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Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

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Old 01-13-05, 06:26 AM   #1
FOG
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Could a touring bike rental business succeed?

It seems like it is difficult to ship a bike by air, and yet many would like to have a bike to tour on when they arrive at a destination. Could someone make a go of renting touring bikes?

Question1- Is there a market for touring bike rentals? An important subquestion is how many rentals and of what duration could a shop expect? How seasonal would the business be.

Question 2- What kind of bike would make a good rental?

My initial thought is something moderately sturdy along the lines of the Fuji touring or Novara Randonee would work, but maybe that is to expensive a bike, or not expensive enough. Such a bike would have to be maintained, and the sturdiness of components could become an issue. Maybe a purpose-built bike would do better.

Question 3- What kinds of services should such a rental business offer?

Certain lines of business are obvious, like sales of bicycles, maps and accessories, plus some food. Others could include baggage storage. Obviously also, sales of products that commuters could use would be a good thing.

Question 4- How should the bikes be equipped?

I think sturdy racks are a necessity. Stock racks on bikes like the two mentioned above and some less expensive racks may not be sturdy enough, but on the other hand, if bikes would get abused, then inexpensive stuff is easier to replace.

Question 5- How much should rentals cost, and why?
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Old 01-13-05, 07:18 AM   #2
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I live in the NW Florida Gulf Coast region. A lot of tourist traffic. They are mostly the more affluent folks including the likes of Lance Armstrong and his girlfriend. They both frequent my favorite lbs about 40 miles up the coast (Blue Mountain Beach). Within a 10 linear-mile section, there are probably 4 bike-rental shops. They rent anything from clunkers for the non-biker to not too bad ATB's and road bikes. The one I frequent has around 800+ bikes and I think the biggest one has 1200. Most of them are the lower-end veriety which I would not enjoy riding.

During the season they are all rented at times. It's like real-estate; the three most important criteria for this kind of business are location, location and location.

I don't think a touring bike-only business would make it in almost any location. That said, there are ways to do surveys to determine beforehand what the market is like in an area. There are folks out there to help start-up small businesses.

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Old 01-13-05, 10:35 AM   #3
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i doubt you'd get far with a touring bike rental. most cycle tourists have their
own bike and gear. a bike that fits properly and is well-maintained. i'd never
rent a bike that i didn't know the detailed history of - and expect it to last under
loaded conditions. but then, i don't think it's a real tour unless it's over 1000
miles, and i get to camp 100's of miles from the nearest house.

unless you have two locations at each end of a popular route, or are lucky enough
to be on a scenic loop, you'd have to arrange for picking up bikes/riders at a
pre-determined spot.

as far as straight rentals go, if you live in a touristy metro/beach area, you could do
a cruiser/commuter bike rental. same for mtb's if you locate someplace like moab.
you'll find it much easier to rent by the hour/day for local riding.

for distance touring, though, the market is much, much smaller. you would have
to go with guided tours, with or without sag wagons. make your money thru
added amenities like prearranged camping, cooked meals, t-shirts, etc.

considering the cost of the bikes/components/racks/maintenance/insurance, you'd
have to charge a fairly high price/day to make it worthwhile. just a couple days
bike rental may equal the cost of shipping a bike and box storage.

i'm sure it's possible if you develop the right plan. good luck.
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Old 01-13-05, 10:47 AM   #4
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no... touring implies several days of riding. You need to charge less than it'd cost for a person to ship their bike. Several days rental fees sound like it'd be more than shipping.
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Old 01-13-05, 12:15 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FOG
Could someone make a go of renting touring bikes?
Question1- Is there a market for touring bike rentals?
No & no. You'll definitely have better luck at renting RV's......
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Old 01-13-05, 03:11 PM   #6
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My thoughts:
It's not a hassle to ship your bike by air unless you have never done it before.
When I'm touring I want to ride MY bike which I have set up for the tour, not some strange and perhaps inferior bike.
There is a bike rental market, but I don't think the clients can be described as 'touring' but rather tourist.
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Old 01-14-05, 02:43 AM   #7
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i think most of the possible custmers are people who rarely tour because most of the touring cyclists prefer touring on their own rig. and i see the difficulties.
first, unless they do a specific route it´s difficult to know where they´re, unless you put trackers on the bikes. second, if something´s wrong with the bike, they might not know how to fix it. third, they might not be physically fit and could have some health problem on the road. fourth, they might do the trip on way, that say, you need to have another shop there to pick up the bikes. that´s what i can come up with for the time being, but i´m sure that there´re more problems, nevertheless i think it´s doable.
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Old 01-14-05, 03:12 AM   #8
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Maybe there is a gap in the market for serious bike tourists- you could charge more than just for casual bike hire if you sell the thing as a package- decent well maintained bike hire with racks and panniers and puncture repair kit, pre-planned routes in a scenic location with maps maybe even hotel bookings if needed.
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Old 01-14-05, 02:10 PM   #9
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I dont think it could really work because anyone who intends to tour is going to invest in a decent bike. And is also going to want to keep it to grow with and use for future tours/commutes. But you CAN open a bicycle rental shop in a touristy city somewhere in CO or Cali. Or even (ducks) NYC!
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Old 01-15-05, 03:04 PM   #10
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I for one would welcome the idea. I was planning coast-to-coast in Britain last year, and it wasn't worth shipping a bike for what would have been 4 days of cycling as part of a 10-day vacation. But I couldn't find anywhere to rent a half-decent bike -- the only option I found online didn't seem like the sort of bike you'ld want to tackle the Pennines with. My idea was to rent in London, or Newcastle, take the bike by train to Barrow in Furness and then return it in Newcastle or London. But that of course depends on decent public transport to get the bike back to the starting point. Worth looking at, depends where you try to set a rental place up. My trip fell through in the end, for different reasons, but the bike issue never did quite click.
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Old 01-15-05, 11:35 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Fixer
No & no. You'll definitely have better luck at renting RV's......
I agree, especialy here in the US.

It might be possible in Germany&Austria (perhaps France), particularly if you hook up with some of the Tour operators.
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Old 01-17-05, 02:17 PM   #12
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My first bike tour was on a rental. This was 20 years ago; on a high school trip we rented in Paris, took a train out of town & biked the Loire Valley.

The idea is interesting; the question is, as posed above, can you site the business close enough to a desireable destination to make it worthwhile? It might be easier as a side-business than as the only source of revenue. You'll have high fixed costs & initial cash outlay, but there are a ton of canoe rental places in northern minnesota, so its not an impossible business plan. Is there enough interest in Annapolis for touring? In Minnesota taking a canoe or walking is the only way to see the boundary waters. How do you find the right destination that will compel people to visit by bicycle?
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