Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wanna Borrow My Bike?

Well now you can!* For a small fee, of course ;)
 *well, not this bike.

...Let me back up here;

Say (for some God-forsaken reason) you wanted to come to South Bend, Indiana and while you were here, you wanted to go go mountain biking on one of our many local trails. Well, as I learned on my recent "business" trip to Colorado, sometimes even the idea of schlepping your bike across the country just to ride it for one or two days is kind of a pain in the ass. In my case, I honestly did not think that I would have any free time to ride so rather than taking my bike with me, I left it at home. Only to find that my Mother had a bitchin trail within ear shot of her house, and I was without a bike. So with no bike, and the local bike shop closed, I instead took to the local brewery. This doesn't have to be the case for you (unless you would rather hang out at a brewery, in which case I won't judge).

I am certainly aware that larger cities present you with many more options when it comes to renting bikes but let's face it, you are not always visiting bigger cities. This is not a big city by any means but being near a large University, we get people in from out of town all the time who want to rent bikes. Problem is, only one shop around here actually rents bikes, and most of them are 26" cruisers. So, for the most part, the guy who wants to go on a nice long ride on the Friday before the 'big game' is out of luck.  ...in that case, there is Spinlister.

Bike sharing and rental are not new ideas and both have their merits. They also have their pitfalls. Bike sharing can be paid for annually or per hour, but the bikes...   ...oh the bikes:

Sometimes, you arrive at a bike share docking station, only to find no bikes at all. Often, the one or two bikes left are left in disrepair. A necessary evil for some, it is not my idea of a good thing to spend my money on.  

Bike rental can be affordable too as you usually only pay for the service as you use it. While a rental fleet may offer limited selection, at least you can be sure they are shop quality bikes that are well maintained.

Liability is likely the biggest reason why smaller bike shops do not want to rent. This point is not lost on potential renters either. Not everyone wants the liability of a $5,000 bike on their hands if God-forbid, something bad happens. While Spinlister still requires you incur any costs associated with damage to someones bike, this seems to me like it offers a potential middle ground between a quality bicycle and peace of mind. Meaning, many of the bikes I have seen so far look like quality, used bikes that would offer what you are looking for at a price that is reasonable.

Like the Bike Rumor comment section, I too had some questions. Albeit mine were not the angry, incredulous, "this is a stupid idea" questions.

Calm down sir.

This isn't about "whoring out" your most beloved bikes. I mean, you can list your high-end bike if you want. They insure you for up to $10,000 if the bike gets stolen, damaged, etc... (the video says $5,000 but read the terms of service or visit the website)

That's the right attitude. Like many others who subscribe to the N+1 theory I have some extra bikes hanging around that could do me a favor and start making me some money.

So I joined Spinlister a couple of weeks ago to see what it was all about.

Naturally, I started by signing up. At first it was because of a desire to learn more about the service by reading the user agreements myself. Plus, I wanted to see if anyone was really using it.

With this I was pleasantly surprised. Though concentrated in highly populated areas, the service has reached cities both big and small across the United States and the world. What impressed me though was mere minutes after signing up, before even perusing the whole map, I received an email from an actual person which basically said, "Welcome... If you have any questions, please ask!" As I did have questions, I was sure to ask. We traded emails back and forth all day and he even sent me PDF files in regards to policies including the $10,000 insurance, Renter's Agreement and Fees. 

Yes, there are fees. Spinlister is free to sign up and use until you make money at which time they take 17.5% of income generated via the service. Sounds like a lot until you consider the many facets of the work being done behind the scenes. They handle all the contracts, securities, and liabilities. They maintain both an app and a website. Pus, they provide an interface for users to communicate with one another. With all of that in mind, it is important to remember that this is not a "get rich quick" service. It is simply a vehicle (pun intended) for turning your unused fleet into some folding money. 

So, who is renting your bike? Who are you renting from? A valid concern for sure. Spinlister makes signing up very easy so ANYONE can use it. Now if you are anything like me, you are reluctant to let just ANYONE rent your bike. Spinlister takes some of the worry out of this by verifying users based on the social media accounts they use, and mobile phone verification. Giving you a better sense of who you are dealing with. The idea being, the more verification options, the better the chance you are dealing with a decent human being...
...Like this guy.

The bikes range from fixies, to road bikes to mountain and folding bikes. Every bike that is submitted is manually approved by a real life person. This is a valuable portion of the service as it limits the amount of riff-raff that can be listed. That said, not every bike is a winner. My concern in that case is the fact that not everyone is a professional bike mechanic which makes me wonder how many of these bikes are less than ideal from a mechanical standpoint. Now, do you always need a race ready rig? Or do you just need a fixie to cruise around town? Meaning, sometimes the prices are justified based on the type of bike and the usage.
Regardless, you can search the pictures for yourself and contact the Lister with questions you may have. Using good judgement, one should be able to tell which bike offers what they are looking for at a fair price.

What's in it for me? Well, nothing. Spinlister has not reached out to me for an endorsement, nor have they offered me any compensation for my honest opinion. I, in no way, owe them ANYTHING. In fact, when I reached out to them, they asked me what my "angle is."
 I laughed a little, but then I assured them of my intentions:
While I talk shit about a lot of bike related things, I honestly believe this is a cool product that has amazing potential. If my writing about it on my shitty blog is helpful, then it is the least I could do to help.

To whit, while I am not yet willing to rent out my "Precious"

I have entrusted the service with my hand built TT bike ridden by Tom Doughty in his bid for the 1980 Olympics.
Now "modernized," it is a full on race ready bike. Whether you are looking to race at Steelhead or compete in the Pokagon time trial series, if you are headed this way... you can borrow my bike

Want to try it for yourself? Click the Icon below to get started!

Only time will tell if this was a good idea but Yea or Nay, I will keep you posted.
In the mean time,
If I missed anything, or you have questions, I would direct you to the comment section below in which I am inviting them to participate.