Starting a Bike Tour Company
Do you love exploring your home town or popular tourist destinations on your bike? Does it really make your day when you bring a friend along to see the sights? Operating a bike tour company may be right up your alley. Whether you are simply renting bicycles and maps for patrons to use on their own or providing week long personalized guided tours that include meals and lodging, this can be a rewarding business.
Learn how to start your own Bike Tour Company and whether it is the right fit for you.
Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services.
Start a bike tour company by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Bike Tour Company
- Form your Bike Tour Company into a Legal Entity
- Register your Bike Tour Company for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Bike Tour Company
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Bike Tour Company
- Get Bike Tour Company Insurance
- Define your Bike Tour Company Brand
- Create your Bike Tour Company Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your bike tour company. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Bike Tour Company Name Generator
If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
What are the costs involved in opening a bike tour company?
You will need a storefront/bike shop where your bikes will be stored and maintained--rent or mortgage will cost about $30,000/yr. This may not be where your tours begin, so you should have transportation able to carry enough bikes for a group tour--anticipate investing $20,000 for a van. You will need to invest in sturdy bicycles that will stand up to constant use--expect to spend around $1,000 each. There is also the usual costs of business equipment like computers, cell phones, and reliable navigation services. Setting aside $100,000 to cover your first year's operational expenses should get you up and running. If you are opening a party-bike tour, you should be able to cut your investment in half.
What are the ongoing expenses for a bike tour company?
You might think you will be living outside and won't accumulate much in the way of operational expenses. This is not true. You will need to maintain and replace your fleet bicycles, have an office support team, and keep your van operational.
Who is the target market?
You will have two major age demographics to target. Young millenials and empty-nesters are free to explore the world at their own pace. If you are located on the seashore, you will be targeting families looking for a value bike rental for a couple hours. The millenials and baby-boomers have extra cash to spend and would like to invest in a complete experience that features a tour guide, picnics, and an insightful discussion of locations. They may be interested in overnight expeditions or more physically challenging tours.
How does a bike tour company make money?
Your services are for rent, even if you are simply renting a bicycle for a day-tourist to use on their own. They may pay you by the hour, day, or for a specified guided tour package that includes meals and lodging. You need to generate enough rentals to make a profit on the cost of the bicycles, their maintenance, and your payroll costs.
How much can you charge customers?
Simple bike rentals without a tour run around $10/hr. Guided tours in groups of 15-20 might charge $40-$60 per person for an afternoon adventure. Guided overnight expeditions that include hotel and meals run around $300-$500 per person per day. Camping experiences will charge $100-$200 less per day.
How much profit can a bike tour company make?
Your profit lies in charging an hourly rate for your tour guide's abilities above and beyond the costs of the bike, food, and lodging. Your successful bike tour company should be able to generate up to $200,000 per year in net profit when your reservation calendar is full.
How can you make your business more profitable?
The biggest profits will come by bundling activities for your customers and including all of the costs in a single, attractive package. An all-inclusive adventure is appealing to professionals seeking a temporary escape, and they are willing to pay a premium for the experience.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your bike tour company is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN through the IRS website. If you would like to learn more about EINs, read our article, What is an EIN?
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a bike tour business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Certificate of Occupancy
Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a bike tour business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your bike tour business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
To avoid liability and potential lawsuits, bike tour businesses should have their clients sign waivers.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
FInd out what types of insurance your Bike Tour Company needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Bike Tour Company.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a bike tour company
Conventions are a rapidly growing opportunity for service oriented businesses, like yours. Set up a table at travel seminars, hand out brochures as an option for honeymooners and take out print advertisements on websites and catalogues of outdoor equipment retailers. Encourage advanced registration to improve follow through of the customer's intention.
How to keep customers coming back
Your customers will choose your bike tour over a bus when they get to experience parts of the destination commonly skipped by big box tours. You will need to focus on every facet that will be different on the bike path compared to just another tourist destination, raising its perceived value. Your customers will return when they have a fun and uplifting experience due to your exceptional customer service, unique knowledge, and enthusiasm for sharing their vacation. Don't forget to switch up your bike paths to give returning customers a different tour.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.
Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
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Is this Business Right For You?
If you are going to run a one-man show, you will need to be physically fit, have fantastic people skills, and enjoy managing the many facets of your business. If you are operating a large tourist attraction, the right owner will have a good background in business management with a focus on the service industry.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a bike tour company?
From the time the sun rises, your bike tour company may:
- Take reservations for future tours
- Explore the nearby area to determine safe and accessible bike routes for your patrons
- Maintain your fleet of bicycles
- Size your guests for proper safety equipment such as helmets, knee, and elbow pads
- Network with local restaurants, campgrounds, and B&B's who can accommodate and serve your customers who wish to do multi-day tours
- Provide roadside assistance for self-guided tourists who encounter mechanical problems with their bicycles
- Research the history of destinations to provide an insightful narrative during the tour
- Standard business practices such as taking payments, balancing the books, processing payroll, etc.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful bike tour company?
Your personal experience will be your most valuable asset when establishing a bike tour business in a popular tourist area, such as national parks, natural wonders, or scenic paths. Your knowledge of unique look-outs, the best place to grab lunch, or the most remote camping spot can build a loyal following of fellow bike enthusiasts and help promote your business. It will also be a huge boost to have a tour guide with an naturally outgoing personality who loves to talk to people as much as explore their world on a bike. On the marketing side, you will need to target your market through shrewd placement of ads on travel sites and by attending travel conventions.
What is the growth potential for a bike tour company?
Most bike tour companies rely on the local sights and attractions to generate business, making expansion a more difficult endeavor unless you find a second market that needs your bike tours. Urban based companies are able to offer "party-bikes" which offer alcoholic beverages as the 10 to 15 people on board pedal their way through local streets. If you create a unique entertainment experience through use of comedy or music, it is possible to duplicate the business in more locations.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a bike tour company?
Know your location. If there is no constant inflow of tourists, it will be harder to sustain the business. Network through the travel industry reaching out to local B&B's, hotels, and visitor's centers to spread the word about your business. Don't forget to optimize your social media presence, as well.
How and when to build a team
Planning your tours is as important as reaching out to new customers. You may wish to have a partner where one of you will be the tour guide expert and the other handles the marketing aspects of the business. Bring them on board at the beginning.