Did you ever use Spinlister? A peer-to-peer bike rental service that first showed up in 2011 as a way to make some money off your bike while you weren’t riding it. The company was rebranded by a new owner in 2013, started down a big-dreamed path of selling remote-lockable bikes that could be left anywhere in a city to be rented with an app, to be purchased by customers who would ride them when they wanted, then turn them over to the public to be rented without any need to speak to the renters.
But then along came the big dockless bike sharing firms, and not many people bought the bikes (made by Dutch company VanMoof), and fewer still wanted to deal with renting their personally-owned bikes to strangers for a relatively small payoff. The company struggled to attract new customers as well as raise more money to continue operation.
So, in April of 2018, Spinlister shuttered its website for a rethink and eventual reboot.
A few months ago, it returned. The original owner who put the brand on hiatus last spring, Marcelo Loureiro, has moved on, retaining only a minority share, ceding control of Spinlister to Mark Gustafson, the founder of e-bike brand Story bikes. Gustafson plans to focus more on the software and management system that helps run bike shop rental programs, a platform called Spinlister Pro that the company offered the past few years and that bike shops loved. The shops were able to show off their rental inventory and not deal as much with the paperwork of renting out expensive rigs.
They’ll also continue with the Airbnb model of renting out your unused, at the moment, bike.
I checked the local listings here in the outskirts of San Francisco to see what bikes would be available for me if I wanted to head out for a quick afternoon pedal.
There were dozens and dozens of choices, though it’s not entirely clear if these bikes are all from current accounts or people who never pulled their accounts when the service shut down last year. A carbon frame road bike like the Specialized Tarmac SL4 Expert DI2 was available for $88 per day. Plenty of townie and commuter options from Public bikes for less than $30 per day. Up in Marin County, mountain bikes like the Santa Cruz Bronson were available for $35 per day, or $150 per week—far less expensive than rentals at bike shops. There was even a strange egg-shaped recumbent bike, if you wanted to try something like that out for size.
There are, let’s see, 7 bikes in my storage room between my wife and I, at the moment, only two of which are ridden with regularity. Two mountain bikes, an excellent road touring bike, and a comfy Public town bike just sit there, who knows when they’ll be ridden next.
It’s definitely more appealing to walk into a bike shop to rent a well-maintained bike quickly and easily, rather than to go to somebody’s house for a potentially awkward bike handoff, but the price savings might be enough to make that extra step palatable.