Filling the void

Local shop offers much-needed bike rental service

Robin Little built a win-win.

Robin Little built a win-win.

Photo By Anne Stokes

Bikes and Bites is located at 1013 12th Street. For more information, check out

There are plenty of bike shops in Sacramento that will sell you a new set of wheels for a couple of Benjamins or more, but for commitment-phobes or the fiscally strapped, renting one for the day is a different story. Bike rental shops are few and far between.

Currently, only one shop downtown rents bikes to tourists and locals looking for a little leisure time or an eco-friendly way to get around town. Bikes and Bites, located on 12th Street between J and K streets, got its name from a unique partnership with local eateries. Shop owner Robin Little approached restaurateurs asking for sponsorships and in exchange, the restaurants get advertising placed on one of the 24 beach cruisers available for rent, so that each rider is also a two-wheeled billboard. Currently, 16 restaurants sponsor bikes, including Ink Eats and Drinks, 33rd Street Bistro, Capitol Dawg and Zócalo. There’s also a handful of nonrestaurant sponsors, such as B Street Theatre and Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

Little, who also serves as president of a travel company, saw the need for a bike rental shop from his clients.

“I do conventions and meetings as well as vacations, and when you send people on vacations or to a meeting or conference they like to go do things. And in my own hometown of Sacramento, no one would rent you a bike,” Little said. “It seemed, as one of the top biking cities in America, it would be pretty apropos to put a bike rental company here.”

Bikes and Bites, which opened in July, serves a wide range of customers. Business professionals rent bikes for their lunch hour. Downtown residents rent bikes for events such as Second Saturday, and suburbanites will come downtown for the day and rent a bike to explore the city.

“Walking around, you can’t get as far or see as much,” Little said. “Being in a car, you can’t see anything because you’re paying attention to other cars and people. The happy medium is a bike.”

Business has been steady and the shop has already attracted regular customers, Little said. In the future, he hopes to organize bike tours. The shop recently took part in a bike crawl of bars downtown. About 70 people joined, and those who already had bikes brought them and those who didn’t have bikes rented them.

Bike rentals cost $10 for two hours and $2 for every hour after that, or $30 dollars for a daily rental. Each rental comes with some biking essentials: a bike lock, lights, basket, map and helmet.

“It’s a good way for someone to come in and test one out and ask themselves, ‘Do I really want a bike?’” Little said. “It’s smarter to go and test-drive something before you buy it.”

The shop will remain open full time until the end of November and then scale back the hours as the weather becomes less bike-friendly, and then reopen full time in March of next year. Little also has plans to open a second shop near the Amtrak station that will cater to commuters.

Earlier this year, Little found the 12th street space and then identified sponsors to help get his idea off the ground. The space had long been vacant and was previously a shoe store and a bank, complete with a vault that still exists. Now, a long row of bikes lines one side of the room, and a bike-mechanics workspace is set up near the front window. The mechanic, on loan from sponsor College Cyclery, was placed near the window to attract curious customers. In exchange for the mechanic, College Cyclery uses the Bikes and Bites shop to sell some bikes. In fact, most of Little’s sponsorship arrangements are made so that both parties benefit without too many out-of-pocket expenses.

“I built a win-win situation,” he said. “We’re doing something that the community needed desperately.”