Market need in the bike repair space

It strikes me as odd that in a city as wholly dependent on bikes to commute to and from work, there’s so little innovation in the bike repair space.



First, any decent car repair shop will loan you a car that you can drive while yours is getting fixed. Not so with bike repairs. You’re supposed to just live without, and, I don’t know, take the bus or something. Personally I never use buses, the investment to figure out which lines go where and when is too much work to be worth my while, given the limited use I make of them. (Trains are easier to figure out because they need rails, not roads, and there are less of them, so keeping track of various lines is much easier.)



Why not offer me use of a bike for a nominal fee? I know there’s going to be wear and tear and the risk of breakage, but you’re a bike repair shop, you should be able to deal with that, no?



Next, or alternatively, opening hours from 10 AM to 5.30 PM don’t do me much good. How about accepting my bike for repair at 8 AM and fix it the same day, so I can do hand it in as I get to work, and then have it back in time to ride back.



Or if you’re in a residential area, accept it in the evening, fix it during the evening and night, and have it ready for me from 7 AM the next morning.



I know that we live in an expensive labor country, and that’s why this will probably never happen, but I’d really like to see this happen.



Does any of you know what the situation is like in other bike-intensive cities like Amsterdam? Do Stockholmers ride their bikes a lot? Helsinkians? How has your city tackled this, if at all? I’m sure in Beijing they’ve gotten this down a long time ago. Guan, you’ve just been there, did you see anything like this?

7 comments

Here in the Netherlands bikes are indispensable anywhere. I have heard of shops that offer loan bikes but it's not common. Same day fixing? Here you can count yourself lucky if they will do it within a week. I had a back wheel replaced in three workdays and found that incredibly fast.
Good requirements for a customer-centered bike repair store. As far as i understand there's little left of bicycles in Beijing, but a lot of cars and congestion these days.
I know Ximon here in Amsterdam encountered all of this frustration and more when his bike broke down. Yup, there's probably some money in this one.
There's several tricky parts to it -- the money's not going to be huge, and you need to be located conveniently relative to people's work or home. You don't want to bike 5 kilometers out of your way to get your bike fixed. But with the loan bike concept, you can be located anywhere on the route, so on the main arteries leading in and out of the city, rather than at the end. That should make a difference to the viability. Then, people are probably cheeseparing when it comes to paying for it, but I think convenience and professionalism will go a long way. Also, bike repair shops are not usually staffed with the brightest people, and you're always afraid they're going to invent new problems or overlook other important problems that do need fixing ("but you didn't tell us to fix that it can't brake!"), or just take any opportunity to charge through your nose. So let's staff the customer handling with smart people, could be senior year students to make it cheaper, people that know what they're talking about (give them an in-depth course in bike mechanics), people that talk straight and inspire confidence and a solid work-ethic. And upsell, of course, accessories, lubrication, new brake pads, lights, etc., but in a gentle, professional manner, and only when the upsell is adding real value to the customer. But don't sell whole bikes. Leave that to the others. It's a strong statement that this is really about being the best at fixing bikes. It's branding. Maybe later, when the brand is established could we add new bike sales, if there's a lot of money to be added there. Use the trust gained from repairs to sell new bikes, just like a typical bike shop might use the trust earned from selling you your bike to entice you to come back for service, only turned on its head. More: Give customers a computer-printed receipt that says exactly what's going to be done, what it'll cost, and by when it'll be done. And always get a phone number so you can contact the customer if you discover something important, or there's a delay (which invokes an instant 20% reduction in the charge). Send an SMS the instant it's done, so if it's done early, you can pick it up early. Bottom line is, create a ring of bike repair shops around the city following this concept, and you could own the bike repair market. Does anybody know how big and/or lucrative that market is? How big a share of a typical bike shop's revenues comes from repairs rather than new bikes?
By Lars Pind on Tue, Oct 24, 06 at 04:06
Hi there Lars, Here in Shanghai we have many guys repairing bikes in every corner. They will do the job instantly, charging just the price of the piece you need to repair (which might be say 10% more expensive there than bought in a shop, that is where the repair man makes his money from). Many of them don't have a shop, they just go with their bikes to a corner and offer their services there during daytime. Others have small shops. But 95% of the bike shop workers are in bed by 22:00. And up by 05:00. So no overnight service, no "spare-bike". Yet a completely new usable bike is around 12 euros. A good bike for city biking is around 25. A nice mountainbike with front and rear gears as well as suspension is well under 40 euros. So the spare-bike service might be not that much needed. You either repare your bike instantly or discard it and get a new one. Shanghai is in the process of moving from normal bikes to electrically driven bikes or gas small motorcycles. But still millions of us use them here everyday. And get them repaired ipso facto, similar to many things you get here (ADSL repaired in less than 3 hours, for instance).
As far as opening hours go (I don't know too much on bike repairs), I am beginning to find the Scandinavian system pretty damned daft. Commercial stores and services are open in the time slot where 80% of the population are working. On my few trips to Spain recently, it's much more fun. People get in at 9-10 AM, work till 1 PM, then go for either a nap or a 2 hour luch orgy. At 3 PM they resume work and go on till about 8 PM. Then they have a bath and a nap during the next hour or two, before they dip out to eat, socialize, or get drunk the remaining 3 hours till 1-2 AM. In effect, they break up their sleep periods which provides more energy boosts during the work day. They also have a longer gap between the two big meals of the day, lunch and dinner (about 8-9 hours compared to the usual Danish 6-7). I think this makes sense - at least if you over-indulge you have time to spend the excess energy! Finally, it gives people the option of shopping either before noon, during the late afternoon, or in the evening. I felt much less stressful about my work days while I was there, although shorter trips are a bitch, because it takes a few days to adapt to the rhythm.
Thanks for the info on Shanghai, Luis, that's very informative.
By Lars Pind on Tue, Oct 24, 06 at 04:06

Leave a comment