Why buy a kid's size bike when you can rent the right size bike every year?
In the '60s, Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt noted that "people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want to buy a quarter-inch hole." In 2005, TreeHugger Warren introduced us to the Product Service System (PSS), now called "the sharing economy," where one could borrow or rent the drill to get the desired hole.
The big trick with PSS is using innovative thinking to obtain the classic Win-Win-Win:
Win - you get the end result you need
Win - the provider of the service makes money
Win - the environment is not under any extra pressure
This is why I was so excited to see Grobikes at Toronto's recent Ecofair. It is a classic PSS, where you can essentially rent a kid-sized bike for a year and change it as they grow.
And it is a high quality, lightweight bike that most parents wouldn't buy, knowing that it might be outgrown so fast. Founder Marc Weatherill explains:
I want to make it easier for parents to be able to provide their children with a genuinely good bicycling experience as they grow up, encouraging them to get outside, to explore, to race their friends, to exercise. My hope is that this not only helps them have a happier, healthier, more fulfilling childhood, but also lays the foundation for a healthy, sustainable lifestyle as they move into adolescence and then (gulp) adulthood.
He sounds like he is writing for Treehugger in 2005 here:
Beyond encouraging children to develop a taste for carbon-free transportation, GroBikes' aims to increase the sustainability of the children's bicycle ecosystem through a closed-loop business model wherein quality bikes are invested in and lovingly maintained to maximize their usable life, before being responsibly stripped of usable parts and recycled. In short, we hate seeing bikes left out to rust and aim to be part of the solution!
Grobikes imports Frog Bikes from the UK; they are specifically designed for growing kids:
...we set about re-designing kids' bikes, creating a light but strong aluminum frame, and hand-picking components that offer a high performance without compromising the weight.
So these are far better bikes than you get at Walmart, and they are not cheap. But a bike that sells in Toronto for C$249 and might fit a kid for a season is available through Grobikes for C$80.
The sharing economy isn't talked about much anymore; it got co-opted by Uber and AirBnB and, as Susie Cagle explains, sometimes it smelled like something else. Theodore Levitt's drill analogy proved to be wrong; as globalism brought the price of a drill down to 30 bucks, it was easier to own it than it was to go through sharing it. (See MNN: Is the sharing economy dead?)
Grobikes is different. It is a true PSS triple win where you know the kid is going to outgrow the bike, but you still want a high quality ride.
Right now Grobike is only in Toronto, but I hope it grows like its bikes do. More at Grobike.