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Pondering a touring bike rental business

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Pondering a touring bike rental business

Old 09-30-23, 09:21 AM
  #26  
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Originally Posted by abdon
​​Let me put it this way; one of my hobbies has always been to monetize my hobbies. I'm a full time systems engineer and still find time to monetize my orchard, selling plants, and foraging for fun and profit. Looking at my tally between that and other stuff I'm $3,965 for the year. That is the tally after expenses.
You talk about “running a business” people are going to think you are interested in making “enough” of a profit to be “worthwhile”.

What you want to do is quite unusual, which is fine. But, because of that, it’s not going to make much sense to most people. But, because of that, people are going to have issues with providing the answers you want.

Anyway, you already have the answer.


It’s something you want to do, you can afford it, it doesn’t have to make money, and you can easily roll it back.

Do it.

======================

The number of people who specifically want to rent random old bicycles (“vintage” is a euphemism) is likely tiny. The number of people wound want to go all the way to Alaska to do that is likely a small fraction that number. Many of these people might not be encouraged by it being somebody’s hobby that doesn’t have to succeed.

Most people who are taking trips to Alaska are either going to bring their own equipment (it’s a known element they may have spent years optimizating) or be more assured by renting modern equipment (even if they use a “vintage” bike at home).

I don’t think this market is a “thing”.

======================

There are certainly places that “rent what they have” (I have used these a few times). But they seem to not quite be so specific. They “work” (I suppose) because they are the only option rather than people seeking out “old bikes to ride”.

You might be able to do this (since being “successful” isn’t a requirement) but it’s somewhat different than what you asked about).

Last edited by njkayaker; 09-30-23 at 09:56 AM.
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Old 09-30-23, 10:11 AM
  #27  
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Originally Posted by abdon
And as I said a few times, unless I could find a service that soaks up insurance like Turo does for cars or Airbnb does for rooms, it would not be feasible.
If this is a necessary requirement, you should really get an answer to this before asking other questions. These other services “soak up” insurance because they take a fairly large cut of booking fees (more than the insurance costs them). Unlike your situation, they want to make money.

I don’t think such an arrangement exists for your proposal.

Originally Posted by abdon
Also it seems like folks are hung up on how this is too niche to be a viable self sustaining business. It is not meant to be a self sustaining business. It would be a side gig leveraging my existing infrastructure.
People do “side gigs” to make money. If it fails to be “self sustaining”, it’s not really a “side gig”.

What you want to do is highly unusual. If you “welcome comments”, calling people “hung up” is kind of silly.

Last edited by njkayaker; 09-30-23 at 10:50 AM.
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Old 09-30-23, 01:45 PM
  #28  
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Originally Posted by njkayaker
If this is a necessary requirement, you should really get an answer to this before asking other questions. These other services “soak up” insurance because they take a fairly large cut of booking fees (more than the insurance costs them). Unlike your situation, they want to make money.
Which is why I mentioned between 3 and 5 times already, hoping that if somebody had heard of such a service already that they would volunteer the info. There are a few in Europe, so with a bit of luck eventually one with sprout in the US.

Originally Posted by njkayaker
People do “side gigs” to make money. If it fails to be “self sustaining”, it’s not really a “side gig”.
If you look at the context I meant 'self sustaining' as in the case of established bike rental outfits that have to pay rent, utilities, salaries, and related overhead. I don't have to be self sustaining in that sense; like most side gigs if I stop doing it I have no expenses to cover.

Originally Posted by njkayaker
What you want to do is highly unusual. If you “welcome comments”, calling people “hung up” is kind of silly.
'hung up' must mean something different to you than to me. It simply means that they were hyper focusing on a singular point. A point that was not as significant for the given scenario.
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Old 09-30-23, 02:18 PM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by abdon
Which is why I mentioned between 3 and 5 times already, hoping that if somebody had heard of such a service already that they would volunteer the info. There are a few in Europe, so with a bit of luck eventually one with sprout in the US.
You didn’t mention it in the first post and it’s a “make or break” thing.

