South Downs eBike rental business born out of the pandemic - 'It's been really popular'
A new eBike business is proving to be a success in the South Downs.
Oliver Evans, along with his business partner Simon Hooper, set up Southern eBike Rentals during the pandemic. It offers electric mountain bikes to hire in Sussex and Hampshire.
"We have a route set up for people to explore the area," said Oliver, who lives near Emsworth.
"There is a real mixture with woods and open scenery. The routes can be adapted to how fit and skilful people are.
"You need the bike in the right place to do mountain biking as they are quite heavy things. Most bike shops are out of town and where you need to be.
"We take the bikes to where you want them to try to make it easy and accessible for people to have a go. Someone friendly and helpful will be there to show you how it works."
Oliver said he decided to 'take the plunge' and start his own business as he noticed a gap in the market.
He said: "I used to be in the travel industry, working for a tour operator [in Chichester]. It was adversely affected by Covid so I started looking round for other things to do.
"I realised no one was doing bike rentals.
"Mountain biking is an up and coming thing in our area. It's very hilly so it makes cycling a lot more accessible for people to get out and about."
Oliver and Simon started taking bookings over the winter.
"We started operating properly as lockdown started to be lifted over Easter time," Oliver said.
"We are doing a mobile service with free delivery and collection.
"Business is good. We've got 11 bikes at the moment with more coming next month.
"It's been really popular. There will be lots of people doing staycations so I think we'll be really busy over the May half-term and summer holidays."
As well as mountain bikes, the pair also have touring bikes arriving by July. They are also working with The Great Sussex Way to plan routes that take people around West Sussex's 'burgeoning vineyard scene'.
Oliver added: "Mountain biking is all well and good but it's not for everybody. Tour bikes are for people less confidence so they can explore the local area.
"This year was about trying the concept and making sure there is a market out there that I thought there would be.
"The idea is to have a base next year, somewhere in the South Downs.
"I'm very much in the mindset of building a successful local business which will grow and create jobs."