    Originally posted by djbowen1
    I wouldnt leave your corporate job for that. Start small and open on weekends or hire someone to rent out furing the day while you work. Thats a big risk for a business that will probably not make any big profits. It does sound like a story from the show the "Good Life" on HGTV or something.
    Thanks for your concern but I have aleady thought of that as business will only be seasonal and my financial plan does show a significant drop from my current salary to potential net profit.. Subsisting is not a problem. Oh, I forgot to mention, I'm quiting the job anyway..

  4. #4
    Kev
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    I don't have any experience in renting out bikes or working in a bike shop, but wanted to wish you best of luck. Sounds like you know what you are getting into, and you realize you will not make the same money. But money is not everything, how many times have you heard I've never been more broke or more happy in my life.

    You don't have your'e location filled in, where are you located? Where is the shop going to be? Maybe if I ever get out you're way I'll need to rent a bike.

  5. #5
    Not Green, Celeste!!! cwodave's Avatar
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    Where is the business to be located? Seems like you could get some good word of mouth going through this forum and others like it.
    "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.
    Helen Keller (1880 - 1968)

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    You don't mention your location but you do say it is seasonal which implys you have snowy winters. It's also implied that there is a large tourist population to avail themselves of your service. Is there skiing in the area? Do your slope operators maintain bike trails in winter? Getting studded tires to take advantage of this might be something to think about. You don't mention about contacting local hotels, motels, inns etc. about space to advertise. Just opening a storefront without adequate advertising in the form of posters or newspaperads is asking for slow word-of-mouth acknowledgement.
    Have you considered clothing or pack accessories? I think you will find that once people see a "Bike" store they will come in looking for things normally found at a full line LBS.
    How about maintenence? Will you do it yourself? Hire a mechanic? Take the equipment to a regular shop for repair. You'll find that rental bikes are not used kindly. Bent wheels, bent derailleurs, poor shifting and brakes that don't stop will be common complaints.
    But you are embarking upon a wonderful adventure and I wish for you the greatest amount of success possible. Good Luck!
    lj

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    Senior Member joeprim's Avatar
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    Good luck!

    "Take this job and shove it..." huh. Well good for you it sounds like you have things worked out.

    Like everyone says post your location so we can come see you. Will also be a shop? I mean you'll need to sell used rentals from time to time and get new ones so you may as well plan to sell new bikes, maybe some of the trade-ins could be rentals.

    Joe


  8. #8
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    Good luck on your new business venture. Seems like you've done your homework and you know exactly what you're doing. And yes, it is seasonal, unless you're located in SoCal! Will you be located on or near a major bike path?
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  9. #9
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    Good for you! Big difference in living a rich life and living life rich. I'm stuck somewhere in between.
    1 Chainring; $35, 1 Cog; $25, 14 Gears; Priceless.

  10. #10
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    I run a bike rental busniess, oddly for a big hospitality corparation. You seem to have all the bases covered. Rental customers tend to be non-cyclists. Some don't even understand the concept of riding on the right. They have the general additude that bikes are toys. I deal with a large enough minorioty of casual cyclists, that didn't want to mess up their bikes in the sand, that keeps me sane. A serious cyclists will usually bring his/her bike with them, but I try to market a small quick repair service to these folks.

    Make sure you have a good rental agreement that MUST be signed. Take credit cards and driver's liscense numbers.

    If you want to get into delivary, you're on your own. I don't do delivaries, but my busniess is resricted to the resort I'm empoyed at.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  11. #11
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    Originally posted by L J Horton
    You don't mention your location but you do say it is seasonal which implys you have snowy winters.

    YES

    It's also implied that there is a large tourist population to avail themselves of your service.

    YES

    Is there skiing in the area?

    NOT NEARBY, AT LEAST ONE HOUR AWAY

    You don't mention about contacting local hotels, motels, inns etc. about space to advertise.

    YES, DEFINETLY IN MARKETING PLAN. GOOD LEAFLETS AT ALL GOOD PLACES TO STAY.

    Just opening a storefront without adequate advertising in the form of posters or newspaperads is asking for slow word-of-mouth acknowledgement. AGREED, BUT LOCATION IS PRIME TOO.

    Have you considered clothing or pack accessories? I think you will find that once people see a "Bike" store they will come in looking for things normally found at a full line LBS.

    THOUGHT OF SOME MERCHANDISING BUT DEFINETLY NOT TURNING INTO AN LBS, FAST MOVING GOODS ONLY

    How about maintenence? Will you do it yourself? Hire a mechanic? MYSELF FOR A START, THEN HIRE MECHANIC WHEN BUSINESS TAKES OFF.

