Mobile Bike Shop Consulting

Franchise Bicycle Repair Logos - multi-city

 

If you’re interested in Mobile Bike Shop Consulting at $89 per hour, we’re available.  Feel free to email or call (571-293-0689) to schedule a consultation.  “That’s a LOT just to talk!”  We agree!  That’s why we’ve included quite a bit of information, below, all for free.  More free information regarding independent mobile bike shops is here.

 

Should I Take the Mobile Bike Shop Franchise Plunge?

Our Big Data guy says this is one of our more frequently visited pages. With that in mind, some upfront clarifications:

1. We don’t sell mobile bike shop franchises.

2. We don’t have a dog in the mobile-bike-shop-franchise fight.

3. The thoughts that follow are based on a combination of publicly available information, Franchise Disclosure Documents, direct communications with mobile-bike-shop franchisors, and the occasional anonymous mobile bike shop franchisee.

4. Why?  Who the heck are we to pass judgement on a system we with which we have zero first-hand experience?  Many years ago, when we did consider going with a franchise, we did lots of studying, lots of note-taking, lots of Excel-spreadsheeting.  After spending a considerable amount of time and effort, it seemed a waste to throw it all away.  At about the same time, questions started arriving from others who were also curious about starting their own mobile bike shops.  We love talking shop and comparing notes, but it became a bit overwhelming.  It was  easier to refer those inquires here.

5.  More Why?  “You didn’t buy a franchise.  It’s none of our business.  Why don’t you and Mr. Lahey go frig off!”  All valid points.  We care because we’re in the same mobile-bike-shop industry.  A rising tide lifts all boats.  Similarly, falling waters are equally non-beneficial.  If a mobile bike shop franchise fails, and we’ll call the Beeline Bike franchise method a failure, that puts a bit of a stain on the rest of us.  It’s not a great message to consumers, nevermind wholesalers who might be even less enthusiastic in approving a new mobile-bike-shop account.

With that done, let’s begin!

If you’re looking for a turn-key operation, with a tricked-out van, training, scheduling, marketing, advertising, and established wholesale accounts with lots of bike-industry sellers, buying a mobile bike shop franchise is the way to go, hands down.

But you’re going to have to pay for that. A lot. Frankly, as well you should. If there’s anything we’ve learned during the last several years, creating, managing, growing, and operating a single day-to-day mobile bike shop from scratch is hard. It’s really hard. Nonetheless, beyond what can be a considerable financial savings, going it alone has a number of other attractive attributes: running a business the way you’d like, when you’d like, and how you’d like, without meddling from HQ. The days can be long, and no blaming the main-office for goof-ups because they’ll all be yours. But the rewards of owning and operating your own shop have been very fulfilling, to say the least.

While we don’t offer mobile bike shop franchises, and we choose to go the Independent route, we love mobile bike shop franchises. We love Velofix. We love the left-behind Beeline Bike franchises.  We love Bike Doctor Mobile. We’re a bit freaked-out by Velotooler; if that works on a grand scale, we’re all doomed. For selfish purposes, the more mobile bike shops out there, the better – for all of us. While mobile bike repair operations have existed in some areas for decades, even today, we regularly hear,”What’s that all about?” We’re still in the equivalent of the early pizza-delivery days (1889, if you must know), when a lot of people thought that was crazy, too. As time has shown, there’s plenty of room for Papa Johns, Domino’s, as well as lots of successful independent pizza guys. Here’s the not-so-secret to operating a successful franchise or independent mobile bike shop: If you’re half-good at what you do, you show up when you say you will, you’re nice, you charge a reasonable rate, and you back-up your work, you’re golden. Some unsolicited advice: don’t get greedy and don’t bite back at the rare customer who screws you.

We used to engage like-minded people from all over the country, for free, on a fairly regular basis. We love talking shop, sharing ideas, debating the pros and cons of the best way to build-out a cargo van, talking smack about those QBP mobile-bike-shop-haters, but we’ve run out of time. That’s the primary reason all of the information is posted here, and updated on a semi-regular basis.  For free!  We’d still love to talk or email, but that’s under our Mobile Bike Shop Consulting offering at $89 per hour. If you’re interested, by all means, please call (571-293-0689) or email. If you’re in the area, in-person meetings and a tour of our customized mobile bike shop van are also welcome.

What follows are our extended thoughts on the status of brick-and-mortar bike shops, the mobile bike shop business model, and the differences between going-it-alone versus purchasing a turn-key mobile bike shop franchise. After reading all that follows, perhaps you’ll have one or more of your questions answered.

