Spring is a time for new beginnings, and that includes new hobbies.
As the air gets warmer and the days last longer, it's the perfect time to try out a new outdoor sport. The Baltimore region offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun, from biking to paddleboarding.
Thanks to local retailers that rent sporting equipment, budding outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen can try out new hobbies without investing too much money.
Gary Weeden, of Annapolis boat and bike rental shop Paddle or Pedal, likens renting to test-driving a car. "Before you spend your money, this is a great way to try things out. Like with cars: Before you buy, rent and say, 'This is what I like and don't like.' "
"If someone hasn't been on a bicycle for a while, and they're not sure of the type of bike they'll want to purchase, we offer several types they can try out at low cost," adds Jim White of Monkton Bikes.
Weeden also notes that, especially with boats, some people prefer long-term renting over buying. "You can try it out and decide if you want to go through the hassle of cleaning, storing and taking care of your own boat," he says.
Renters of outdoor sporting equipment agree that ultimately, one of the best things about their business is that it helps people discover sports.
"We just encourage people to try things," says Weeden. "It's not too big of an investment, so you can just try it and enjoy."
We rounded up some of the diverse sporting rental companies in the Baltimore region to get you started on that new hobby.
Annapolis Canoe & Kayak
Annapolis Canoe & Kayak rents variety of kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards from their shop near the water in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis.
Contact: 311 Third St., Annapolis. 410-263-2303; ackannapolis.com
Rates: $20-$30 per hour; $50-$80 per day; $70-$110 per weekday overnight; $100-$160 per weekend; $220-$350 per week
Baltimore Bicycle Works
A worker-owned and operated shop on Falls Road in Baltimore, south of North Avenue, Baltimore Bicycle Works rents several models of bikes, including hybrids and road bikes.
Contact: 1813 Falls Road, Baltimore. 410-605-0705; baltimorebicycleworks.com/rentals
Rates: $25 per day, $100 per week
Located at Harborview off Key Highway, Baltimore Parasail offers parasailing rides in the Inner Harbor. Photo packages are also available.
Contact: 500 Harborview Drive, Baltimore. 443-765-7627; baltimoreparasail.com/contact.html (Note: Not open for season as of press time.)
Rates: $64-$192, depending on number of riders
This Havre de Grace bike shop rents single-speed coaster-brake cruisers.
Contact: 213 N. Juniata St., Havre de Grace. 443-502-2377; billersbikes.com
Rates: $15 per four hours, $28 per day
Chester River Kayaking Adventures
Chester River Kayaking Adventures rents single and tandem kayaks and organizes guided paddles near its location in Rock Hall.
Contact: 5758 Main St., Rock Hall. 410-639-2001; crkayakadventures.com
Rates: $40-$52 per half-day; $60-$68 per full day; $80-$88 per 24-hour period
Columbia Paddleboats rents traditional paddleboats and character boats in the form of swans, dragons and ducks for use on Lake Kittamaqundi.
Contact: Lake Kittamaqundi, 10221 Winocopin Circle, Columbia. 301-370-5105; columbiapaddleboats.com
Rates: $15-$20 per 30 minutes
East of Maui
This Annapolis surf shop rents a variety of kayaks, surfboards, windsurfers and stand-up paddleboards and offers lessons.
Contact: 2303 Forest Drive, Suite E, Annapolis. 410-573-9463; eastofmauiboardshop.com
Rates: Stand-up paddleboards: $40-$75 per day. Windsurfers: $125 per day, $30 per week. Surfboards: $25 per day, $100 per week. Kayaks: $30-$50 per day, $125-$200 per week
Hunt Valley Village/Chakra Cycle Station
From its location near the Northern Central Railroad trail, Hunt Valley Village rents a variety of bikes (including kid cruisers, carts and tag-a-longs) and river tubes. The Village also has a concession stand.
Contact: 1235R Paper Mill Road, Hunt Valley. 410-527-9997; chakracyclesstation.com
Rates: $5-$12 per hour; $20-$40 per full day (weekday and weekend rates may vary)
Inner Harbor Paddleboats
Located at Pier 1, Inner Harbor Paddleboats rents traditional and "Chessie" paddleboats, as well as electric boats, for use in the Inner Harbor.
Contact: Pier 1, Inner Harbor, Baltimore. 410-528-1060; baltimorepaddleboats.org
Rates: Paddleboats: $11-$18 per 30 minutes; electric boats: $10-$18 per 30 minutes
Light Street Cycles
This Federal Hill bike shop rents hybrids, mountain bikes, road bikes and bikes or trailers for children and pets.
Contact: 1124 Light St., Baltimore. 410-685-2234; http://www.lightstcycles.com
Rates: $15-$60 per day
Loch Raven Fishing Center
Operated by Baltimore County, the Loch Raven Fishing Center rents boats for use on the Loch Raven Reservoir.
Contact: 12101 Dulaney Valley Road, Timonium. 410-887-7692; baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/recreation/countyparks/fishingcenter/
Rates: $19-$58 per day
Monkton Bike, Tube & Cafe
From its location near Gunpowder Falls, this shop rents adult and kid bikes and trailers, plus kayaks and tubes for use on the river. The shop also includes a vegetarian-friendly cafe.
Contact: 1900 Monkton Road, Monkton. 443-212-5951; bikestuff.net
Rates: Bicycles: $7-$12 per hour, $14-$28 per day; tubes: $12-25 per day; single-person kayaks: $20 per hour
Old Town Parasail
This Havre de Grace shop rents a variety of watersports equipment, including parasailing gear, canoes, kayaks and paddleboats.
