10 Weird Ways to Make Money With Your Bike
This can be a good financial strategy. Switching to public transit, walking or cycling means no more car payments, gas or insurance bills, and maybe even the chance to stop paying for that gym membership.
But you might not want to ditch your car, and I hear you. Plus, I'm a big fan of making money rather than cutting back. That's why I want to make sure you know that you can make money with your bike.
Here are 10 ways to turn your bike into an income-generating asset. With more and more cities adding bike lanes, why not take advantage of these creative ways to add a few more dollars to your bank account?
1. Get paid to bike to work. Do you commute by bike? If so, your boss likely already knows, since you probably arrive at the office with your shoes and padded shorts before changing into normal clothes for the day.
However, specifically telling your boss or HR manager you bike to work could help you earn an extra $20 a month through the Bicycle Commuter Act.
Basically, your employer can reimburse you up to $20 a month for "reasonable expenses" related to biking to work. The idea is that you'd use this cash to help cover costs for a bike, helmet, lock, general maintenance and other expenses related to your commute.
An extra $240 a year is pretty great, and it's always nice to get paid for something you're doing anyway!
2. Lead bike tours of your city. Know your city inside and out? Use your bike to show tourists around. You can create your own business from scratch, or partner with companies like Shiroube to lead a tour. How much you'll earn varies by company, but bike tour guides can make around $75 to $150 a day.
Narrow your focus to a bikeable neighborhood or area with lots of cool and noteworthy landmarks. They don't all have to be famous tourist stops, either.
While a West Village bike tour in NYC might want to swing past 64 Perry Street (fictional home of Carrie Bradshaw), as Shiroube explains, "Your local school, small but cozy restaurants, your friends' grocery shops -- all these are what experienced travelers want to come and see." Plan your route with a mix of local landmarks and personal favorites to give your tour its own unique flavor.
Getting started is as simple as filling out an application which whichever local tour guide company you choose.
3. Work as a courier for Postmates. Postmates hires couriers to deliver food, drinks, and other items on demand for people who live and work in major cities. When a customer places an order through the Postmates app, the courier gets a notification, purchases the item, and delivers it to the customer.
To work for Postmates, you must be over 18 and have your own transportation. While you could choose to drive, riding your bike means you'll keep more of your hard-earned cash -- plus get a workout -- instead of spending it on gas.
As for that cash, how much can you make? Couriers keep 80 percent of the delivery fee plus 100 percent of their tips, according to reports on Glassdoor. While the company says some couriers earn up to $25 an hour, you'll likely earn less than that, especially when you're just getting started.
However, being able to choose your own hours is a nice benefit, as is getting paid to ride your bike. Postmates isn't available everywhere, but check out their website for a full list of places you could work for them.
4. Deliver food for a local restaurant. If you live in an urban area, you've probably had takeout pizza, sushi or Thai delivered by bike. Why? Getting around a city and finding parking can be a nightmare for a delivery driver -- and severely cost prohibitive for a company.
If you've got an entrepreneurial streak along with a good bike, this is a great opportunity to make some quick cash. A startup called Dashed picked up on this idea a few years ago and became a $4.6 million business serving the New England area.
Most restaurants hire their own delivery riders (unless they use a third-party app, like Postmates) so you'll have to pitch your services to businesses directly. If you work in the right neighborhoods on the right nights, you could make a fair amount of cash -- even if you only work for tips.
5. Buy and deliver groceries through Instacart. Another purchase-and-deliver option to try is Instacart -- an app similar to Postmates that focuses solely on grocery shopping. When a customer posts an order for groceries, you head to the store and buy them, then deliver them to the customer's home.
The nice thing about working for Instacart is that you can combine these trips with your own grocery shopping... as long as you've got a big set of panniers or a backpack to hold all the items, that is.
You'll need to be at least 18 years old, be able to lift at least 25 pounds, and have a recent smartphone. The company says shoppers earn up to $25 an hour, though reports from shoppers on Glassdoor are mixed. One shopper from San Francisco explains that "I mostly shop two orders simultaneously, so by the end of my shift I've averaged close to one order per hour, making $15/hr on the low end and $22/hr on the high end." However, a shopper in Chicago says $9.50 an hour is a more realistic estimate.
