Kyle George, left and Wes Neal are co-owners of Bright Angel Bicycles. The company will offer day rentals of bicycles at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. (Jake Bacon/Arizona Daily Sun)
Rim rentals finally a reality
Two ex-river runners from Flagstaff have secured the first-ever bike rental concession on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
Riding on a bike on the Hermit Road Trail is one of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Getting a bicycle into the Canyon, however, requires planning in advance of any trip. It particularly hasn't been easy for tourists on buses and those who don't have a bike rack or room for a cycle in their car.
Flagstaff- based Bright Angel Bicycles will make it much easier for visitors next week when it starts offering bicycle rentals at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
Kyle George and Wes Neal 'recently were awarded the first ever bicycle rental concession at the South Rim by the National Park Service. They have signed a contract to offer daily rentals for the next year, with an option to renew for at least another year.
Neal said he has been discussing a business proposal with Park Service officials for about two years. He credits Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Steve Martin for getting the program off the ground.
"The park is really behind this," he said .
. The pair sees the newly reconstructed Hermit Road and associated greenways as a likely destination for many of their customers.
"It is a great scenic ride. It is, by far, the best thing going in terms of a bike ride (in the Canyon)," Neal said.
The pair have scouted the area in recent weeks, noting the Hermit Road Trail already has dedicated cyclists savoring the 14-mile round-trip.
"It is really, really popular - anyone who knows about it seems to be having a good time on it," George said.
The business will also offer a shuttle service to take customers from the visitors center to the Hermit Road entrance. Two daily guided tours are also in the works.
The pair said before anyone is allowed to leave the area on two wheels, they will need to go through a detailed orientation on which trails to ride as well as a reminder that the bikes aren't allowed on trails into the Canyon, like the Bright Angel Trail.
75 BIKES AND A PLAN
The former river runners looked at visitation patterns before settling on buying a total of 75 bikes from the Haro Bicycle Corporation. "It gave us a good estimate of what we might be doing, so we thought 75 would be a good place to start:' George said.
In addition to various frame sizes to accommodate. children as young as 8 years old, Bright Angel Bicycles will also rent out bike trailers so parents can take younger children with them.
The trailers will come from a local business, BikeShopHub.com, Neal said. For the less coordinated, would - be customers concerned about riding along the edge of the Canyon, the bicycle rental company has added an adult tricycle to their rental fleet.
"It's for the folks who aren't too stable on the bikes:' Neal said.
Running from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, the two men said they would be running the kiosk themselves, although George , hopes to hire at least two more people in the coming weeks.
The pair has invested roughly $55,000 to launch the business, a mix of savings and a business loan. Rates starts at $10 an hour, and a full- day rental is priced at $35.
Rentals will be offered daily until late October, weather permitting. "It just depends on what the weather is like:' George said.
GOING GREEN, REALLY GREEN
As the four-person staff of Bright Angel Bicycles worked to assemble the bikes and build a small kiosk and a storage rack out of a Sunnyside warehouse last week, Neal said the
entire operation at the Canyon this year would be green Mostly out of necessity.
"We don't have any power, so we are having to run everything basically out of battery power:' he said.
The credit card machine, George said, will use a wireless signal from a cell phone to conduct transactions and will likely be powered by a solar panel trickle charger.
A more permanent location could be provided by the park service as early as next year, depending on its popularity with Canyon tourists.
Initially, the focus was on building a rail service to accommodate the roughly 4.5 million visitors the Canyon sees annually, said Grand Canyon spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge. In 2000, Congress opted instead for a fleet of shuttle buses rather than building an expensive rail line at the South Rim.
An environmental assessment conducted several years ago for the South Rim found renting bicycles would not be harmful to the park's ecosystem.
WHERE: South Rim Visitors Center HOURS: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily OPENING: May 1
PRICE: $10/hour, $35/day CONTACT: (928) 814-8704 or www.bikegrandcanyon.com
Reference: Arizona Daily Sun, April 25, 2010, p B1, B4
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