It might be useful to provide links to one.

It seems they wouldn’t be providing it free.

Originally Posted by abdon
'hung up' must mean something different to you than to me. It simply means that they were hyper focusing on a singular point. A point that was not as significant for the given scenario.
Whatever, you mean by it, it fails to be “welcoming”.

Keep in mind you talked about it being a “business” (making a profit is the purpose of a “business”). And you mentioned “profit” in the first post.

What you are talking about is a hobby that, I guess, you want to defray some of the cost of.

Last edited by njkayaker; 09-30-23 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 09-30-23, 03:30 PM
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I did mention it on post one as the important bit of liability insurance.

Two P2P bike rental platforms I found were Apiko and Spinlister, neither really operates in the US. Europe, India, China, they have a wide range of P2P bike sharing platforms.

Spinlister is a good example of what I hope will eventually get established in the US; their fees are reasonable, include a basic insurance coverage, and allow the renter to purchase additional coverage. With a service line that it could be as simple as listing bikes in the platform. You only incur in costs if the bikes get rented.
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Old 09-30-23, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by abdon
Spinlister is a good example of what I hope will eventually get established in the US; their fees are reasonable, include a basic insurance coverage, and allow the renter to purchase additional coverage. With a service line that it could be as simple as listing bikes in the platform. You only incur in costs if the bikes get rented.
Spinlister says it provides damage and theft (not liability) protection of $1000. You can pay for more.

They also operate in big cities.

They also operate in the US.

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Old 09-30-23, 04:11 PM
  #32  
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Originally Posted by njkayaker
Spinlister says it provides damage and theft (not liability) protection of $1000. You can pay for more.

They also operate in big cities.

They also operate in the US.
Yeah, they offer additional coverage which I can require. They currently don't have much of a presence outside of some big metropolitan areas.

P2P would solve insurance and on a big enough one exposure. I can improve on that by mapping all sorts of routes. I'm 40 miles north of Anchorage in a great location with access to an ungodly amount of great riding. Heck I don't care to Airbnb to random people but I would not mind setting up to host cyclists. This is my living room view, the posh sauna building is just outside of the picture on the right:

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Old 09-30-23, 06:28 PM
  #33  
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Looks like you should be renting skis. Looks nice.
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Old 10-01-23, 02:52 AM
  #34  
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abdon , I think your idea is very interesting and definitely has potential.I also think your thread is a good example of why I rarely bother to read or post here. On a touring forum, a place for people who tour or want to, the subtle and not so subtle hostility is a bit jarring.

Given the remoteness of Alaska there's an opportunity to offer an "all in one" service for people to fly in, get kitted out and head off on routes created with local knowledge. Bikes, racks, panniers, cooking gear, sleeping mats would all be standard. There may be issues with pre-used sleeping bags. Drop off or pick up is something to figure out. GPS devices or recommended phone apps could be considered.

There's also the possibility of teaming up with other providers for day, 2 day rentals, perhaps again with locally created routes.

One potential market would be companies looking for team building opportunities.

For this kind of thing, I'd always suggest looking to see what is out there. Find some inspiration, look to see what is adaptable for your needs and location. Reach out. A one man operation in Alaska is unlikely to threaten a business far away. They may be willing to answer some of your questions. Insurance is always tricky. Especially when paired with bike travel. A lawsuit would alter your idea of not losing a lot of money.

There's a vast and incredibly diverse group of people who are interested in adventures on bikes. It would be a fool's errand to try to satisfy them all. But equally, it would be advisable to have a pretty clear idea of what you want to do, how you want to do it, when you want to do it and who you want to do it for. That last one might be the most interesting of all.

Personally, I'd be looking at tapping into European and Asian markets for people who have the time and the money to indulge in a few weeks in Alaska on a bike adventure with a lot of the logistical issues taken care of. Quality over quantity. The personal touch, bespoke service over a standard offering. Time intensive, to be sure, but if you're interested in people and enjoy interactions, potentially very rewarding.

