News Column

Santa Fe Visitors Turn to Bike, Scooter Rentals

May 22, 2013

Chris Quintana

Downtown Santa Fe can be tricky to navigate by car, especially for newcomers to the city, but bike and scooter rental shops have capitalized on the need for simplicity.

Dan McCarthy, owner of Santa Fe Mountain Sports, said the bike-rental season picks up most during September and October, when the cool weather and autumn colors emerge. His rentals are Kona 29er mountain bikes with front suspension, and the rental package includes a helmet, a small pump and a patch kit with tubes, tire irons and other supplies.

Half-day rentals cost $25, daylong rentals cost $35. Visitors also have the option of renting road bikes or higher-end demo bikes for $75 per day. McCarthy said visiting riders would do best with the mountain bike rentals.

Mellow Velo, now at 132 E. Marcy St., offers a comparable mountain bike for $35 per day, though it also has higher-end road and mountain bikes that run for $60 a day. Brands included standouts Cinelli, Bianchi, Santa Cruz and Ritchey. David Copher, owner, said the focus on rentals is what first attracted him to the business.

About 75 percent of his customers come from online searches and the rest come from walk-by traffic or through hotel connections. He said he does see business from locals for special events such as those who wanted a quality road bike for the Santa Fe Century.

Rentals inevitably wear down, McCarthy said, which means that he sells and replaces the bicycle fleet at the end of each season. To that end, McCarthy purchases bikes in the middle of the price spectrum, specifically ones that can survive a season of heavy riding without blowing the bank. That magic point generally appears at $1,200, and, after a full tune-up, McCarthy said he can sell the bike near $960.

Copher and McCarthy both said the city's increased focus on bicycling infrastructure helps the bike rental business.

Fritz Holland rents out mopeds from his Italian eatery, Mangiamo Pronto, 228 Old Santa Fe Trail; the mopeds, he said, create a sort of European ambiance in downtown Santa Fe.

"It's a lot of fun and it makes a lot of people," Holland said.

Holland's iScoot business operates from May to October. The 50cc Vespa-style scooters cost $45 for two hours, $65 for four hours and $85 for the whole day.

He said the 50cc scooters require no special license to drive, but go no faster than 25 mph. Holland said that velocity is fast enough to navigate downtown Santa Fe, but not quick enough to travel on large thoroughfares such as Cerrillos Road or St. Francis Drive.

"It's perfect for sightseeing and that's it," he said.

In contrast, the 150cc rentals require a motorcycle license and cost about $10 or $15 more, but can travel along more routes, such as Cerrillos Road.

Each rental, regardless of motor size, comes with a full tank of gasoline and a helmet, Holland said.

Holland said most people can rent scooters, but he does ask potential customers about their experience riding mopeds or motorcycles. Those with experience can rent immediately, but the inexperienced get some pointers and have to drive through a practice course. Holland said he won't rent the scooter to people who still look uncomfortable or nervous on the scooter.

He said that does he buy liability insurance for riders, but renters are responsible for any damage they inflict to the scooter.

Younger couples, families or older couples with motorcycles are Holland's most common customer. Most riders can zip around downtown or along Canyon Road within two hours, but he does have customers who rent the scooters for longer duration.

Holland has rented scooters for the last six years without competition, but this tourism season saw the arrival of competitor Scoot Over Santa Fe. The rental company started in Ruidoso last year, and has since expanded into Albuquerque and Santa Fe markets.

Roberto Duran manages the Santa Fe location, and he said business has been spotty this season.

Duran's location is near Kokochile de Santa Fe, and his scooters rest on the sidewalks with big signs that state, "Rentals from 3.29 per hour." That rate refers to 24-hour rental price, which is $79. Those who want to rent just for an hour will pay $29, but rates decrease from there.

The signs do pique people's interest. During a 10-minute conversation, three people approached Duran about the scooter rentals, and he's quick to tell them the $3.29 rate applies only to 24-hour rentals.

Duran said he has gotten some local hotels and restaurants to start referring customers in exchange for 25 percent of the sale or an hour's worth of scooter time. He said a helmet rental costs $10 and that customers are required to fill the gas tank up with premium fuel. That cost ranges from 70 cents to a little more than $2, Duran said, and a full tank goes about 140 miles.


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Source: Copyright Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM) 2013

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