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Would renting a touring bike in SF and dropping it off in LA interest you?

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Would renting a touring bike in SF and dropping it off in LA interest you?

Old 07-18-10, 07:51 PM
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Would renting a touring bike in SF and dropping it off in LA interest you?

As I see it, putting a bike on an airplane costs near $100 (each way) depending on which airline you fly on. Add to that the hassle of packing the bike up, acquiring a proper box, and getting it to and from the airport. Then there is getting all your extra bike touring gear (panniers, handlebar bag, tent, stove, clothes, repair kit, extra parts, etc) which likely has to be checked for even more airline charges.

The out of pocket airline fees, using the above rates, are $270 (2 x $100 for the bike and 2 x $35 for the checked bag). Let's say the hassle factor is about the same, making cost of bringing your own bike at about $550.

Given that, I got to wondering how much, if anything, someone would be willing to pay to pick up a quality (used) touring bike (LHT, say) all racked up and ready to tour in San Francisco, ride it down to LA in less than 2 weeks, and leave it at a designated place (for shipment back to SF later)?

Using the above cost figure, can anyone imagine spending $550 for this service?

Note that this fee would only cover the bike and shipping it back to SF. It wouldn't cover anything else, such as, food, campground/motel fees, panniers, camping gear, etc. For the purposes of this exercise, we are talking about a self-supported bike tour (But, if bikes could be rented, why not all the rest of the gear?).

I realize that many of the people on this list (myself included) wouldn't consider using this service. Though, even with an S&S coupled bike that fits into an airline regulation case, I had to fork over $120 to United to fly my bike and gear to and from my recent bike tour.

I'm more interested in the responses of people who might consider using such a service and whether such a fee is seen as reasonable or not.

Note that supported tours that run from Monterey to Paso Robles start at $1,000 and go up from there. These tour require you have to bring your own bike, which is where all this started.

Thanks,

Ray
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Old 07-18-10, 08:38 PM
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I think your rate is too high. Traveling inside the U.S. I would not fly with the bike. I would pre ship it. The cost of that would not be more than $100 each way. Probably closer to $80 each way.

If you credit card tour, your baggage charge on the airlines will be zero. Throw some gear into the bike box that is pre shipped and carry on the rest. It works I have done it. Even if you check a bag for $35, that is $70 RT. So at the high end you are around $270.

Plus you really can't add in the check bag charge anyway. Rental bike or no rental bike, if you bring camping gear you will have to check a bag.


Maybe $300 - $350 would be worth the price to not have to ship your bike and risk possible damage.

The other problem is that people will want to make this trip at different rates. Some might want to do it in a few days, others a couple of weeks.


One way to make the business a bit more cost effective is to have enough bikes so they can collect at LA then ship them all back at once. Maybe you could offer a big discount for those that want to go south to north.


$550 might be a reasonable price for those coming outside the US.
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Old 07-18-10, 08:47 PM
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Wouldn't be worth much to me since I take my Bike Friday on trips where I want to use plane travel. And for return travel from LA it's pretty inexpensive to rent a car at the airport and return it at one of the Bay Area airports.

But I remember that there was such a service offered by the bike shops in Jasper and Banff in Canada for people wanting to tour between those two towns in the Rockies. The bikes came equipped with racks, pumps, mini toolkit, and maybe panniers. Don't know if they still offer that service or what the price would be.
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Old 07-18-10, 10:30 PM
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I don't think anyone would want to make that kind of trip on someone else's bicycle. That's the kind of ride that one would do on a bike they know and trust.
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Old 07-18-10, 10:46 PM
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I'd consider it. The price seems high -- probably needs to be under $400 to be attractive to people, over that you start thinking about how to get your own bike there and back...
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Old 07-18-10, 10:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Rip Van Winkle
I don't think anyone would want to make that kind of trip on someone else's bicycle. That's the kind of ride that one would do on a bike they know and trust.
and what are the chances you would actually ever see your bike again? You would have to hold a deposit equal to or greater than the value of the bike. sounds risky to me. I'm not that trusting. Also don't like the idea of someone getting their but sweat all over my Brooks. Indecent proposal. Just pay the cash to ship. The odds of receivership will be much better.