Best of luck and it would be great if you kept us updated.
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Old 10-01-23, 05:22 AM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by HobbesOnTour
abdon , I think your idea is very interesting and definitely has potential.I also think your thread is a good example of why I rarely bother to read or post here.
The OP appears to want to have a few (old) bikes to rent out.

What you are describing is much, much more work than the OP appears to want to put in.

Do companies do “team building” stuff anymore? He’s certainly not planning on having enough equipment to be a reliable provider of that sort of service.
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Old 10-01-23, 08:02 AM
  #36  
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to me, vintage bikes means rather limited tire width clearances, and just guessing at road and gravel road surfaces there, this would put me off as a client riding on 32 or 35 tires on rough roads.
Bar ends also may very well be a factor for potential clients with basic riding experience.
I also feel it is realistic to expect the possibility of people to be rough on bikes, hamfisted shifting and generally rough and not giving a hoot about how they treat a rental bike. That is certainly how I have seen people with rental bikes in my limited experience seeing this.
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Old 10-01-23, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by HobbesOnTour
abdon , I think your idea is very interesting and definitely has potential.I also think your thread is a good example of why I rarely bother to read or post here. On a touring forum, a place for people who tour or want to, the subtle and not so subtle hostility is a bit jarring.
I'm old enough and have been on the internet long enough that I have learned it is not worth it to get aggravated.

Originally Posted by njkayaker
The OP appears to want to have a few (old) bikes to rent out.

What you are describing is much, much more work than the OP appears to want to put in.
And...

Originally Posted by djb
to me, vintage bikes means rather limited tire width clearances, and just guessing at road and gravel road surfaces there, this would put me off as a client riding on 32 or 35 tires on rough roads.
Bar ends also may very well be a factor for potential clients with basic riding experience.
I also feel it is realistic to expect the possibility of people to be rough on bikes, hamfisted shifting and generally rough and not giving a hoot about how they treat a rental bike. That is certainly how I have seen people with rental bikes in my limited experience seeing this.
Keep in mind that I'm purposely avoiding walls of text, which means I have to leave a ton of details out. I'm a senior IT systems engineer by trade, I geek out at optimizing processes. One of my favorite mottos is "reality is that which when you stop believing in it, it is still there."; which means that the beauty of designing systems that operate in the real world is that reality trumps theory, even if sometimes you have to tease what reality is. So I take a stated goal such as "Manage a stable of 20 or so vintage rental bikes" (keep that 20 number in the back of your head) and I do spend an ungodly amount of time refining the most efficient way to execute that miniscule system. Systems optimization requires a constant review of everything you are doing to answer the eternal question 'is this the most effective way to accomplish this?'. Equipment, networking, facilities, marketing, maintenance, everything you do becomes a fascinating brain teaser.

Which is truly hilarious; I put the same level of effort on a gig not even meant to grow that usually gets billet at $200 an hour (my employer does, sadly I don't see $200 an hour).

To bloviate a bit on profits: As I said, senior systems engineer. If I just money wanted money I could just retire from full time employment and do my job part time, probably make about $75 bucks an hour while sitting on my ass. Sorry, don't wanna. I rather work on my backyard nursery, and foraging (you'll be amazed at the ridiculous prices some stuff goes for), and yes, if it works ('reality is which... and all that') renting out a small stable of bikes. I want to wake up every day busy as fudge as if I was in a computer game, running around completing quests and building stuff. Technically I don't need to do anything as my retirement accounts should suffice, I simply want to do it, and want to be successful about it. But success is not defined as a self sustaining business that grows, can pay its rent, utilities and employees. Success is broadly defined as a tiny operation that is not meant to grow but still efficiently generates a modicum of profit based on the amount of time applied to it. If I can generate $4,000 profits on 100 hours dedicated to this endeavor (after the extensive groundwork is put in place), I would call it a bloody success and would go have a sip of Laphroaig 25 years old single malt to celebrate. Because thank God my single malt budget would come out of my retirement funds and not my side gig endeavors.