    Take the equipment to a regular shop for repair. TOO EXPENSIVE.

    You'll find that rental bikes are not used kindly. Bent wheels, bent derailleurs, poor shifting and brakes that don't stop will be common complaints. GOOD POINT, PLANNING ON PURCHASING GOOD QUALITY NEW BIKES WILL HELP REDUCE THIS PROBLEM.
    IF BUSINESS IS GOOD, TURN FLEET AROUND QUICKLY

    But you are embarking upon a wonderful adventure and I wish for you the greatest amount of success possible. Good Luck!
    THANK YOU FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT !

  12. #12
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    Originally posted by DieselDan
    I run a bike rental busniess, oddly for a big hospitality corparation. You seem to have all the bases covered. Rental customers tend to be non-cyclists. Some don't even understand the concept of riding on the right. They have the general additude that bikes are toys. I deal with a large enough minorioty of casual cyclists, that didn't want to mess up their bikes in the sand, that keeps me sane. A serious cyclists will usually bring his/her bike with them, but I try to market a small quick repair service to these folks.

    Make sure you have a good rental agreement that MUST be signed. Take credit cards and driver's liscense numbers.

    If you want to get into delivary, you're on your own. I don't do delivaries, but my busniess is resricted to the resort I'm empoyed at.
    Thanks DieselDan. I was actually looking for good sources of rental agreements. Any advice ?

  13. #13
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Your best bet would be to find a lawyer to help you draw an agreement up. Our's basiclly reads:

    The customer is responsable for the bike.
    The customer is responsable for his/her/their own saftey.
    Clauses about damage, replacment cost, return policy, and other legal stuff.
    A clause regarding local issues.

    You may want to include something regarding helmet use, use by children, and storage. Remember, bicycles are regulated as vehicles, you can't enter into a rental agreement with a minor.

    Again, find a lawyer. I work for a large hospitality company with lawyers on the payroll. Don't go it alone. I don't think this would cost very much.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  14. #14
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    I don't have any specifics as I am just a cyclist. A few ideas:

    - If you are far away and have access to special accomodations available only to cyclists, you might even get "real" cyclists to rent bikes.

    - If you have special or different bikes, you might get more cyclists interested. I don't think I would rent a bicycle unless I have a _really good_ reason to rent one; but if my wife was cycling, I would be interested to "try out" a tandem. I would even have rented a real tandem to try with my daughter if I could find one compatible to my 36" legs and her 7 year old frame.

    - Once you are more well known, you might look into renting other types of bicycles. I think there would be a market for "light touring" bikes (i.e. relatively good performance, but still good tires for street bumps, not too fragile, drop bars...). Maybe quick cable connectors that would allow you to configure the bike with straight or road bars, perhaps?
    One of the reasons I don't rent a bike is the lack of such bikes on the rental market. Straight bars are not comfortable for my wrists.

    - There is a shop in Québec city that rents all her bikes with a rear rack (basic one) and good lock. I think that's a wonderful idea. People who rent for more than 1 hour like to park their bike to go to the toilet, eat... and including a lock in the deal is a good way to protect your investment. I think she also supplies the helmet.

    - All rental shops in Montréal seem to rent fenderless hybrids. I think fenders would increase the number of days bikes are rented, would increase mileage and would protect the drivetrain from road grime. What person, on a holiday, would like to rent a bike when the ground is wet or sloppy, if that person knows they will have to visit a laundromat soon afterwards.

    Regards,
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

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    When i was in Las Vegas, I rented a bike from a shop that promoted adventure tours. I had a blast touring Red Rock Canyon. Even cyclists go on vacatations, and many don't take their bikes with them.
    I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said whatever it was.

  16. #16
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    To touch on some of the issues mgagnonlv brought up:

    Tandems: Bad idea. Liabilty and maintence headaches you really don't want to deal with. 98% of rental customers aren't cyclists, they wouldn't know wether cadence starts with a "c" or a "k".

    Light touring bikes: Be careful. In a coastal area, cables seize faster then usual. Any bike with shifting should be limited to an internal gear hub.

    Locks: I assumed Cycliste had common sense enough to REQUIRE locks with rental. It's best not to charge for locks unless it is lost. Use combination locks of some kind, key locks are more trouble then a Florida election.

    Helmets: Don't force customers to wear helmets outside of what the law requires. Keeps a supply on hand. Again, don't charge for them unless they get lost. Follow the same health department regulations regarding bowling shoes and roller skates. You may want to consider a check box in your rental agreement wether the customer borrowed a helmet, did not borrow a helmet, or supplied his/her own.

