CyclingTips podcast, Episode 31: Is mobile repair the future of bike service?
The concept is simple and straightforward: A full-service mobile bike shop comes to your home, saving you the time and hassle of drop-offs and pick-ups. Repairs are done by certified mechanics inside a well-stocked, wifi-enabled Mercedes Sprinter van. Variety of stock on hand is decent, though volume is kept low for obvious reasons. Rates are comparable to brick-and-mortar bike shops. There is a minimum charge, usually around $70. Appointments can be made online or by phone, usually within a day or two.
Just like Amazon or Uber Eats, it’s all about convenience. The bike shop comes to you.
The concept is simple, but what it means for local bike shops — which often double as a hub for the cycling community — is more complicated.
For Velofix, a Vancouver-based, franchise-model mobile service that is the largest in North America, expansion has been tremendous, with 300% revenue growth last year. Velofix launched its first mobile shop in January 2013. By June 2016, they sold 50 franchises; by April 2017 that figure had doubled.
Without a monthly rental expense, overhead costs are minimal. A fully outfitted Sprinter van runs about $90,000. From there, it’s a matter of labor expense and keeping the van stocked and running smoothly, a similar business model to high-end food trucks that have begun popping up across the U.S.
Working with distributors like QBP, KHS, Hawley, and Highway Two — as well as SRAM, Shimano, and FSA — each Velofix franchise stocks and displays its products per corporate guidelines. Soft goods like helmets and sunglasses are also offered, though size-specific items such as shoes are not.
Velofix Direct takes it a step further; order directly from any of over 20 bike manufacturers such as Niner, Eddy Merckx, or Van Dessel, and have your bike built and delivered by your local Velofix franchise.
Velofix has also developed a fulfillment platform with Amazon — a win-win for all involved as Amazon’s margins from bike sales have historically been hampered with returns due to poor assembly. Whether bought through Velofix Direct or Amazon, every service comes with a 30-day warranty. They’ve partnered with BikeFlights.com, meaning they will come to your home, box up your bike, and coordinate with BikeFlights.com to have it shipped.
The consumer market has signed a demand for mobile service, but as manufacturers respond in turn with consumer-direct online sales, what does this mean for brick-and-mortar shops?
In this podcast, U.S. Editor Neal Rogers speaks with Chris Guillemet, Velofix CEO and co-founder, as well as Peter Small, CEO of the Bay Area’s Beeline Bikes, to learn about how mobile bike service fits into — and changes — the cycling community’s ecosystem.
Additionally, we hear from two independent shop owners — Aaron Jacobs from The Bicycle Trip in Santa Cruz, California, and Jim Potter, from Vecchio’s Bicicletteria in Boulder, Colorado — who discuss how the mobile-shop trend affects their bottom line, and what they must do to adapt.
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Episode 31 Direct Download