The equipment bit: Classic steel doesn't necessarily means bone dry stock. I do enjoy several bikes with freewheels but for a rental operation sealed bearing hubs and cassettes are pretty much mandatory, it would simplify maintenance and extend useful life by a lot. I don't see as cheating having 700c wheels on former 27" frames, and it even buys you a tad more clearance. And trust me, here in Alaska you will want that extra clearance for a fatter tire. In my book updated derailleurs are also kosher. I would still stick to bar end shifters or down tube shifters; it is born out of practicality (bullet proof, cheap, correct part), and part of the gimmick/branding. Because I'm only talking a stable of 20 or so bikes I can afford not to please everybody.

Part of the stable would also be gravel tourers, there is a lot of front country and back country that can be accessed to the brave and the bold. They are great for going up a river bed to visit the knik glacier (two river crossings, the second can be a bit challenging). Some people here puts them to a better use: pulling a 1,000 pound moose out of the boonies. There are plenty of hunting grounds where motorized vehicles are not allowed so if you want to bring that moose from 10 miles in, you can backpack it, or bike it out.

To sum things up: It would be meant to be a small stable. The gimmick selection would not please everybody but would be the cat's meow to those who dig it. It is meant to be self guided but a lot of route knowledge will be there to assist in maximizing your experience, including linking it with other destinations and tours. And yes, I can modify the bike to best suit you with a nice selection of stems and crank lengths on hand to dial you in.
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Old 10-01-23, 02:48 PM
  #38  
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as someone who enjoys working on bikes, its because of that that I was thinking that you'll want to get a derailleur hanger alignment tool and have spare bits and bobs, expecting that "stuff will happen", but I'm sure you've already thought of all of these contingencies. It often surprises me how some people can be such hacks with treating bikes, which may be a hassle and frustration for you dealing with Joe Public.
Funny you mention Laphroaig whisky, I spent the month of august in Scotland and biked past a few distilleries, but I'm not a fan of hard liquor, so had no urge to do a whisky tour.
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Old 10-01-23, 03:34 PM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by abdon
To sum things up: It would be meant to be a small stable. The gimmick selection would not please everybody but would be the cat's meow to those who dig it. It is meant to be self guided but a lot of route knowledge will be there to assist in maximizing your experience, including linking it with other destinations and tours. And yes, I can modify the bike to best suit you with a nice selection of stems and crank lengths on hand to dial you in.
The number of people who would “dig it” is likely so small that you should treat it as zero. That is, it makes no sense to base a “business” (yeah, yeah, it’s not a business) on them being actual customers. It would take a fair amount of effort to be able to connect with this tiny group of people. You have to target a bigger pool because you are only going to get a small fraction of them as real customers.

In general, you seem way too optimistic about everything concerning this.

The people giving “rosy” predictions on how successful this might be are not to be trusted.

While you aren’t looking to make a “business” out of it, considering that as the goal might give you a better idea of what you need to do to make it “successful”.

If you treat it as a hobby, it could end up looking like a “flaky” operation to you tiny customer base.

If you are OK, with this being a likely failure, go for it. If it needs to be a “success”, you should do something else.

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Old 10-01-23, 05:34 PM
  #40  
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Meh, I'm cool with that. But I also think my odds are better than even. I have a long history of successfully monetizing my hobbies, and part of that is the intellectual challenge to make it work. And if it doesn't? Well I'll have a blast doing it.

Here's an interesting factoid; small nurseries enjoy one of the highest failure rates out there because of the complexities and the number of things that can go wrong, and yet a lot of doctors retire to start one. Not because there is money to be made or that they would need it to begin with, but because of the enjoyment that comes working the field.

