(From Meat Engines)
I have a decent pile of riding friends, past and present, whose groms don't ride mountain bikes. There are endless reasons, that come down to both the kids and parents, and I'm not going to discuss the greater litany of them, but one thing that has come up often in my conversations is money.
Plenty of folks have it but don't want to invest in high-end equipment for their kids as they're uncertain that they'll love riding. Plenty of folks barely have the funds to keep their own Shore-worthy mountain bike in working order, and their kids play other less, but still, expensive sports. Some wish they could try riding with their kids, and some would rather guard their 'thing' or leave it to their kids to discover as they did.
There are essentially endless scenarios and most of them aren't something your local shop can help you with. But, I believe there's a market of people who'd love to introduce their grom to riding. Take them out once or twice to see if they catch the bug before investing in their own rig. Maybe see how the parent and kid dynamic is in the forest. Even to just give them a taste of the activity you love.
To accomplish this, I've pitched my bosses at my part-time shop gig on the idea of buying a high-enough end 24" wheeled hardtail to rent to folks. Maybe a stock Marin SQ24" with a pair of Maxxis DHF tires and a OneUp 100-120mm adjustable dropper post? Maybe a Commencal Meta HT 24" with a -2° angleset. A proper kids' hardtail, with proper geometry, tires, and brakes for the local terrain.
Why a hardtail? Cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain, and, therefore, cheaper to rent. I also think for most people it sets up a realistic expectation for the first proper mountain bike they'd invest in for their kid. It would rent for $75 per day.
The only real question, to which I don't know the answer, is if enough people would rent a 24" wheeled hardtail, for $75/day, to make it worthwhile to have it. I imagine parents who would rather invest in a couple of test days to ensure their kid's keen before buying a bike that they'll only be in for a couple of years. Maybe renting a bike so one of their kid's friends can come along and try some green-blue rides. After all, might as well introduce them young to the concept of trying to turn all their friends into riders?
Anyway, if you can picture yourself, or a friend, renting a 24" mountain bike on the North Shore sometime in the next 6-12 months drop me an e-mail so I can harass my sometimes-bosses Jac and Nice Guy Geoff about it.