Rocket Pitch is an electric dream
After watching tourist after tourist “deck out” on rental bikes, Michael Paynter started thinking about another option.
The solution came eight years ago on a trip to Brooklyn.
A scheme there allowed people to swipe a credit card, take a pedal bike from a rack, ride it and return it.
“I thought something like that would do really well in Bermuda,” the 32-year-old said.
As he saw it, the only problem was the island's humid, salty climate.
“You'd have to replace the equipment yearly,” he said. “It would have been a multimillion-dollar investment.”
A friend suggested he start with electric bicycles and rent them out of a storage area.
He finally launched e-Tour Adventures in August, renting 17 electric bicycles and nine standard ones out of a shed near Grotto Bay Hotel.
He works in close conjunction with the Hamilton Parish resort; so far the majority of his customers have been guests there.
He feels the bikes are a safer alternative to 50cc rental cycles — they only go 20mph at full throttle and, being lightweight, are easier for smaller people to handle.
Another benefit is because he rents what is essentially a pedal bike, people can ride them on the Railway Trail.
There is no licence or insurance required; electric bicycle riders do not even need helmets.
“I'm sure this will change in the near future,” Mr Paynter, a product manager at Clarien Bank, said. “So I do have insurance for my bikes, and I require my clients to wear helmets.
“We had one little fender bender with a lady from Argentina.
“We tell our guests not to have their smart phones out when riding on our bikes.
“She took it upon herself to take pictures while riding. She decked out.
“She was fine. She had a few scratches, but no major injuries.
“She just went about riding the bike per normal the next day.
“That was a relief. I think the injuries were far less than they would have been in a moped accident.”
Launching the business has not been without its sacrifices; he has had to give up basketball with his friends.
Luke Lindo runs e-Tour Adventures during the day but the company's administrative duties frequently keep Mr Paynter working late into the night.
“Thank goodness I'm not married and I don't have children,” he said. “If I did, I don't think I would be able to do this.”
In November, his hard work paid off when he and Mr Lindo won the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation's annual Rocket Pitch competition for emerging small businesses.
“When I heard about the competition, I didn't really think we were ready,” Mr Paynter said. “We've only been open since Cup Match.
“To celebrate paying off my student loans, I'd booked my first cruise.
“I was going to spend a week in Miami, see a Miami Heat/Los Angeles Lakers game and then take a cruise to the Bahamas.”
The holiday coincided with the competition but officials told him to enter anyway.
A Skype interview got him into the finals. “I don't know how many people we were up against in the first round,” he said. “But we were only up against one other business in the finals.”
It then fell to Mr Lindo to give a five-minute pitch to the judges.
On the cruise, Mr Paynter waited on tenterhooks with friends messaging to keep him up to date.
“I had messages like ‘Your team did a great job',” he said. “I got messages saying ‘You've got this in the basket'.”
Finally, he heard they had won in the tourism-related businesses category.
With that came $3,000, and $1,500 worth of business services from legal advice to advertising.
His plan is to use it to get e-Tour incorporated and purchase new marketing materials.
“It was a huge relief,” he said. “When you have someone else presenting on your behalf it is a bit of a heart racer.”
Mr Paynter thinks e-Tour Adventures is a great way to promote the East End.
“We do tours around the Harrington Sound area, which doesn't get explored as much by tourists,” he said. “We also do St George's and St David's. Most tourists are herded into the West End beaches.
“They see Dockyard and maybe the town of St George, but there are lots of beautiful natural and historic sites that are all around Harrington Sound which we are able to show tourists.”
Over the years, he has seen fewer tourists visit the East End, where he has lived all his life.
“We've watched the cruise ship visitors decline in St George's,” he said. “We've witnessed the closure of hotels in St George's.
“It has been a pretty steady decline in the East End. But in recent years, there has been a push to revive the St George's product.
“I think these bikes are a great way to see St George's.
“You don't necessarily have to be on a deathtrap Mobylette, or a taxi or bus. This is something you can hop on yourself.”
He and Mr Lindo are working to get Certified Tourism Ambassador designations and are hoping to hire CTA-certified staff next year.
Mr Paynter would also like to expand the business into selling and servicing electric bicycles.
However, he has no intention of leaving Clarien Bank.
“I love my job there,” he said. “Clarien have been so supportive.”
• Follow e-Tour Adventures on Facebook, etourbda, and Instagram, etourbermuda or visit www.etourbda.com. Rental rates are $60 for the first day and $40 each day after that, or $200 for the week