LONG BEACH — Cars and trucks have long been a common sight cruising along the Long Beach coast, but a new way to traverse the 28-mile stretch of sand has arrived with a new business in downtown Long Beach. In April, Bill and Kathie Lauderdale opened Affordable Mopeds offering moped and electric bike rentals at 811 Pacific Avenue.
Renting a scooter or electric bike
While Lauderdale hasn’t finished setting up shop, he’s already begun renting bikes and scooters. Nearly as fast as he can get them assembled, they’re being rented to the tune of $30 per hour, with discounts available for multiple hours.
Lauderdale is optimistic he can help fill the void left by the ongoing closure of Long Beach Go Karts, which rented mopeds before closing in early April. The day after Lauderdale heard about the go kart and moped rental business closing, he secured a rented space in First Place Mall near Neptune Theater.
“I read the article (in the Chinook Observer) on a Wednesday and got the space Thursday,” Lauderdale said. The same day, he also placed his initial order for more bikes and scooters.
From 1 to 100
Less than a decade ago, Lauderdale had just one moped. Today, he has nearly 100 that he rents out regularly at his locations in Long Beach and Ocean Shores.
“Everybody in Ocean Shores buys mopeds to take out to the beach,” Lauderdale said. When friends would come to visit, they often inquired about the mopeds. This led Lauderdale to purchase a couple to rent as a side business.
“I bought 10 and put a little building up,” he said. “The first two days told me 10 wasn’t going to be enough.” During his first season, Lauderdale sold more than 50 mopeds. But it didn’t take long for the town of fewer than 6,000 year-round residents to become saturated.
“I inundated the market,” he said. While sales have plateaued, the rental market has continued to grow, thanks to tourists.
New way to ride
Lauderdale has introduced thousands to scooters over the past eight years.
“If you can ride a bicycle, you can ride a moped,” he said.
A driver’s license is required, however. “They’re a licensed motor vehicle,” Lauderdale said. “The only rule is they can only go in 35 mph zones.”
The scooters are built for streets, but capable in the sand, with proper caution.
“One in four people that go to the beach have a spill, whereas one in 100 wreck on the road,” Lauderdale said. “The beach is hard to ride on, but the roads are easy.”
The 49cc scooters get 120 miles per gallon and are made by TaoTao, a company based in Zhejiang, China.
For those solely interested in exploring Long Beach’s 28-mile stretch of sand, there is an alternative built for the task. They’re electric-powered, fat-tire bikes built by a small startup in Seattle called Rad Power Bikes owned by Mike Radenbaugh. The bikes can be pedaled like a regular bike or powered by a 750 watt electric motor. The bike is capable of 20 mph with a 20- to 40-mile range, depending on terrain and amount of peddle assist. The wheels are twice as wide as traditional bike tires and are specifically equipped to handle softer surfaces, such as sand and snow. The wider surface area prevents the wheels from sinking, effectively making it much easier pedaling and traversing areas that would be troublesome for traditional bikes. The e-bikes will be making their Long Beach debut and Lauderdale is still determining how many he will need.
Finding storage space for the bikes and mopeds has been the biggest challenge.
“I’m desperate for storage,” Lauderdale said, adding that he ultimately plans to have 25 e-bikes and 40 mopeds. Currently, he has eight bikes and 24 scooters, but he’s adding more to the fleet each week.
Recession leads to reinvention
Lauderdale started his moped and bike rental business after a 35-year career in construction. The 2008-09 recession slowed business opportunities to a standstill, which caused Lauderdale to consider new avenues.
“In 2009, it was bad and I had to reinvent myself,” he said. “The mopeds worked right from the beginning.”