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.”
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
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.
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
“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 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.”
Located at the Woodstock Recreation Center
54 River Street