Thinking about giving it a try? Here's where to find out if Instacart operates in your city.
6. Teach bicycle safety or repair workshops. As more people ditch their cars and choose to bike, there's a bigger demand for classes and workshops on bicycle safety and maintenance. If you know your way around a bike and can teach people how to ride safely or how to maintain their rides, you could earn extra cash this way.
If you'd rather let someone else handle the logistics, ask outdoor stores, local cycling shops and bike-focused organizations whether they need support with their programs.
You could also try teaching your own small bike-repair or bike-safety classes. You might have to compete with some pretty big fish, but you might find that people are keen to support an independent neighborhood business.
7. Drive a pedicab. Ever visited a new city or left a sporting event and been surrounded by pedicabs offering to give you a ride across town? These big tricycles are a fun way for customers to avoid congestion and traffic while seeing a different side of a city.
If you want to give pedicabbing a shot, you'll need to check whether your city requires a license. You could build your own pedicab, but it might be easier to look for local pedicabbing companies who will provide a ride.
Don't make the mistake of thinking this will be an easy job. Seattle Pedicab advises that it's hard work, especially in the physical sense. "Riding a trike is different from "fitness exercise"... Even experienced cyclists are surprised by the differences between riding three wheels versus two," the company explains.
However, they say most riders get used to pedicabbing within two to four weeks, so you could be up and running by summertime.
How much you can earn depends on many factors, such as your city, the weather and what's going on in your area. During South by Southwest -- one of the biggest festivals in the country held in Austin, Texas, every March -- pedicabbies can earn up to $100 an hour.
8. Start a bicycle-powered composting business. Riding a bike is already environmentally friendly, but you can earn a few more eco-points -- and earn some cash -- by leading a bike-focused composting program.
What does this mean? Basically, you'd bike around to homes, schools and businesses picking up food waste. You'd bring that food waste back to your home or business site, where you'd turn it into compost.
That's where the money-making potential comes in: Once the food scraps have become compost, you can sell it by the bucket to local gardeners or community organizations who can't produce enough of this "black gold."
You don't need much to start this business: a bike, a trailer and a place to store your compost. For more information and a little inspiration, check out the bicycle-powered composting programs highlighted by Bikes at Work.
9. Rent your bike out through Spinlister. Going out of town for a few days? Decided to a buy a car? Bought a second bike? Whatever your reason, if you don't need your bike for a few days, why not rent it out to someone you trust -- and make money?
Enter Spinlister, the Airbnb of bicycles. Simply list your bike with details and photos, approve a renter, and when the renter confirms and pays, they can pick up your bike. At the end of the ride, you'll get paid.
Most bikes rent for around $20 to $30 an hour or $100 a day -- a nice chunk of change to earn from something that would otherwise just be sitting in your garage.
Worried about damage? If your bike is lost, stolen or damaged while it's rented out, Spinlister will compensate you up to $10,000.
10. Start a business next to a bike lane. OK, so this one's not so much a way to make money with your bike as it is a way to make money helping other cyclists.
As more cities are developing bike lanes and designated streets, research has shown the surprising economic impact of cyclists. While people who drive to bars, convenience stores and restaurants tend to spend more money on each visit, cyclists tend to go more often and spend more money overall, according to a recent study in Portland.
"For example, the data shows that people drove to a convenience store an average of 9.9 times per month and spent $7.98 per visit for a total monthly expenditure of $79.73 while people who biked made 14.5 convenience store visits, spending $7.30 per trip for a total of $105.66 per month," reports BikePortland.org.
What does this mean for you? If you're considering starting a business, bike-focused or not, make sure to consider the needs of cyclists. Offering free water-bottle refills, a large bike rack or rental bike locks could make your business more attractive to riders -- who are likely to keep coming back. If you're able to position your business on a bike lane, you could do even better.
Have you made money with your bike? I'd love to hear your ideas!