Business Overview

Bike rental businesses give customers—who are often, but not necessarily, tourists—bicycles for a short period. Bikes are generally rented for a few hours to recreationally explore the locality. But the customer base might also consist of college students on campus or others who rent for practical reasons. Your business might be a freestanding shop, part of a bike sales and service operation or associated with a hotel or other hospitality business.

Who is this business right for?

Bike rental business owners should be mechanically adept, since customers can be hard on bikes. Also, since bikes are often rented to explore the immediate area, you should be highly familiar with your home base and able to suggest tourist attractions. You should have an engaging personality and be motivated to deliver exceptional customer service.

You must also be based in an environment where your customers will want to rent bikes. This usually means a tourist venue and an inviting landscape for bikers—not too hilly or congested. The terrain should be bike-friendly, with wide streets or bike lanes, or bike paths, for the safety and enjoyment of your customers.

What happens during a typical day at a bike rental business?

Most of your days’ activities will involve customer contact. You’ll rent them bikes and close transactions upon bike returns. Here’s how your typical day might break down:

  • Rent bikes for customers or groups, after first making sure the vehicles are in good operating condition. Make customers sign liability waivers and get cash deposits and credit card information to ensure bike returns. Answer questions about location and destination attractions, and try to upsell water bottles, maps, t-shirts, power bars or other displayed merchandise.
  • Prep bikes mechanically, making minor repairs for rental availability.
  • Schedule staff, which might include at least one bike mechanic.
  • Inspect bikes upon return and determine whether customers should be billed for damages.
  • Regularly update your social media, with destination photos and news.

What is the target market?

Your customers are likely to be vacationers who appreciate an active lifestyle. They’re likely unfamiliar with the region, eager to be involved with your establishment and very receptive to your advice on sights to see or avoid. You should also be receptive to their after-ride reviews, as these often offer helpful feedback, including what attractions you may want to add to your list of recommended sites.

How does a bike rental business make money?

You’ll rent bikes on an hourly or flat fee basis, or a combination of both. Some bike rental establishments also sell merchandise related to biking or area tourism (mugs, water bottles, t-shirts, etc.) You might also consider selling your fleet bikes when they’ve been replaced by newer models.

What is the growth potential for a bike rental business?

The bare essentials of a bike rental business are a station to store and repair bikes and conduct business, a small fleet of bikes, and seasonal employees at or near minimum wage. You could hire one mechanic to service bikes at multiple locations, or assume the responsibility yourself if you’re so inclined. Therefore, expansion is relatively easy once you’ve figured out how to successfully run one location.