Last edited by BWF; 07-18-10 at 11:02 PM.
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Old 07-19-10, 06:20 AM
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No. I think you might have half a chance at a few rentals a year if you rented for the whole Pacific Coast route, and for less $. But for $550 you're approaching the cost of a tour bike.
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Old 07-19-10, 07:15 AM
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nope
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Old 07-19-10, 07:38 AM
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Even if I shipped both ways.... including bike, and most my gear stuffed in the box. I would guess at worst case I'm looking at between 125-150 each way. So unless a rental was less than $300 it just doesn't make sense for ME. Plus, I get to have my bike for an unlimited amount of time. I know every part of it and what condition it's in.
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Old 07-19-10, 08:01 AM
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I think the market for this would be international tourists mainly, especially Germans. Also, $500 feels high for just the bike rental, but international tourists using euros with the good exchange rate might pay it. The trick is to have a good website, possibly in other languages, too.

From a biz standpoint, makes more sense to have another person in L.A. that will receive the bikes, and then rent both ways (i.e., "turn" the bikes and have someone else pay to ride back to SF to avoid shipping costs).

Don't forget that you'll need to get liability insurance. As soon as you rent something to somebody you are opening yourself up for a lot of liability if something goes wrong. They are riding down a big hill on the coast highway and the chain jams from an overshift and they crash bad. Guess who is going to get sued?
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Old 07-19-10, 08:05 AM
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Also, a quick check on the Web shows that you could rent a full-on touring Harley motorcycle for a week one-way from SF to LA for $800 :-)
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Old 07-19-10, 03:23 PM
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They would have to pay me to ride it south to north and I sure don't feel like riding some strange bike 500 miles on the spur of the moment.By the time I got the seat and handlebars dialed in,I'd be in L.A.,hating bicycles.

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Old 07-19-10, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by raybo
As I see it, putting a bike on an airplane costs near $100 (each way) depending on which airline you fly on. Add to that the hassle of packing the bike up, acquiring a proper box, and getting it to and from the airport. Then there is getting all your extra bike touring gear (panniers, handlebar bag, tent, stove, clothes, repair kit, extra parts, etc) which likely has to be checked for even more airline charges.

he out of pocket airline fees, using the above rates, are $270 (2 x $100 for the bike and 2 x $35 for the checked bag). Let's say the hassle factor is about the same, making cost of bringing your own bike at about $550.
???

People are going to have to pay for the checked bag regardless of whether they rent a bike. This means that this cost should be removed from your two scenarios (because both incur the same cost for this).

I wonder what it would cost to take a bus back with the bike (and how long it would take).
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Old 07-19-10, 07:02 PM
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this person's been selling these on the local craigslist for awhile now.....https://sfbay.craigslist.org/scz/bik/1843029529.html
roughly the same amount you suggested for a rental, so I'd say $550 is real high.
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Old 07-19-10, 07:22 PM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker
I wonder what it would cost to take a bus back with the bike (and how long it would take).
$42 - $60 depending on the reservation and the trip takes about 10 hours. And you need to pack the bike in a box. I haven't been charged extra for a bike yet on Greyhound, but that may change seeing how the airlines have changed their baggage policies.
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Old 07-20-10, 10:48 AM
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$150-$200 maybe. Not $550.

Hassle factor is about 2 hours of my time each way, so lets say $100 round trip. Even at $100 each way, that maxes out at $300. But, the airlines that serve my area only charge $50 each way, so drop it to $200. I've never paid to check a bag except for my bike.

At that, tooling with my bike is kind of fun, and I know my bike, its history, and maintenance well. Cut the convenience factor in half, leaving only $150.

I'm not saying such a service shouldn't be available, but base your business model on a realistic price. Realise that many cyclists will value the convenience at $0, so you have to be directly competing with shipping costs. One of my friends forked over €250 to fly a bike home from Germany, so the German market might be willing to pay more....but you're still competing against buying a bike, and $550 may still not be economical. That high of a price will probably restrict your market to a very small niche...still functional as a side business, but not really a full time job.

The real money in rentals is 1-2 day rentals for $25-$40 per day, since this competes well against bringing your own on trips where riding is a small side attraction.

Last edited by neil; 07-20-10 at 10:58 AM.
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Old 07-20-10, 11:01 AM
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Yeah I would suggest a different business model: buy a metric crapton of bikes, or make a deal with someone in the opposite city, and rent bikes out. Tourers can rent a bike, ride it to the other end, and drop it off. Someone at that end can rent it and ride it back.

The bike shops along the Katy Trail make tons of money doing this.

The catch is, you gotta be along a route where people want to travel both ways.
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Old 07-20-10, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker
I would pre ship it.
This might not be the thread for this, but WHERE do you ship it? To whom? Friends, or is there a package-receiving service, or what?

