Over the past six months, we’ve experienced significant interest from bike rental businesses across the country looking for heavy-duty, custom tents to store their fleet of bikes, including in our own backyard in Northern Michigan.
The rise of micro-mobility rentals — from e-bikes to scooters — is accelerating toward an $11 billion global industry by 2028 as consumers embrace the fun, budget-friendly mode of transportation.
Lee Millns is the founder and owner of Ride Leelanau, an e-bike rental shop in Suttons Bay, Michigan. Millns launched the business in September 2021 and is officially into his first full busy season as tourists flock to the shores of Lake Michigan for summer vacations.
For his first full season, Millns invested in three branded 15x15 E-Series Frame Tents that will remain ballasted outdoors in downtown Suttons Bay all summer. It’s an investment he says is critical for new bike rental businesses.
“You need a good home base that’s sized appropriately and people can easily access,” he said.
When he launched his business, customers needed to go inside a building to secure a rental while the bikes were outside underneath a cheap 10x20 pop-up tent that Millns called “one of those old, throw-away tents.”
“With the bigger, heavy-duty tents, we now have a footprint that allows for easy walk-up traffic that’s a good experience for the customer,” he said.
How Big of a Tent Do I Need for an E-Bike Rental Business?
One of the trickiest decisions an e-bike rental business needs to make is how big of a tent and/or how many tents they need to accommodate their business and vehicle fleet.
Ride Leelanau has a flight of 50 RadPower e-bikes but hopes to expand as business continues through the summer. It also has size constraints outside of its building, so Millns needed a setup that could accommodate growth, but not be too big.
He found a 15x15 tent footprint comfortably fits 25 e-bikes, with room for additional growth.
“That 15x15 seems to be a sweet spot that works well,” Millns said.
He ended up purchasing three 15x15 frame tents. He combines two of them for a 15x30 footprint and uses the third 15x15 as a pop-up retail space nearby where you can pay for rentals and buy additional merchandise.
At night, he chains the bikes together under the tent and only closes up the walls if inclement weather is in the forecast. He plans to leave the tents up all summer and fall, but take them down before the cold Northern Michigan winter arrives.
Branding Your E-Bike Rental Business
Because Ride Leelanau is banking on business from walk-ups, branding is important, but not necessarily required. The business has a branded trailer parked near the tents, for instance, that points people in the right direction (the bike tents are set up behind a building off the main street in Suttons Bay).
Still, Millns included his logo — an R with a lightning bolt — on the front panel of his tent that’s visible from the road. He also purchased a custom-printed wall that says “Ride Leelanau.” He plans to invest in a couple of branded flags to better direct people his way.
It’s a balancing act when purchasing the tents, he said, because the more printing, the higher the cost. He also didn’t want to “over logo” the tent, which he said could disrupt the aesthetic of downtown Suttons Bay, which has minimal signage on its storefronts.
Pop-Up Tent or Frame Tent for a Bike Rental Business?
If your bike rental business is staying in one place for an entire season and you can leave up a tent for that period of time, we recommend going with a frame tent that includes certified wind ratings. Smaller businesses that are set up for a day in various locations would benefit from a quick-deploy pop-up tent. We don’t recommend leaving up a pop-up tent — even our heavy-duty pop-up tents — for days at a time, but our frame tents are designed to be semi-permanent.
Can I Leave Up a Tent with Bikes Underneath for an Entire Season?
Yes, as long as you’re using a tent designed to be semi-permanent that’s properly anchored. Our lineup of frame tents, for example, are engineered to be semi-permanent and come with certified wind ratings. Make sure to check with your municipality to see if you’re allowed to leave a tent structure up for a long period of time.
How Much Do Bike Rental Tents Cost?
The cost of your bike rental tent depends on the size, amount of printing, and accessories needed, like walls or event flags. Shipping is also a factor to work into your budget. Learn more about the cost of TentCraft solutions.
TentCraft & E-Bike Rental Businesses
As a manufacturer of custom tents and structures, we know a thing or two about what makes a custom tent last a really long time. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help your bike rental business, reach out to our team of tent experts today.