If cycling is a passion you’d like to share with others, setting up a bicycle library or bike rental company is a great way to start. Many folks want to take up cycling as a form of outdoor exercise but don’t want to invest in the cost and upkeep of a new bike. If you live in a tourist area, many vacationers appreciate the convenience and novelty of hiring bikes to get around. With careful planning, you could soon have a thriving business.
Choose Your Base and Operating Method
Whether you live in a city centre or rural spot, you can find an area that’s likely to be popular with cyclists. A city centre with a college campus and safe cycle routes is ideal for locals and visitors alike. This type of location might be best-suited for a bicycle library. Bike libraries or bike share schemes tend to operate on a nonprofit basis. Participants pay an annual membership fee and receive a key that unlocks any of the bikes. Some schemes charge an additional fee per rental. Choose easy-to-identify bikes, and put them in conspicuous central bases in major thoroughfares for maximum visibility.
If you plan to operate from a rural or coastal area, a bike rental scheme might work better. To be visible to customers, pick a spot near a popular cycle trail, beachfront, or lakeside, or set up near a parking lot or train station. Whether you choose to hire or buy a local store or operate from a kiosk-style setup, check whether you need a business permit or licence to operate.
Buy Your Stock
Invest in a range of bikes that suit the local terrain. For a city center, keep a simple range of street bikes. For a rural location, a bike selection that lets the whole family ride is ideal. Options include touristy cruisers, fat tires, fun tandems, kids’ bikes in different sizes, and a range of attachments such as trailers and kiddy seats. If you have the funds, include adult trikes and accessible bikes that enable people with disabilities to cycle. Make sure all your bikes are in good, clean, working condition and have safe tires.
Stocking accessories to hire or purchase can boost profits. Cycle helmets, reflective wear, maps, and locks keep your customers and bikes secure. Sales from water bottles and energy bars can also increase revenue. If you have the space, turn a corner of your store into a cafe serving sandwiches, cakes, and drinks to provide a welcome pit stop for customers.
Check out the competition to find the going rate for bike rentals, and choose an hourly, daily, and weekly rate for each type of bike and accessory. The price should depend on your area and the type of customer you want to draw. Discounted family or group rates are a good way to snag eyeballs.
To start, you need a visible location and clear advertising, such as with a sign or chalkboard. If you aren’t close to a main route or trail, leave a brightly painted or yarn-bombed bike in a thoroughfare with a sign pointing to your shop. Set up and maintain a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account for inclusion in your marketing publicity along with your location and contact details. Also, link up with the local tourist board to get a free listing on their website and publications. You can also print off advertising cards to place in hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, sporting good stores, cafes, and transport hubs. Print out flyers to put on car windshields, and use social media to tweet about your offers.
For even more advertising, offer regular specials such as a free helmet hire, free water bottles, or a 10% discount for your first rental. If you have the staff, offer guided bike rides in the area. As a regular item, guided rides could attract repeat customers who like to socialize while exploring. Another way to boost your profile in the cycling community is to run servicing and repair workshops, where people can bring their bikes to learn everything from basic puncture repair to a full service. Contact your local paper to see if they might cover you in a feature for free.
Setting up a business is exciting, especially if it’s your first. But you should also pay attention to the boring details, such as keeping track of your income and expenditures so you can pay taxes without an end-of-year panic.
Although most of your customers are decent folk who just want a fun experience, you should also protect yourself from bicycle theft or costly lawsuits. Taking a deposit for each bike or copying your customer’s credit card details are good ways to discourage theft. Ask customers to sign a waiver form that states they’re riding at their own risk, and take out an insurance policy to stay on the safe side.
Running your own bike library or rental company is a great way to turn your passion into cash while making the world happier and healthier. With the right setup, location, and marketing, plus a fleet of shiny bicycles, you can soon pedal your way to success.