Live Green Twin Cities: Need a bike on an out-of-town vacation? Velolet gives you pedal power

July 5, 2011
by Sarah Askari

Green living is about making connections. Connecting the way your food is grown to the conditions of nearby waterways. Connecting the way your community uses energy to the quality of the air. And connecting your means of transportation with the footprint you leave behind. Now, a new website created by a local entrepreneur connects travelers with rental bikes in faraway cities. It’s called Velolet, and it could be the tool you need to get out and explore the countryside around an unfamiliar city with minimal inconvenience and maximum enjoyment.

Longtime cyclist Dan Cleary got the idea for the company he founded after “dealing with frustration when I travel.” It’s possible to bring a bike on a plane…but the extra fees will kill you, if the hassle of trying to maneuver a mountain bike as if it’s a suitcase doesn’t get you first. Meanwhile, in areas blessed with plenty of tourist-friendly bike paths, bike shop owners were sitting with an inventory of rental bikes but no simple way to get them into the hands of faraway consumers. Keeping track of inventory, working out the terms and conditions of service, and concerns about liability exposure kept lots of independent shops out of the game.

Enter Velolet.

Read more here

Interbike 2010

Overwhelming.  Thats the word that came to mind upon entering the show.  Its like the Santa’s workshop for cycling addicts.  Wall to wall the Sands Expo was filled to the rafters with everything bike.  Every size, shape, material, color of bike and every accessory imaginable was there.  Combine that with all the bike industry folks and superstar appearances and it was simply amazing.

While Velolet wasn’t quite ready for primetime, the goal for us was to do some real primary research and test our concept for bike rental out on people that understand the underpinnings of the industry.  Well, what we got back was nothing less than spectacular.  Lots of people shared their thoughts and that is going to really help us cover all our bases when we push our Bike Rental Hub out later this year.

The best part of the 3 day event was the 30 minutes that Greg Lemond spent with me talking about the concept.  He got it immediately, having other cyclist rent their bike to other traveling cyclists.  It really made us feel like we were on to something.

Overall, everyone we talked to (100s of people), we got great feedback.  Now, we know some people were just being nice but there was a lot of sincerity on the part of many others.

Can’t wait to launch the bike rental hub and get us on the map so next year at Interbike 2012, we’re not pitching the idea but talking about the success of the company.  Go Velolet!

Bike Rental Hub Website – Initial Framework Complete

After loads of early morning working session and lots of after-work coding, the basics of the website are up.  Its rough but we have the initial design of Velolet – the bike rental hub up and running.  Now its time to dig into the details and get it ready for primetime.  Listers (Individuals and Local Bike Shops who rent their bikes out) can now list their bike for rent.  Renters (travelers who want to rent a bike) can now search for bikes that are available to rent.

Next up is refining and putting some real design look and feel to the site.

The Ebay Proxy

So I want to rent a bike but need to find exactly what I’m looking for in a bike. Wait, how is shopping for a rental any different than shopping for a purchase. Well, I guess if I needed to purchase, I’d be specific but why not be specific and see what comes close for the rental.

Hey, I already do that when I’m out on Ebay. I filter things down to my brands, size, availability, price… so, why not apply the same to rentals?

What about transaction protection for the buyer and seller. Ebay solved it. Escrows and Insurance. Why shouldn’t that be the same for a rental. Everyone that has rented a vehicle has the option to purchase insurance. Same goes with a Bike Rental. What about payment upon satisfaction. Solved with the holding pattern escrow.

The Facebook $175 One-way Outrage

Log on to Facebook today and there is a “suggested” Page for me to join. “Fight the $175 page United Airlines is Ridiculous to Charge $175 Each Way to Travel With a Bike”

My reaction (besides same with Delta), was how is it that anyone can afford to pay $350 round trip to bring their bike and not only that, the hassle of packing it and making sure you didn’t forget the tools needed to put it back together.

Not mention, all those baggage handlers tossing the fine carbon fiber around.

Sitting at the Airport

I’m heading off to the airport for a 3 day business trip knowing next week’s race is a wash. Why? Well, as is typical, I’ll arrive in San Diego later this morning, head to my meetings and while I’ll be available to ride, I’ve got no real good option to get on a set of wheels and pedal for a bit. I’ll be sitting in a cycling mecca and not able to get a ride in because of all the hassles with shipping my bike (the effort and the $350 out of pocket).

Even if I don’t ship the bike, bike shops aren’t focused on rentals for more than the beach cruisers. Not to mention, they’re open/close times of 10am – 6pm doesn’t really fly because I don’t get out until 4:30pm and my flight leaves at 7am.

So, I’ll convince myself I’ll carry my fitness into next week while I sit on the broken down, big seated Lifecycle in the smelly hotel gym….

Bike Rental Shop

Me: “Hi, I’m calling to ask if you rent bikes?”

Bike Shop Guy: “Um, let me check”

Let you check, huh? What does that mean?

Bike Shop Guy: [pause] “Uh yeah we have bikes to rent”

Me: “Ok, any details”

Bike Shop Guy: “Um, let me check”

Bike Shop Guy: [5minutes later…] ok so we have a Trek hybrid size 16 available and thats $35/day or $32/week… we also have a …. we also have a…

Me: Ok, I’ll reserve the Trek hybrid 16″.

Arrive at the shop at 4:30pm the next day, its not ready and have to wait 30min for the quick bike check. Not only that, the shop closes at 6pm so I’m paying $35 for an hour’s ride on a hybrid. Maybe I can keep it and take a couple hour ride in the morning and drop it off before my flight. Nope. Flight leaves at 9am but the shop doesn’t open until 10am.

I’m a cyclist. Maybe not a pro but at least like to play the part. All I’m asking for is a little help here. Is there some way when I can’t bring my own bike that I can sneak in a ride on a decent bike. It doesn’t have to be a top of the line ride but just something to keep the fitness up.

Vacation Rental Advertisement

So I’m going through the classifieds and websites looking for a spring house rental property to get away from the cold winter weather. Also thinking about how I get somewhere and find some place so I can ride while I’m there.

I head out to some of the better known sites for housing rental and I start to filter into something that fits my ideal location. I start thinking, wait, why can’t I do this with a bike rental. Why is it any different. People are out there renting out their extra house so why not rent out their extra bikes. They’re sitting there in the stable of bikes collecting dust. While you might not rent out the A bike… you do have the B, C, D… rides that are perfect.