Lititz Bikeworks, Clair Global work on a plan to roll out bike rentals

By on May 17, 2017

Mark Branle, co-owner and director of operations for the Lititz Bikeworks and the Intercourse Bikeworks, shows off the Breezer Uptown 8 bike destined for the store’s rail trail rental program. His wife, Rebecca, is the other co-owner and the business’s brand manager.

Sky blue Uptown Breezer commuter bicycles will soon be a familiar sight on the Warwick-to-(sometime next year) Ephrata rail trail as soon as Lititz Bikeworks co-owner Mark Branle and Clair Global’s Matthew Clair put all the pieces of a rental puzzle together.

The bike — at least the choice of a bike — was easy, according to Branle. The Breezer Uptown 8 was an editor’s choice commuter bike four years running in Bicycling Magazine. It got kudos for its lightweight aluminum frame, ease of handling, and dynamo powered headlight/taillight combo. The dynamo keeps the lights charged, so they stay lit when the rider stops at an intersection.

The chain is totally enclosed, as are the gears in the rear wheel hub. The things that make it work for bike share programs in big cities like Philadelphia also make it an excellent choice for rail trail riders who’d rather rent than own.

Branle, a lifelong competitive cyclist, and his wife, Rebecca, a runner-turned-cyclist, both left advertising jobs seven years ago to help run a bike shop in Doylestown. About three years ago, they opened the Intercourse Bikeworks on their own to offer the same sales and service that worked successfully in Doylestown. But they took the Intercourse store to another level by offering rentals and guided tours, marketed primarily to tourists.

They offer the same sales-service-rental-tour package in their Rock Lititz location with rentals and tours designed to appeal to visitors. Rail trail rentals, marketed in large part to locals, are another extension of the business.

Discussing their newest venture at the Rock Lititz store, just off Tollgate Road, Branle said there’s still a lot of fine tuning to be done to the business details, but he expects those sky blue easyriders to be rolling out of a shed at the Warwick Township Municipal complex by the end of June.

There will be 12 bikes in the shed to start, and Branle expects that number to grow fairly quickly. He believes the concept will appeal to riders who want to get outdoors occasionally, who’ll enjoy the comfort of a flat ride, and who’d rather rent than own. He thinks seniors, especially, will like the convenience. The Uptown Breezer has a fully enclosed chain guard and gear hub, front and rear fenders, and a rack on the back to carry packages. Branle envisions riders tooling into Lititz, locking their bikes, shopping, dining and then riding back to the township parking lot to return to their cars.

The Breezer Uptown 8 is the bicycle that will be used in the rail trail bike rental program under development by Lititz Bikeworks and Clair Global. The California made bike’s user-friendly features include a low step-over bar, a completely enclosed chain guard, enclosed gear hub on the rear wheel, and a front-wheel dynamo that powers front and rear state-of-the-art LED lights. It also has a bell that sounds an authoritative warning.

One of the details still not worked out is how much riders will pay to rent the Uptown. It might range from $5 an hour to $30 a day, Branle said, but neither figure is set in stone. Over-the-road rentals from the Intercourse and Rock Lititz locations start at about $45 for the day and go up from there, depending on the bike, whether riders participate in a guided tour, and the stops they make along the way.

A detail that is well on its way to being worked out is the state-of-the-art lock that serves as a security device, a GPS tracker and a payment mechanism. The Ellipse U-lock is not your grandfather’s padlock and chain. It is the visible part of a computer system that will enable Bikeworks staff to let renters go to the township location, unlock a bike, pay for it, ride it and return it without ever setting foot in the Rock Lititz store. The system works with iPhone and Android apps, which can lock and unlock the Ellipse, or a rider can phone Bikeworks, pay the rental fee with a credit card, and get a code to manually open the lock on, for example, bike number six.

Matthew Clair, Clair Global’s chief information officer, is helping Bikeworks test both the bikes and the locks. Starting this week, he said, the company will deploy 10 of the Breezer bikes and Ellipse locks on the 96-acre Rock Lititz campus.

“It is our own private bike share program,” Clair said. “We’ll be testing it and sharing our experience with Bikeworks.”

Dick Wanner is a staff reporter and photographer for the Record Express. He can be reached at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com. v

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