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Exploring Woodstock On Two Wheels: Rent a Bike at Woodstock Wheels

Mar 22, 2023 11:49PM ● By Mark Aiken Photography by Luke Hanson
Kathleen Nilles of Wellesley, Massachusetts, is a frequent visitor to Woodstock, and she has discovered the best way to explore Vermont. “You rent an electric bike from Woodstock Wheels,” she says. Located under a blue easy-up tent (it’s an operation that keeps it simple) in front of the Woodstock Recreation Center, Woodstock Wheels offers a fleet of rental electric bikes that have nine different levels of pedal assist (that is, everything from no assistance to “scooter-mode,” where you don’t need to pedal at all). And the best part, says Kathleen, are the tours. “In addition to your bike, he will give you a tour with a destination and things to see and do along the way,” she says. It used to be that she would explore Vermont destinations. “Now part of the pleasure,” she says, “is getting there.”

The Bikes

Owner Luke Hanson

Luke Hanson founded Woodstock Wheels in 2021. A graduate of Woodstock High School and nearby Castleton University, Luke has had a number of post-college jobs including working at the garden center at a farmers’ market, earning his real estate license, bartending, and personal training (the field in which he graduated) at Woodstock Recreation Center.

Luke doesn’t know exactly how many miles he biked last year (“A lot,” he says). But a bike rental seemed a logical step for someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, a relationship with the Rec Center, and someone who knows Woodstock. “I grew up here, and I love this town,” he says. “It has everything I want and need.”

The first summer, Luke purchased bikes at retail prices from several different companies. The idea, he says, was that in order to establish a relationship with a company, one needs to purchase a fleet of bikes. Even at wholesale prices, that’s a steep financial commitment. “I bought 10 bikes and eventually settled on a company called M2S (Mountains to Sea)," he says, noting the superior componentry, the hydraulic brakes, and the light and comfortable design of the M2S bikes. “They got excited about what I was doing,” Luke says. He also has a few RadPower bikes.

The Tours

Equipped with a fleet of quality bikes, Luke wondered how to differentiate himself. “I designed tours,” he says. The tours, explains Kathleen, are the key. “They are completely doable,” she says, noting that they have done the tours with a range of age groups and ability levels. “There is rarely car traffic, and he includes extras like where to get a sandwich or a creemee along the way.”

It is apparent, says Kathleen, that Luke has done the rides himself. Regarding a loop ride, he’ll suggest which direction to take in order to get the best views. He tells you the unknown side stops—a practice that is helpful to riders and also supports the local and surrounding economy.
“Oh yeah, I designed the tours,” says Luke. “I have about 10 routes, and renters get a link to the route and a paper map with attractions spelled out.” Rated mild, medium, and spicy, he assesses riders and recommends a tour. The pedal-assisted electric bikes make all distances doable, and they make hills less difficult.

“You don’t need to know the area,” says Kathleen. “You book online, you choose your route, you park, you get your bike, you go. It’s that simple,” she says.

The Future

The first summer, Luke got his feet wet and tested to see whether there was demand. In the second summer, he doubled his business. “He’s super organized,” says Kathleen. “Your bikes are ready with helmets when you get there. He’s helpful and available.”

And—up until now—he’s been a one-person show. “I’ve been running solo,” Luke explains. “I mostly do my own maintenance, and I do the booking, the advertising, and the marketing.” Plenty of people have advice for him; “They want to blow this thing up,” he says, explaining that much of the advice centers around how to grow his business exponentially.

However, he has a realistic and methodical approach. “I realize that lots of people are interested, and I’m excited to share all of this.” For the first time, he plans to hire employees to help with the day-to-day operations. “I’m excited to build a team,” he says. “It’s great fun, especially seeing people’s reactions after their first ride.” And he is open to having additional locations and organizing events (which he has already dabbled in).

Woodstock Wheels is a locally owned business that keeps it simple. Located minutes from his home, Luke offers a healthy alternative to visiting a beautiful part of Vermont—on a bicycle. “My target age is 14 to 80,” he says. It is immensely rewarding, according to Luke, to see people’s reactions after doing one of his tours for the first time. Also rewarding is recognizing the impact cycling can have on a person’s lifestyle. “I have return customers who come back in better shape than before,” he says.

For Kathleen, it’s about exploring an area she has fallen in love with. “It enables us to see Vermont in a way we just hadn’t really seen it before,” says Kathleen. “And he cares whether you had a good time.”

“Electric bikes are capable of running for over 40 miles,” Luke says, “offering a great way to get around Vermont’s steep terrain with plenty to see and explore along the way.”

Woodstock Wheels
Located at the Woodstock Recreation Center
54 River Street
Woodstock, VT

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