HOW TO START A BIKE RENTAL BUSINESS
We have 14 years of experience helping people start up bike rental and bike loaner programs and businesses. Give a good skim to our best bike rental business tips and you’ll save loads of time and avoid some common bike biz startup mistakes.
No Matter What Else You Do…Reserve Your Local Bike Rental Domain Immediately
While you learn how to start a bike rental business make the first step count. Be the first place people look for bike rentals in your area. In other words “own the search terms for your location”. This is super easy; just order a domain and host a small referral site, about an hours work to get set up. Even if you aren’t sure you are starting a rental biz SEE HOW and WHY HERE.
Pick the Right Equipment
Your bikes and accessories should be rental grade and proven in the rental market. Browsing our packages to see what’s working for others will save you money and time. See what other businesses like yours picked for their inventory.
What Makes a Bike Business Fun and Profitable?
QUICK RETURN ON INVESTMENT / $9-$15 per hour per bike
Start a bike rental business today, and within a very short period of time you can be making a healthy profit. Low overhead, fast startup. Very little is needed; just the bikes and a few accessories for a quick start approach. Bike rental rates typically range from $9-$15 an hour so a return on your investment can be fast.
RELAXING WORK / Make Your Own Hours
Running a bike business is pretty low key. You’ll decide what hours are peak, yes or no to deliveries, what “style” rental company you are, and everything else. Most people renting a bike are having a bit of fun on holiday doing something they don’t do much at home.
LOTS OF LOCATION OPTIONS / Choose Wisely
Bike rentals take place in all kinds of interesting places. Beaches, quaint villages, campgrounds, along greenways and scenic paths, at resorts and hotels, car-less islands, busy tourism oriented cities, etc. If you don’t have your own location, partner with a business that does. BETTER yet, focus on delivery. Buy your area domain, get a website set up, and start reserving and delivering bikes almost overnight.
What are the Most Common Startup Mistakes?
The most common mistakes are buying too much stuff, paying too much for stuff, or not doing your homework. There are lots of ways to mess with your profits and success, so take a few minutes to skim the items below, and consider yourself a little better prepared.
Mistake- Poor Location
Strong Online Presence Important
It is much, much better to operate your business online than to spend time and resources looking for the perfect location. Reserve your domain, set up a website and start renting and delivering bikes directly to your customers. Our preference is to operate primarily with a strong online presence; grabbing up search traffic and rentals, supported by truck based delivery.
Visible Drive By Important
When possible having the additional advantage of a highly visible walk up rental location is just icing on the cake. If you don’t have a good spot for people to see your bikes, be creative and rent a bit of visual real estate from someone who does. In other words, don’t under-estimate the added benefit and importance of walk-by “ready to rent” traffic, but don’t focus on it exclusively or even first.
Mistake- Expensive Start Up Bike Inventory
Proven Equipment is a MUST
Make absolutely sure the brand you are looking at is PROVEN in the rental industry. There are lots of bikes out there, but only a few can really take the beating. You need a good, solid, attractive, beach bike with quality components, and some very basic options. You do not need top of the line cruisers or mountain bikes that will cause you financial and emotional distress when bent, broken, stolen, lost or not taken care of in some other way.
Low Cost Fast Return is a MUST
Start up bikes should pay for themselves in 2 weeks of renting at 50% vacancy. If you overbuy, you are much less likely to cover your capital costs quickly. Remember, you want a high quality bike that is still low cost enough to give you almost immediate cash flow so you can respond to the market when demand increases.
Mistake- The Wrong Bike Inventory
Don’t Buy the Wrong Sizes for Your Audience
Typically you will need a few sizes, and some flexibility in your inventory. Consider making a generous portion of your lineup unisex bikes, but in a guy friendly color, to give you the broadest customer fit options. Unisex bikes fit small to regular size guys, most girls, teens, and most seniors. Get a few full size men’s for the bigger guys if you think you’ll need them, and some 24″ unisex bikes for the smaller women and tweens. Throw in a few kid friendly equipment choices like a Tug a Bug, Trailer Tot, and Baby Seat and you’re good to go. Use our Bike Size Guide to see common choices by business type.
Mistake- Too Many Accessories
Get Only What You Need to Earn the Most Revenue Quickly
We’d love to sell them to you but when you are just getting started, you only need a few upsell items like tag-a-longs, kid trailers, and baby seats. Don’t go overboard; get one or two of what you need then ask us to send you more when you know you can rent it. We want you to be on the phone yelling, I need 5 more baby seats, not sitting there in your shop looking at the stack you ordered and wishing you didn’t buy them.
Safety Stuff is Critical
There are few accessories related to rider safety you will want to at least consider, and we’ve outlined those below in the section titled Mistake- Thinking Your Renters Can Ride a Bike Well.
Mistake- Forgetting Convenience Accessories
Riders Expect Some Basics
There are some things that will make your life easier, or maybe more importantly, that of your customer. You need quick release seat posts for fast, easy adjustment, and so that people renting a bike can share it with their family and resize on the fly. You need some baskets, water bottle holders, definitely helmets, and a good lock for each bike.
