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Rim Rentals

Bright Angel Bicycle Rentals just moved into the Grand Canyon's South Rim Visitors Center after two years of success as a standalone kiosk built from plywood. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Neal)

Two years ago, Wes Neal and Kyle George of Flagstaff poured their savings into opening a tiny bicycle rental kiosk near the Grand Canyon's South Rim Visitors Center.

The former river runners were awarded the first-ever bicycle rental concession at the South Rim by the National Park Service but were only given two years to prove there was a demand for such a service.

There were no guarantees that a long-term contract would actually stay with the Flagstaff-based business.

They must have done something right, because the two men behind Bright Angel Bicycle Rentals beat out national vendors earlier this summer for the exclusive right to rent out bikes for the next 10 years at the South Rim.

Last month, the business moved inside the Visitors Center and was given 1,138 square feet to rent their bicycles as well as to operate a café year-round.

Previously, the pair had a 28-square-foot kiosk they had built out of plywood in a Sunnyside garage.

In addition to renting bikes and selling sandwiches, the business offers a shuttle service from the Canyon Visitor Information Plaza to Hopi Point on the Hermit Road.

Weary customers can also load up their bikes at Hermit Rest to bring them back to the shop.

Other services include daily bike tours and rentals of bike trailers for families with younger children.

During the peak of the summer tourism season, Bright Angel Bicycle Rentals could easily have up to 200 customers a day -- renting their entire fleet of 21-speed cruisers twice a day.

Most people rent the bikes for four-hour periods, Neal said.

He hints they might increase their inventory next year to meet demand.

"Next year we might bump it up a bit," he said. "There were some occasions where we had to turn people away."

Although the bikes break down, Neal knocks his fist on a nearby wood desk when asked if they've lost any bikes since opening in 2010.

"Not yet," Neal said. "Most people treat the bikes really well."

A small side business has opened up for the two men, offering bike repairs to the employees working in the Canyon year round. He said the nearest bike repair service he is aware of is in Flagstaff.

One reason that the business has doubled its staff this year, however, is the immensely popular café inside the Visitor Center, which is selling between 300 to 500 sandwiches a day -- customers don't have to be renting a bike.

The business also sells Clif nutritional bars, candy, Kettle potato chips, trail mix, Gatorade as well as Pepsi products.

The pair has also contracted with several other Flagstaff business to keep the café stocked. Locals can get Late for the Train coffee, Biff's Bagels and the popular sandwiches prepared by 7 Ate 9 on bread freshly baked by Village Baker.

An eight-inch sandwich costs $7.75.

"It is all local," Neal says proudly. "It has been incredible. I just drove by the 7 Ate 9 and saw four or five people making sandwiches right now."

Joe Ferguson can be reached at jferguson@azdailysun.com or 556-2253.

Bright Angel Bicycle Rentals

South Rim Visitors Center

(928) 814-8704

Hours:

Bike rentals 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Café: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Café is open year round, bike rentals are available April through October

Rates: $10/hour, $25/4 hours, $35/day Shuttle: $9 round-trip

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