Last Friday was so wonderful weather-wise I took the long route into work. Sometimes, the long route is the best route.
Because I rode my bike a different way I met Ben Jones, who knows a thing or two about bikes. Jones opened Coastal Trail Rentals this summer behind the Millennium Alaskan Hotel on Spenard Road near the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Jones is an Anchorage resident who rides his bike from near Westchester Lagoon to work in the hotel parking lot, carrying his laptop computer and other equipment behind him in a pull-along trailer.
Surrounded by a fleet of new, mostly cruiser bikes, Jones answered a few questions about his business and biking in general.
Q: Why did you start the bike rental company?
A: I didn’t want to work for the man. I thought out here was a great market for bicycle rentals. The airport is so close and there are nine hotels that are close. It’s close to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which is a great place to ride.
I thought for the people that were staying out here or coming from the airport, this is a really accessible place instead of having to go downtown.
Q: Why did you pick the bikes you did?
A: The reason I went with the cruisers is because they are a lot less intimidating than some other bikes. A lot of people who visit Alaska are a bit older. They see these bikes and say, “These are like the bikes I rode as a kid.” Then they can go out and enjoy a nice, leisurely ride. I’ve got some full-suspension mountain bikes for people who want to go out to Kincaid (Park) and jam.
I thought of this more for the people who aren’t so much looking for a workout as they are for a chance to get out.
I’ve had the crew from Frontier Aviation come by a few times. They seem really excited about it. They’re really stoked. I had a local call me about the tandem I have because he was looking to buy one. I told him to come by and take it for a spin.
Q: Why do you think people should go for a bike ride while in Anchorage?
A: I think people should be outside in Alaska. I’d like to keep a bunch of rental cars off the street. If people are on bikes, there is less congestion on the roads for locals and for visitors.
I guess I just want people to be able to experience Alaska. I’ve worked in the hotels and restaurants. Sometimes people miss what Alaska is all about. The Millennium has a reputation as a place for people who want to go and experience stuff.
It’s easy to go from here to the Coastal Trail, go downtown and cruise around a bit. Even in a couple hours, you can see a lot.
Q: How has business been?
A: We started out on June 1, and it was a week of weather that was windy and nasty. But it’s looking better. I’ve got crispy ears from being out here the other day in all the sunshine. I’ve got to get some sunblock; I need it.
I think it’ll just take a little word-of-mouth about the business to get it going.
Q: Are you a cyclist?
A: I like to ride. I wouldn’t say I’m a cyclist. I guess I’m a cyclist in the same sense that I’m a golfer – I like to do it. Out of respect to those who really ride, who are really passionate about cycling, I wouldn’t call myself a cyclist.
Biking is one of the best things to do when visiting Alaska and Anchorage in particular. I’ve always claimed it greatly increases your chance of seeing wildlife.
If you’re visiting, stop by and see Ben Jones. Or visit one of the downtown rental spots if you’re in that part of town. Whatever you do, get on the bike the ride.