EagleRider’s way or the highway
EagleRider doesn't just rent Harleys, ATVs and personal watercraft, it rents lifestyles.
Everyone dreams, but for Chris McIntyre, owner and co-founder of power and motorsport rental franchise EagleRider, the moment he wakes up is the moment his dream gets started. And unlike most dreams, which usually end right at the best part, McIntyre gets to experience that "best part" every time he turns the ignition of his motorcycle.
Customers of EagleRider can rent motorcycles for weekends, travel packages or even guided tours in places like Route 66 in Chicago.
Upon graduating the University of Wisconsin-Madison, McIntyre and his dog jumped in the car with what little belongings he had and headed west to California – what he considered the land of opportunity. McIntyre always wanted to start his own business. After working a corporate job for four years, he began to conceptualize what would become EagleRider. By 1993, McIntyre had formed his concept and business model: a motor and powersport-rental company that combined the technical aspects of a car-rental dealer with the tourism aspects of a travel agency. McIntyre said he knew he was onto something when his first clients, a group of Austrian tourists inspired by a photo of Elvis Presley on a Harley, came back from their two-week journey with tears in their eyes.
"The beauty of motorcycles and power sports and ATVs and Harleys – it's more of a lifestyle; we really are a lifestyle business," said McIntyre. "We targeted that 'We Rent Dreams' slogan, literally, shortly after these four guys went on this trip. They wanted to live the 'American Dream.'" Settling on the name EagleRider – a representation of America's freedom – McIntyre and his business partners Jeff Brown, Peter Wurmer and Bob Pitts set out to provide that same dreamy experience to others.
The 85-unit, Los Angeles-based company rents motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles and personal watercraft – but no sportbikes, due to liability. The EagleRider franchise offers standalone rentals for weekends, as well as travel packages and guided tours for people looking to experience destinations like Route 66 in Chicago or the Pacific Coast Highway. The franchise has locations across the U.S. and Europe (with multi-lingual booking centers in France, Germany and Holland), as well as Australia, Costa Rica and Mexico.
The company has slight differences from most vehicle-rental companies. For any vehicle in its fleet, EagleRider requires customers to be at least 21 with a valid driver's license including proper motorcycle endorsement in compliance with local laws – the company will work with people to get that endorsement if they don't have one.
David Goff, EagleRider's marketing manager, said the company's diverse fleet of vehicles and its emphasis on tourism make the franchise nearly "recession-proof," despite being a relatively seasonal business. Goff said much of EagleRider's business comes from overseas, and that Europeans armed with strong Euros are providing the company with great business. Meanwhile, rentals of snowmobiles, personal watercraft and ATVs maintain EagleRider's viability in markets where motorcycle weather only exists a few months out of the year.
But just because EagleRider's business is cruising doesn't mean McIntyre is willing to give franchise rights to just anyone looking to go for the ride.
"It's not like opening an ice cream or pizza place," said McIntyre. "We want people to be owner-operators. They have to have financial strength, even though we'll finance the fleet and the franchise fee...we won't do that unless they're financially strong; the right business fit is really a home-run."