As I said when I retire I could part time my field at $75 an hour. There is no challenge nor joy for me on that.
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Old 10-01-23, 10:19 PM
  #41  
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Originally Posted by abdon
As I said when I retire I could part time my field at $75 an hour. There is no challenge nor joy for me on that.
My recommendation would be, start your rental business, but do your part time job a couple days a week.
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Old 10-02-23, 02:13 AM
  #42  
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Originally Posted by MarcusT
My recommendation would be, start your rental business, but do your part time job a couple days a week.
Nah, I'm really looking forward to retirement from my sit-on-my-@$$-all-day job. I should be well funded for retirement, this would be something fun to do.
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Old 10-02-23, 07:32 AM
  #43  
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Originally Posted by abdon
Meh, I'm cool with that. But I also think my odds are better than even. I have a long history of successfully monetizing my hobbies, and part of that is the intellectual challenge to make it work. And if it doesn't? Well I'll have a blast doing it.
If failure is an exceptable outcome, there is really no risk, which was the point I was making.
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Old 10-02-23, 10:41 AM
  #44  
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Originally Posted by njkayaker
If failure is an exceptable outcome, there is really no risk, which was the point I was making.
Let's see... spending disposable income on something I enjoy doing, which encourages me to spend a lot more time riding while working with hardware I love to thinker with. ****, sign me in for that cluster fudge!

You know how young people are encourage to join the Peace Corps after college because while they don't pay for it they offer life experiences worth living? I don't think that rationale ever stops. Here is a piece of unsolicited advice; never stop seeking new experiences and personal growth. More often than not they will entail a modicum of risk and often that is indeed a fine price to pay. The alternative is to die years or even decades before your body reaches room temperature.

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Old 10-02-23, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by abdon
Originally Posted by njkayaker
It’s something you want to do, you can afford it, it doesn’t have to make money, and you can easily roll it back.

Do it.
Let's see... spending disposable income on something I enjoy doing, which encourages me to spend a lot more time riding while working with hardware I love to thinker with. $h1t sign me in for that cluster fudge!

You know how young people are encourage to join the Peace Corps after college because while they don't pay for it they offer life experiences worth living? I don't think that rationale ever stops. Here is a piece of unsolicited advice; never stop seeking new experiences and personal growth. More often than not they will entail a modicum of risk and often that is indeed a fine price to pay. The alternative is to die years or even decades before your body reaches room temperature.
Have you figured out that I've encouraged you to do it multiple times already?
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Old 10-02-23, 11:24 AM
  #46  
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Originally Posted by njkayaker
Have you figured out that I've encouraged you to do it multiple times already?
You really feel you are the encouraging type? No offense but if you plan on having kids you may want to let your wife handle that part of the talking
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Old 10-02-23, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by abdon
You really feel you are the encouraging type? No offense but if you plan on having kids you may want to let your wife handle that part of the talking
I guess you want people to blow smoke up your butt.

Talking about ridiculous reasons why it's going to be "successful" is encouraging but it's misleading: it's not very likely that your venture will be successful in these way. Hobbe's "encouragement" completely ignored the stuff you talked about.

You talked about people being "hung up" on being profitable. I'm like the only person who realized that that wasn't an issue for you and you aren't happy with that either.

Since "failure" is not an issue for you, you can't really fail (the point you keep missing). Being clear about that is more real encouragement then talking about unrealistic results.

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Old 10-02-23, 12:21 PM
  #48  
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Originally Posted by njkayaker
I guess you want people to blow smoke up your butt.
Nope, but pretending your posts are meant to encourage is a whole lot of smoke. It is your opinion and I take zero issues with it, I just find it puzzling that at the end you want to claim it was some sort of encouragement. Really head scratching.
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Old 10-02-23, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by abdon
Nope, but pretending your posts are meant to encourage is a whole lot of smoke. It is your opinion and I take zero issues with it, I just find it puzzling that at the end you want to claim it was some sort of encouragement. Really head scratching.
Still not getting it.

The encouragement you appear to want doesn't seem at all realistic to me. If it's not realistic. it's "encouragement" for the wrong reasons.

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Old 10-02-23, 05:04 PM
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Perhaps consider creating 'The Great Alaskan Tour', which is a two week long, circular tour involving multiple accommodation, and a variety of means of travelling each day. Hiking, Canoeing, Cycling, Minibus, Ferry, Seaplane, etc.
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