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Seattle’s Pedal Anywhere keeps growing its on-demand bike rental business, seeks investors

Pedal Anywhere CEO Zach Shaner with the company’s custom bike-delivering bike. This set-up is a combination of three other local companies: The e-assist motor is from Seattle-based Bike Swift, the trailer base is by Seattle-based CycleFab and the bike racks are from Woodinville-based Sportworks.

You just flew into Seattle, made your way through the airport and sat down on the light rail heading towards your hotel. You heard biking in Seattle is awesome, and you want to try it out. So you Google “bike rental seattle” and find a handful of shops, some sad news about the closure of Pronto and one service that claims it will bring a bike to you within two hours of booking: Pedal Anywhere. Better yet, the rates are even better if you keep the bike for your whole week stay.

So you book a bike online. By the time you are checked into your hotel and settled into your room, a quality hybrid bike in your size is in the lobby waiting for you. And the best part is that the person delivering it brought your bike using a custom e-assist bike. Bikes delivering bikes, that’s just too cool.

This is not just the concept behind Pedal Anywhere, it’s how the service actually works today in Seattle. The company, under the leadership of CEO (and friend of Seattle Bike Blog) Zach Shaner, is currently trying to grow using a crowdfunding-style investment effort through Seed Invest. That campaign is open until April 24. The minimum investment is $500 (but unlike with a Kickstarter-style crowdfunding, you would actually own a stake in the company).

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“We’re trying to take all the headaches out the bike rental process,” said Shaner. And if it works in Seattle, why not replicate it other cities?

“If we [meet our investment goal], we’d like to be in Portland and Vancouver, B.C., and maybe San Francisco by next year.”

The company says it more than $94,000 in net revenue in 2016 delivering bikes on demand to people in the Seattle area, according to the company’s investment campaign page. This is a steep increase from $69,000 in 2015 and $22,000 in 2014.

The business has also grown organically, meaning it has almost no debt. It operates out of a shared warehouse space in Belltown with a fleet of 70 bikes. The staff size grows and shrinks depending on demand, which fluctuates seasonally.

We wrote about Pedal Anywhere back in 2012 when it was called Seattle Monthly Bike Rental. Co-Founder Lucas Nivon had a hands-on role in the company back then, but has since gone to work as CEO of Cyrus Biotechnology.

In recent years, Shaner has done most the heavy lifting for Pedal Anywhere, a company he was building in the off hours while he worked at Commute Seattle. Shaner is also a writer at Seattle Transit Blog and a member of the Seattle Transit Advisory Board. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t sleep.

“Last summer, I worked every day for three months straight,” said Shaner. He currently owns a 75 percent stake in the company, and Nivon holds the remainder.

I asked Nivon back in 2012 whether he was afraid the pending launch of Pronto Cycle Share would impact the business. Nivon said the company “lives in a separate ecosystem” from bike share. And that prediction was prescient, since Pedal Anywhere only grew during Pronto’s short tenure in Seattle.

Pedal Anywhere’s most direct competition is with brick-and-mortar bike shops that rent bikes. Shops easily beat Pedal Anywhere on hourly rates (the fantastic waterfront-based Bicycle Repair Shop charges $9/hour for a hybrid bike, for example). A single-day rental (about $40 for a hybrid bike) is essentially comparable between Pedal Anywhere and a shop. But if you’re renting a bike for a week ($89) or a month ($179), Pedal Anywhere’s rates are hard to match.

Though as Pedal Anywhere keeps growing, shops will surely find ways to stay competitive. Many shops specialize in renting high-end bikes (like carbon-fiber racing bikes), a market Pedal Anywhere doesn’t touch. Pedal Anywhere also doesn’t try to rent to people looking for a couple hours of waterfront cruising. But there’s a lot of space between those two points where Pedal Anywhere has a lot of appeal.

If you are staying near a shop that rents bikes, then the shop’s convenience is probably going to make it the obvious choice. But if you’re staying in the many parts of the city with no nearby access to bike rental, Pedal Anywhere hopes to fill that gap.

There’s another fascinating service that Pedal Anywhere currently offers: One-way trips to Amtrak-serviced cities. You can rent a Pedal Anywhere bike in Seattle, bike down the coast over a couple weeks to, say, San Fransisco. Then put the bike on the Coast Starlight train to Seattle where Pedal Anywhere staff will grab it at King Street Station.

The whole bike rental market in Seattle is in an interesting place right now with the closure of Pronto. While that may seem like one competitor out of the way, it could open the door to even more bike share startup concepts like the station-free bike share companies that are booming (and causing problems) in other countries.

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8 responses to “Seattle’s Pedal Anywhere keeps growing its on-demand bike rental business, seeks investors”

  1. Steve Durrant

    Seems like a great idea and service. And the support for/from local creatives like Sportworks is really inspiring. And we love combining Amtrak with a bike ride.

  2. asdf2

    Can somebody explain the economics of why renting a bike for a day is only marginally (if at all) cheaper than renting a car for a day? One would think a cheaper vehicle would cost less, but for daily rentals, at least, it doesn’t.

    1. Zach Shaner

      It may be because fixed costs have a floor, and so the minimum price is higher than you’d like. You could also think of it like a taxi meter drop. Because we deliver and pickup the bike, our cost is identical no matter how long you keep the bike. Factoring in an hour each way in labor, tuning, insurance, etc, $39 is about as low as we can go. But for longer rentals, we can let the effective per-day rate slide to as low as $6 ($179/30), because we only have that fixed cost plus the opportunity cost of not being able to re-rent the bike during that longer period. Our answer to that problem so far has just been to keep buying more bikes to meet demand.

      1. stardent

        Another well-intentioned plan that is doomed by economics and our weather.

  3. This sounds like a very good idea. I never heard of that before.

  4. […] Bike Blog says some nice things about my business, Pedal […]

  5. Conrad

    Great idea. Stay classy in San Diego is a similar business, except they don’t deliver the bikes by bike. I use it every time I visit. Less expense and hassle than flying with your own bike.

  6. Erik

    What the heck is net revenue? I guarantee it’s not net income. Please share net income. Often people seek investors to fund their losses.

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