Alum to start bike rental business

For everyone who has tripped over a roommate’s bicycle in the dark or caught a pant leg on a greasy chain, help is on the way.

MyBike, a new service started by a Northeastern alumnus, will soon offer bicycle rental at affordable prices, making it easier for students to ride around campus without the inconvenience of storing a bike in cramped quarters.

In 2004, LeRoy J. Watkins graduated from Northeastern with a bachelor’s degree in finance and a determination not to find himself without career options after graduation.

Now he’s back on campus, and has translated that determination into a homegrown business that will provide bikes for rental to Northeastern students.

After graduation, Watkins joined JPG Marketing, where he quickly rose to upper management. He said the experience allowed him to understand the workings of large companies. After one year, Watkins said he learned enough to start a company of his own.

And so MyBike – a company Watkins described as a bike trading service for Northeastern students – was born.

Starting April 1, students and residents around campus will be able to call a MyBike number, get a combination to the lock of a bike on campus and set off for the grocery store, pedal over to Boston Common or just go on a leisurely ride around the city.

Bikes are located in front of West Village A, Davenport A, Speare Hall and Hayden Hall. Use is limited to six hours at a time, and each of the 20 bikes in Watkins’ fleet is equipped with a lock, helmet and a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking device. For $20 per year, students can rent the bikes as many times as they wish.

“I want to make it cheap,” Watkins said. “It’s $20 for 365 days of bike service.”

Students interested in using the service can register at www.mybikeonline.com and can use their Husky dollars to pay.

Besides the bike service, the registration fee will also provide students with a MyBike card, which will give discounts at local businesses sponsoring MyBike. Currently, Watkins said he is sponsored by Umi Sushi in the Fenway, Nextel on Huntington Avenue and is in negotiations with Dunkin’ Donuts.

The concept of MyBike came from Watkins’ personal experience as a bike owner on campus.

“When I went to school at Northeastern, things got stolen from my bike all the time. Seats. Tires. Chains. But using a bike was so freaking convenient,” Watkins said.

With MyBike, students will be able to enjoy the convenience of owning a bike without having to worry about maintenance, storage or theft. Even if a bike breaks down, Watkins said he will send someone to pick up the student and bike.

Until the start-up date, students will see Watkins, his sophomore younger brother Jonathan and other students who are friends with Watkins riding the bikes around campus to promote the business. On April 1, there will be a surprise on campus to kick off MyBike, Watkins said.

Although the company is still in its infancy, Watkins has large dreams for MyBike’s future. He said his ultimate goal is to spread to every college campus in the metro-Boston area, then colleges in Massachusetts and eventually be recognized nationwide.

“A student at Northeastern could fly to [University of Southern California] in California and, if registered for the service, call and hop on a bike,” Watkins said, describing his ultimate dreams for MyBike.

But despite his hope for expansion, MyBike is still going to be home-based, Watkins said.

“I want it to be so that when people think of MyBike, they think of Northeastern,” he said.

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