Spinlister showed up over a year ago and made some waves as the next big thing: peer-to-peer bike sharing. Then it inexplicably changed its name to "Liquid" and disappeared. Now the startup is back, thankfully with its original name, and it's gone global with a new app.
If you're not into smuggling your bike onto a flight as a massage table or some other nonsense, then this is potentially a pretty awesome alternative to get a ride in while on the road.
Here's the deal:
Spinlister is looking to capitalize on bikes in the same way that Airbnb and VRBO capitalize on all the underutilized resources of people with too much stuff. In those cases, you've got real estate you don't mind sharing with other people for a fee. But here, you're giving up a bike -- likely a bike you aren't dependent on for transportation at the time -- to someone else for a fee.
The new app lets you poke around the neighborhood to see who's renting out their bikes. You can also search based on the type of bike, ideal height, and price. Some users even offer helmets, locks, lights, and even recommendations to accompany their bikes.
Just like Airbnb, it relies on users to arrange the transaction.
The transaction of funds is taken care of through the app, both so Spinlister can take a cut, and so it can mediate disagreements. You'll need a credit card registered to rent, so if you do decide to just keep on riding to the next state, just know you're still paying for that bike.
When I tried it out, I listed one of my bikes. The process was painless, and the site recommends a rate of around $18 a day, although prices seem to range from $5 to $200. The Terms of Service makes it pretty clear that Spinlister is not liable if you manage to hurt yourself, but the company will cover up to $5,000 if somebody takes off with your ride. While that might not cover the most blinged-out bikes in some stables, it should cover anything that you're willing to let a stranger take out for a few bucks a day.
The real draw for this system is its specificity: If you're planning to travel to a city you might have friends that have bikes for you to borrow, or your destination might have a bike share program for your basic transportation. But what if you really want to ride, and not just to the grocery store. I mean what if you want to hit a fast group ride on a road bike that fits or shred some single track on a bike that you can trust won't fall apart? Here's where Spinlister can start to look a lot better than a basket bearing stephthrough style sharebike. And while prices vary, they generally are less than a rental company would charge.
A quick perusal of the offerings in the Bay Area actually had me tempted to rent some of the higher-end bikes listed just for fun -- if you're in the market for a new bike, it might also be a good way to take an extended test-ride. Of course, you don't have the same assurance that you might get from a bike rental establishment, so use the better part of your judgment.
I saw at least one bike that looked like it had been driven full speed into a brick wall, but it could have also been the fisheye lens. Word to the wise: don't take pictures of your bike with a fisheye lens or trust someone who does.
Spinlister might also be a good option for those of you out there who can afford to spend $20 a day to hit the road but can't afford an apartment big enough to keep your bike in.
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He's can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.