Seriously.
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Old 07-20-10, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by So Many Roads
This might not be the thread for this, but WHERE do you ship it? To whom? Friends, or is there a package-receiving service, or what?

Seriously.
I'd consider two options. If planning to stay at a hotel in the starting city then ask about the option to have the bike shipped to them and held until you arrive. Do this at the time of making a reservation so if they don't agree you can switch to a different hotel that's more amenable. Second option is to check with bike shops in the area. This would be especially useful if you'd also want them to reassemble the bike (for an agreed-upon cost) so it's ready to ride when you arrive.
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Old 07-20-10, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by So Many Roads
This might not be the thread for this, but WHERE do you ship it? To whom? Friends, or is there a package-receiving service, or what?

Seriously.
Bike shop.

Hotel.

Friend.

Branch office of the company you work for.

Locally owned package service.
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Old 07-20-10, 12:29 PM
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I concur that $550 is going to be too much.

Heck, I could buy a really good flat-bar hybrid bike with low gearing for $500 in SF and donate it when I get to LA.

Unfortunately I can also see how $500+ is the minimum that you could charge and have it be worth your while as an independent business. A more realistic setup is that you organize credit-card tours in Marin, Napa, Sonoma etc, and renting the bike is part of your business.
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Old 07-26-10, 05:31 PM
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nope.

can anyone imagine thinking that they would show up to an unknown bike, sizing could be weird, mechanical shape unknown, seat an unknown....

touring is lots of things, but one of them is the relationship you have with your bike as you move through an environment. Your own bike fits you, it does what you expect of it, it shifts when you want it too, you know the gearing, you know what it will do on a good downhill...

would be like renting a wife for a trip overseas (sort of)
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Old 07-26-10, 06:04 PM
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Yes, I think this could fly! In my mind it would be just slightly different than your original plan.

There are thousands of backpackers in San Francisco right now with wallets full of cash and a desire to see Highway 1. What better way to see it than on a bike? Post fliers in the youth hostels and cheap hotels promoting the Self-guided coastal tour with a beautiful photo and links to a website, and you will sell it to the young Europeans who are getting tired of expensive hotels and rental cars. When you consider they are paying at least $50 per day per person for a hotel, plus a car rental, I think your price is not out of line. From their perspective they would be saving money if they were to camp in the hiker-biker sites.

Of course, you'd have to offer panniers and camping gear in addition to the bikes... at an additional cost. You could follow the Cruise America and El Monte RV model by charging a flat rental fee plus a per day fee which includes bike and panniers, then offer a camping package as an additional option. Name brand bikes and gear would not be necessary. Cheap, sturdy models along with inexpensive panniers would do the trick.

They could return the bikes by dropping them off at REI. REI will box them and ship them to the San Francisco REI for a fee.... I think it is somewhere in the range of $75 shipping plus a bit for boxing.

This could certainly work. I would imagine the key would be to get them started and out on the road. Give them the option to extend from the road because, as we all know, touring is addictive.

Go for it!
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Old 07-26-10, 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by djb
would be like renting a wife for a trip overseas (sort of)
This. I built my bike with my own two hands, and I wouldn't dare tour on anything else.
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Old 07-26-10, 08:55 PM
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Your fee seems high compared to some other substitutions that people can do.

It isn't SFO to LA, but I'm planning a ride from Eugene, OR to SFO. I agree that flying can be a hassle, so I looked at two other alternatives for getting back home: (1) renting a mid-size SUV in San Jose and returning to Portland costs $250. Add to that costs of gas. (2) Amtrak costs $102 for coach and add $20 for bike and box. Depending on whether you are riding with several people can make different tradeoffs there.

The distance from SFO to LAX is shorter than distance from Portland/Eugene so the costs there are even less (e.g. LAX to SJC on Amtrak is $65).

So I think for this to fly, you need to bundle it as more than a bike delivery or rental service - since the $550 price point will get compared against other delivery and rental options. Either you start putting in some level of guide/SAG or other type service. If someone is self-sufficient enough to do their own tour, trip and timing in riding from SFO to LAX, then they'll be proficient enough to figure out how to get themselves and bicycle back as well. I would instead go after the market of folks that haven't quite realised it is possible to do their own adventure touring along a beautiful piece of coastline and give them just enough additional "value" (e.g. guides, "pre-planned adventure route sheets" - even if folks don't have to follow them, SAG support, etc) and then bundle in the (one-way) bike rental as an additional thing you can make money on.
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