    Fenders: not a good idea, especially in a coastal area. Corrision will eat away at the hardware, possibly causing an accident. Dents can cause the bike to be unsightly, therefore undesirable to rent. Common sense should tell people you get dirty riding a bike. The clean up time would increase, taking the bike off the road longer, and decrease revnue possiblities. Fenders do not protect drive components.

    Again, rental customers tend to be non-cyclists and regard bikes as toys. Serious cyclists usually bring thier own equipment. Casual cyclists like to ride for the sake of ridng. Tourists want everything for free.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  17. #17
    Geezer Member Grampy™'s Avatar
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    Wife and I spent some time this summer at the Root River trail system in Mn. (Had a great time by the way) There were bike rental places all over. Every one of them rented hardtail mt. bikes and Recumbents. Yup, Recumbants (cheap ones). I've never seen so many recumbents in my life. I'll bet you 1/3 of the bikes on the trails (paved) were recumbents.

  18. #18
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    I am hoping to hear a little bit more about your business model. Of course, I assume you want to keep your details a secret, but what sets your bike rental idea apart from a standard rental shop?

    Location? Trails? Regular biking vacation destination? Tours? Tourism?
    Weather? Roads? Are you attached to a resort?
    -----------------------------------------------
    Illigitimi Non Carborundum
    Visit Bicyclists of Iowa City -- Ride AHCAST on Sept 18 & 19

  19. #19
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    I don't have any specifics as I am just a cyclist. A few ideas:

    Quote Originally Posted by mgagnonlv
    I don't have any specifics as I am just a cyclist. A few ideas:

    - If you are far away and have access to special accomodations available only to cyclists, you might even get "real" cyclists to rent bikes.

    - If you have special or different bikes, you might get more cyclists interested. I don't think I would rent a bicycle unless I have a _really good_ reason to rent one; but if my wife was cycling, I would be interested to "try out" a tandem. I would even have rented a real tandem to try with my daughter if I could find one compatible to my 36" legs and her 7 year old frame.

    - Once you are more well known, you might look into renting other types of bicycles. I think there would be a market for "light touring" bikes (i.e. relatively good performance, but still good tires for street bumps, not too fragile, drop bars...). Maybe quick cable connectors that would allow you to configure the bike with straight or road bars, perhaps?
    One of the reasons I don't rent a bike is the lack of such bikes on the rental market. Straight bars are not comfortable for my wrists.

    - There is a shop in Québec city that rents all her bikes with a rear rack (basic one) and good lock. I think that's a wonderful idea. People who rent for more than 1 hour like to park their bike to go to the toilet, eat... and including a lock in the deal is a good way to protect your investment. I think she also supplies the helmet.

    - All rental shops in Montréal seem to rent fenderless hybrids. I think fenders would increase the number of days bikes are rented, would increase mileage and would protect the drivetrain from road grime. What person, on a holiday, would like to rent a bike when the ground is wet or sloppy, if that person knows they will have to visit a laundromat soon afterwards.

    Regards,
    Though I am not sure if I want to target "real cyclists" only, those may tend to either travel with their own bikes or want to experience high ends models, this would be a niche market. I am more thinking of family / leisure.
    Tours are an interesting business but require extensive logistics and some personnel I am not willing to engage in at least for a start.
    Only rental providers here are some LBS, not always have available as they use them also as loaners, no specific display, few suitable locations, so not real competition + they are closing down one after the other :-(
    Tandems are definetly a must have. For kids there are attachements, confusingly called "tandems", that consist of a half bike attaching to the rear of a real bike, I have never tried one but they seem to work well as rentals. Good trailers for smaller ones work well too, safety must be kept highest though as higher liability engaged.
    Locks and helmets are a must have, (mandatory for kids over here). Locks should be provided free with all bikes, as well as helmets with kids bikes and some rental packages.
    Very good point about fenders ! Thank you for your list of suggestions !

  20. #20
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    To touch on some of the issues mgagnonlv brought up:

    Quote Originally Posted by DieselDan
    To touch on some of the issues mgagnonlv brought up:

    Tandems: Bad idea. Liabilty and maintence headaches you really don't want to deal with. 98% of rental customers aren't cyclists, they wouldn't know wether cadence starts with a "c" or a "k".

    Light touring bikes: Be careful. In a coastal area, cables seize faster then usual. Any bike with shifting should be limited to an internal gear hub.

    Locks: I assumed Cycliste had common sense enough to REQUIRE locks with rental. It's best not to charge for locks unless it is lost. Use combination locks of some kind, key locks are more trouble then a Florida election.

