New service hopes to fill long-term bike rental gap

There are several places in town where you can rent a bike to ride around town for the day. But at $30/day and up, bike rental fees add up quickly if you need a ride for a week or more. That’s where Lucas Nivon, founder of Seattle Monthly Bike Rental, comes in.

“I did some research to try to figure out why [such a service] didn’t exist, so I just decided to do it,” said Nivon. For as low as $80/week or $120/month, Nivon will bring a bike to you anywhere within the city limits (must reserve 24 hours in advance). When your rental is over, he’ll come pick it up.

SMBR is not the only source for multi-day bike rentals around town (Montlake Bicycle Shop has multi-day prices. Anyone know of others?). But SMBR’s prices are pretty low because he has low overhead. The bikes are kept in a storage space and, for now, Nivon is the only employee. In fact, the Capitol Hill-based company’s biggest cost is time spent delivering the bikes, Nivon said.

But, then again, it’s also an excuse for him to go for a bike ride across town, a welcome change of pace from his work as a biophysics research fellow at UW. Nivon says he usually rides the rentals to people, then either buses or heads back on foot (though he also has a bike rack on his car).

The biggest hurdle he faced in starting the company was finding a way to insure the venture. But after a lot of digging, he found a firm that would sell him liability insurance for people riding bikes in his fleet.

So far, his biggest source of clients has been people staying in downtown hotels, either for work or for a convention. Through Nivon, they can get quality wheels that go wherever they need or want to go.

I asked Nivon whether he saw the specter of public bike share cutting into his business model. He said the monthly bike rental “kind of lives in a separate ecosystem” than public bikes. For one, the rentals can go where there are no bike share stations, and they have no time limits. They are also sportier than the somewhat clunky public rides, which are designed to fit all sizes of people for short rides.

And yes, Seattle Monthly Bike Rental will operate all winter.

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