First, The Bad News:

Times are changing, again, within the bike industry. Competition from the likes of Walmart, Target, and Amazon is significant and established. Why buy an “inexpensive” $400 bike from a local brick and mortar bike shop when you can buy something that looks almost identical for $129 at Walmart? Likewise, why buy a $2,000 bike from a ‘real’ shop when you’re able to purchase something similar from Bikesdirect.com for $800? Interested in a top-shelf bike? Trek and Giant recently announced direct-to-consumer options, as did Colnago. More recently, Canyon Bikes, which has always been direct-to-consumer, is also now available in the U.S.

Margins on new-bike sales have declined consistently for years. Even with higher-margin parts and accessories, there’s little relief. Some top-shelf components are available through UK internet sellers such as Wiggle.com, Merlin.com, or Chainreactioncycles.com, at prices below what US-based brick-and-mortar shops pay, wholesale, for the exact same item. And those UK sellers regularly offer free shipping with no tax. It’s no wonder the number of bike shops in the United States has declined, by the hundreds, every year for the last several years. Since 2000, 38% of all bike shops have closed.

Adding to the misery of brick-and-mortar shops, the salary for a bike mechanic, to put it politely, stinks. According to the US Census Bureau, which tracks the wages of thousands of different occupations, including bike mechanics, the median bike mechanic salary in 2017 was $29,370. If you’re a bike mechanic and you made more than $39,810 per year, your salary was higher than 90% of all other bike mechanics in the United States. Ready for this? The highest paid custodians (and no disrespect to custodians) make more than the highest paid bike mechanics.

A depressing reality: even if you’re a great bike mechanic, but you’re not already independently wealthy, there’s a reasonable chance you’re going to have trouble affording one of the existing mobile bike shop franchises. A lot of those franchises are purchased by investors who then hire their own bike mechanics to run their van. What’s perhaps worse, if you’re a bike mechanic who’s fortunate enough to be approved for upwards of $150,000 (or more) in financing for your own franchise, that’s a big financial anchor around your waist. The monthly franchise fees and business loan payments are due every month, even in January and February when demand for bike work slows.

The Good News:

The mobile bike shop model capitalizes on the same ultra-competitive forces currently bearing down on traditional bike shops. For starters, the overhead costs of a mobile bike shop are significantly lower. We’ll digress for a moment, don’t confuse “significantly lower” with “free.” Nonetheless, the reduced costs are bolstered by a significant convenience to the consumer. Hard core cyclists may not think twice about bringing their bike to a shop for a tune-up, but what about the frazzled parent with four kid’s bikes, a Honda Civic, and no bike rack? What may be a big nuisance for many people (lugging bikes to a bike shop) is an easy option with a mobile bike repair service. Which leads to a great big non-secret in the industry, bicycle maintenance services are one of the last higher-margin money makers. The commoditization of bicycles and bike parts that’s causing great angst within much of the brick and mortar bike world? Almost irrelevant for a mobile bike shop, which focuses on service. Parts and accessories exist to support the service-oriented mobile bike shop business, not the other-way-around. A customer might be able to order a Dura Ace cassette online from Wiggle, but it costs a lot more to ship a bike to the UK to have it installed. And guess why your local brink and mortar bike shop needs a week, or two weeks, or more(!) to perform your basic summer tune-up? Because demand is WAAAAAAY more than supply at that time. For many shops, it’s simply not feasible to keep a summer’s-worth of competent mechanics on the books all year long when there’s not much to do in the slower months. The alternative? Grunt your way through June, July, and August with an inadequate number of mechanics and hope you don’t make too many customers mad about the long waits – and hope those same underpaid, weary mechanics don’t walk out the door and forget to come back. If the supply of available bike mechanics could keep pace with the needed bicycle related services, there might be a compelling reason to keep the brick-and-mortar way of doing things alive and well. That’s unfortunately not the case.

The Mobile Bike Shop Franchises: Velofix, Beeline Bikes, and Bike Doctor Mobile

Our detailed thoughts are linked to each of the following franchises:

Velofix, headquartered in Canada.

Beeline Bikes, founded in Northern California.

Bike Doctor Mobile, based in Maryland.

What about Amazon’s Home Services?

Velofix vs Beeline vs Bike Doctor Mobile — which one is best?

What about Independent Mobile Bike Shops?

Need more?  Email or call 571-293-0689 to schedule a mobile bike shop consultation at $89 per hour.