    Helmets: Don't force customers to wear helmets outside of what the law requires. Keeps a supply on hand. Again, don't charge for them unless they get lost. Follow the same health department regulations regarding bowling shoes and roller skates. You may want to consider a check box in your rental agreement wether the customer borrowed a helmet, did not borrow a helmet, or supplied his/her own.

    Fenders: not a good idea, especially in a coastal area. Corrision will eat away at the hardware, possibly causing an accident. Dents can cause the bike to be unsightly, therefore undesirable to rent. Common sense should tell people you get dirty riding a bike. The clean up time would increase, taking the bike off the road longer, and decrease revnue possiblities. Fenders do not protect drive components.

    Again, rental customers tend to be non-cyclists and regard bikes as toys. Serious cyclists usually bring thier own equipment. Casual cyclists like to ride for the sake of ridng. Tourists want everything for free.
    Tandems: agree, but they are real attraction and people tend to rent them for short period just for the experience, so short time / high price. Am still looking around for the best value on the market.

    Gear hub and cables: good point. I think cables should be replaced by good teflon ones with internal sleeve after first service. Have you ever tried this ?

    Locks: Good point about combination. I would even insert the use of lock in a contractual liability clause.

    Helmets: thanks for the check box idea, this is excellent !

    Casual cyclists: agreed 100%, and bikes must be robust, simple but attractive at the same time.

    Thanks DieselDan !

  21. #21
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    Grampy and Wife spent some time this summer...

    Quote Originally Posted by Grampy™
    Wife and I spent some time this summer at the Root River trail system in Mn. (Had a great time by the way) There were bike rental places all over. Every one of them rented hardtail mt. bikes and Recumbents. Yup, Recumbants (cheap ones). I've never seen so many recumbents in my life. I'll bet you 1/3 of the bikes on the trails (paved) were recumbents.
    Recumbents were on my list at a start, but I think I will limit them to one more as an attraction than a real rental. But they are fun to ride !

  22. #22
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    Poppaspoke went on an adventure tour..

    Quote Originally Posted by Poppaspoke
    When i was in Las Vegas, I rented a bike from a shop that promoted adventure tours. I had a blast touring Red Rock Canyon. Even cyclists go on vacatations, and many don't take their bikes with them.
    There is a company here that organize adventure tours, I am not excluding this kind of venture in the future but cannot afford the logistics and personnel required for the moment + am not sure on ROI, would need to research more.
    Thanks Poppaspoke.

  23. #23
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    Paramedic hoping to hear a little bit more about business model..

    Quote Originally Posted by IowaParamedic
    I am hoping to hear a little bit more about your business model. Of course, I assume you want to keep your details a secret, but what sets your bike rental idea apart from a standard rental shop?

    Location? Trails? Regular biking vacation destination? Tours? Tourism?
    Weather? Roads? Are you attached to a resort?
    No real standard rental shops here, only some LBS do some rentals. They are far apart from each other, most not in the best locations, need to call them before you get there, and on and all do not promote rental as a core + they are usually closed on Sundays. Tourists usually are not aware of their rental services.
    Not attached to a resort, plenty of trails and scenic quite roads, sea and river front, tourism, plenty for a small operation. Problem I guess is once opened, that's when competition will appear, ah well...

    Thanks Paramedic

    Oh, and I forgot, I am not in Iowa

  24. #24
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Gear hub and cables: good point. I think cables should be replaced by good teflon ones with internal sleeve after first service. Have you ever tried this ?

    I haven't tried any cable operated components because it's a lived and learned experance by prior managment. Even with teflon, the sand and salt gets in there and gums things up. The beach sand here is very fine quartz with crushed coral.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  25. #25
    Donating member Richard D's Avatar
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    I think location is probably going to be your biggest factor as to whether it's a success or not. A bike hire shop in the New Forest that I used the other Summer largely ran fully rigid MTB's (Dawes) which seemed pretty reliable and were still overkill in terms of what you needed for the flat gravel chipped trails. Kid's and teenagers are probably more likely to hire an MTB than a hybrid. They had a handful of full-suspension bikes as well - complete overkill for the area but kids seemed willing to pay the not inconsiderable extra they charged for them so they might be worth the extra maintenance costs... What was a good idea was having a couple of adult trikes and both kid and dog trailers. It might be worth having a look on the web for hire companies in other countries - thety might be happy to share advice with someone who won't be a direct competitor.
    Currently riding an MTB with a split personality - commuting, touring, riding for the sake of riding, on or off road :)

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