Contact: 211 Congress Ave., Havre de Grace. 410-688-2397
Rates: Parasailing: $50-$70 per person; kayaks: $15-$25 per hour; canoes: $25 per hour; paddleboats: $10 per hour for adults, $5 per hour for kids
Paddle or Pedal
Located in Annapolis' Quiet Waters Park, Paddle or Pedal rents boats and bikes to park visitors. There is a second location at Chesapeake Beach in Calvert County.
Contact: Quiet Waters Park, 600 Quiet Waters Park Road, Annapolis. 410-271-7007; paddleorpedal.com
Rates: Kayaks: $15-$20 per hour, $45-$60 per day; pedal boats, paddleboards, rowboats: $20 per hour, $60 per day; bicycles: $10 per hour, $30 per day; sailboats: $75 per day
With five locations in and around Baltimore, Race Pace is rents several types of bicycles.
Contact: Snowden Center, 6925 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia, 410-290-6880; 8450 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, 410-461-7878; 1410 Key Highway, Baltimore; 410-986-0001; St. Thomas Shopping Center, 9930 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills, 410-581-9700; 1 Railroad Ave. Westminster, 410-876-3001; racepacebicycles.com
Rates: $45-$75 per day, $75-$150 per three days, $150-$200 per week
This national chain sells a variety of outdoors equipment and rents camping gear, including tents, backpacks, sleeping bags and sleeping pads.
Contact: 6100 Dobbin Road, Columbia, 410-872-1742; 63 West Aylesbury Road, Timonium, 410-252-5920. rei.com
Rates: Tents: $20-$40 per day plus a $100 deposit; backpacks: $10-$20; sleeping bags: $15; sleeping pads: $8-$10. Discounted rates for member.
South River Boat Rentals
Located near Annapolis on the South River, South River Boat Rentals offers sail and powerboat rentals and charters.
Contact: 2802 Solomons Island Road, Edgewater. 410-956-9729; southriverboatrentals.com
Rates: Sailboats: $160-$500 per half-day, $300-$900 per full day, $1,200-$2,300 per week; Powerboats: $500-$700 per half-day, $800-$1200 per full day; captains and instructors available for $100 per half-day and $200 per full day; tubes: $40 per day; water skis: $40 per day; fishing equipment: $40 for a four-person setup.
SunTime Rentals rents powerboat-oriented watersports equipment, from the boats themselves to water skis, on the South River near Annapolis.
Contact: 2820 Solomons Island Road, Edgewater. 410-266-6020; suntimerentals.com
Rates: Call for rates.
Operating out of two locations in Gunpowder Falls State Park — one near calm water (Dundee) and one near open water (Hammerman) — Ultimate Watersports offers a variety of nonpower watersports equipment.
Contact: Hammerman Beach, 7200 Grace Quarters Road, Middle Rive, and Dundee Creek, 7400 Grace Quarters Road, Middle River. 410-335-5352; ultimatewatersports.com
Rates: Kayaks: $15-$25 per hour, $45-$75 per day. stand-up paddleboards: $25 per hour, $75 per day onsite; $85 per day, $125 per weekend, $340 per week offsite; sailboats: $45-$65 per hour, $95-$145 per half-day, $140-$190 per full day; windsurfers: $20-$25 per hour, $60-$75 per day onsite; $70-$80 per day, $105-$125 per weekend, $280-$340 per week offsite.
Additional state park fee and boat launch fee may apply
Stay safe while having fun
Whether you're paddling, pedaling or camping, equipment experts offer advice about how to enjoy the outdoors as safely as possible.
Stay equipped. Every renter of outdoor equipment requires that renters follow laws related to sporting gear; shops may enforce additional guidelines, as well. Personal flotation devices are required on watercraft (some shops require renters to wear PFDs at all times) and bike shops make helmets easily accessible.
Follow the rules. "Stay to the right, pedestrians have the right of way, the NCR trail is trash-free," says Hunt Valley Village's Kate Wright. She reminds customers of the rules of the road and water before they head out on adventures.
Know your limits. For watersports, it is especially important to be aware of physical limits, says Hal Ashman of Ultimate Watersports. "It's a good idea to have solid swimming skills before renting a watercraft," he says. "That means at least being able to swim the length of a pool and tread water for 60 seconds."
Do your homework. Ashman recommends learning about the characteristics of the water or trail you're exploring before your trip. Rental shops should be able to share key information about the location.
Dress appropriately. "Gear matters," says Ashman. "We make sure people are properly attired so they have a safe and comfortable experience." That includes making decisions about wearing a swimsuit versus a wetsuit, footwear, layering clothes in case of temperature changes, applying sunscreen and carrying a water bottle.
Ask questions. Outdoor equipment experts insist that the best instruction is personal. Talk to the rental shop about your goals and level of expertise to plan the best outing.
Stay in contact. Dave Isbell of Annapolis Canoe & Kayak says sometimes people are "having so much fun, they don't want to come back." But returning promptly is more than just courteous — it also lets the shop know you're safe. "If people aren't back by the time they expect, we're aware of it so we can be proactive," says Hal Ashman. "Always make a plan. Tell someone how long you'll be out, where you're going, where you're launching and when you'll return, so you can have an extra hand if you need it."