Protect Your Investment
We like u-locks for sketchy areas or where bikes must be left out at night, and cable locks with resettable combos which are lighter and more flexible for rental use if you aren’t in a happy-go-bike-stealing kind of place.
Mistake- Thinking Your Renters Can Ride a Bike Well
Your Riders Might Rarely Ride Bikes
Most people who say to themselves “hey I think renting a bike would be fun” probably don’t ride often, and very likely haven’t ridden recently. Serious riders don’t typically ride other people’s bikes, and frequent riders often bring their own. There are exceptions of course but as a general rule, take the education and safety of your renters very seriously. Free Sample Bike Rental Waiver Rental Agreement form for you to use as a good starting place.
Safety Gear Helps Protect You and Your Customer
Renters need to wear helmets, not use a rear baby seat (handlebar mount seats are much more manageable for a less experienced rider), be told where it’s acceptable to ride, and given some tips on more dangerous or challenging areas to keep away from when riding.
Fit Each Rider Then Watch Them Ride
You should carefully adjust rider seats, and then ask them to ride around a protected area. This means Quick Release Seat Posts Adapters will save you TONS of time. It is also nice to have orange safety flags on the back of all bikes, they are very cheap and worth their weight in gold because it really helps vehicles see the biker. This looks kind of festive and helps drivers see cars. People expect a water bottle holder, so consider a handlebar mounted one for safety. Rear-facing mirrors are a nice-to-have.
Mistake- Thinking There Will Be No Repairs
Have Supplies on Hand for Small Repairs to Keep a Bike Rented
Get some tubes, one pump, one entry level tool kit, and unless you want to be hunched over all the time, a tripod stand. If you are in the Caribbean or US desert areas consider thorn resistant tubes, put them on half the bikes and then see if they are the way to go in the future. Put some time aside every day to pump up tires, lube chains, wipe down grips, adjust brakes, replace damaged seats or bent rims, etc.
Mistake- Thinking Alloy Bikes Mean No Rust
Coastal Locations Require Salt Protection for Alloy and Steel Both
Salt is your enemy, but hey most people renting bikes are doing so in seaside areas so salt is also your friend and probably the reason you can think about renting bikes for a living. It’s sad but true, alloy bikes are not the answer to rust free rentals. Alloys are great because they are lighter, and we have alloy bikes in our lineup, BUT for both alloy and steel bikes, the actual metal of the bike is covered by paint….so there’s that. You will see rust on handlebars, the hardware on baskets, your chains, and other miscellaneous exposed items.
General Protection Goes a Long Way
Bikes should really be indoors when not rented out, but that just isn’t practical. You can spray your bikes with a rust inhibitor like Frame Saver but that gets sticky and customers don’t like it. You can upgrade to alloy handlebars for about $40 each, and use rust buster chains for around $10, but really the best plan is to spray your bikes down, wipe them thoroughly with nice soft towels, and then do your lube maintenance. Remember, bikes pay for themselves quickly, so replace the bike if it looks bad, don’t kill yourself with gimmicky treatments, or upgrading too many parts.
Mistake- Not Using BOTH a Waiver and a Rental Agreement
Get Started Using our Handy Waiver and Agreement Sample
Both of these forms are very important and don’t let any rider, regardless of age or number of riders in the party, get on your bikes without signing them. We have a great example of both forms combined into one that we are happy to share with you, just ask. Free Sample Bike Rental Waiver Rental Agreement You will need to have it checked for accuracy and coverage in your state, but it’s a good solid place to start so you don’t have to write it all yourself.
More Possible Mistakes
Here are some other important topics and considerations you don’t want to overlook. We will expand these topics over time, but put them here to jog your thinking. So keep in touch while you think things through and ask for help.
Branding- there may be other places to rent bikes; so decide what will set you apart, making you cooler, more fun, or easier to deal with than your competitors
Signage- you need super obvious, fun, easy to read, call to action signage
Bike Branding- put some form of branding on your bike but DON’T make it embarrassing to ride, people want to look cool on a bike, not like a human banner for your biz
Repeat Business- incentivize another rental in a very short window of expiring time, offer referral gifts
Rental Customer Identification- drivers’ license or some other form of ID, plus the swipe of a credit card towards damages are both CRITICAL
Tracking Your Bikes- track your bikes down to the hour with each bike’s info unique and detailed and consider spray painting a large orange number on the bottom of the seat
Pricing for the Best Yield- this is a huge subject but basically don’t rent all your bikes at a discount for multiple days, then be empty handed for walk-ins
Competitor Research- do a bit of stealth marketing, what are they charging, what equipment, how are they getting the word out
Complimentary Relationships- work with realty companies, popular hangouts, time share resorts, and hotels to get more rentals
Business Expansion- consider deliveries, online reservations, and more than one rental location
Theft and Damage- have extra parts on hand so bikes aren’t down for more than a day, think RENT at all times
If you have questions we didn’t cover here, get in touch! Use our super fast messaging system in the sidebar to ask us for help. We love to give bike rental and bike loaner advice.