The UK folding bike maker Brompton is to launch a subscription service next month, letting customers hire bikes on a monthly or annual basis, as demand for bikes has surged during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cycling levels have risen by up to 300% on some days, according to Department for Transport data, as people try to avoid public transport.
To hire a Brompton M3L bike, subscribers will pay £30 a month – about £1 a day – if they sign up to a 12-month contract; or £42 a month for a rolling monthly contract, if they only want to cycle during the summer months, for example. Insurance, repairs and twice-yearly servicing are included. The bikes typically cost £1,000 or more to buy.
Brompton already has a bike hire arm that allows people to hire a bike for a day for £6.50. If they pay a £25 annual fee, the daily price falls to £3.50.
Julian Scriven, managing director of Brompton Bike Hire, said: “Demand has been astronomical over the last few months, both for Brompton manufacturer and retail, and bike hire. It’s settled down a bit now that people are going on holiday. Towards the end of last month almost every one of our  Bike Hire bikes was out on hire.”
Before the pandemic, people were renting bikes for three to five days, on average, but this shot up to 30 days, he said.
For the new subscription service, users will have to register online and can pick up a bike from their nearest Brompton dock, or have it delivered to their home..
Scriven hopes to have 1,000 subscribers six months after launch, and said e-bikes would be available to hire in future. The firm plans to launch the service in Germany towards the end of next year, followed by the US.
The subscription service is partly aimed at “millennials and Generation Xs, who want the benefits of owning something but none of the downside. If things go wrong, you hand it back and say: ‘I’ll have one without a puncture please’,” he said.