Starting a bike servicing business

Questions about bike hire abroad and everything light bike related. No off-topic chat please

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mvcap
Posts: 153
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2016 9:50 pm

by mvcap

Is it typical for a shop to have one 'certified' mechanic who has not-certified helpers? Having dropped off bikes at shops for years to have work done, I never looked for (or saw) credentials. But I have long wondered how mechanics obtain their knowledge beyond regular practice

ghostinthemachine
Posts: 187
Joined: Thu May 07, 2015 9:18 pm

by ghostinthemachine

Yes, that used to be normal (in my experience) for most medium sized shops.

Many today don't even go that far.

by Weenie


icantaffordcycling
Posts: 1168
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2019 5:03 am
Location: Bay Area, CA

by icantaffordcycling

Heh. There is no such thing as 'credentials'. The ones from Shimano, Specialized, SRAM, fox, etc. are just online videos and tests that don't have real-life applications. Certifications are nothing more than proof that you sat through hours of marketing.

Timmo
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:31 pm

by Timmo

Someone in my club did this, here is what I remember him saying from chatting over a beer:

Didn't make any money for 1st couple of years, due to
- buying tools + van
- working out what to stock (to avoid constant trips to LBS to buy bits)
- working out what to charge (started too cheap)
- not marking up parts supplied

Pains:
- storing bikes while waiting for parts to arrive
- safely transporting people's bikes around

My opinion: there is a real place in the market, if you do good quality work and collect/deliver people will pay. You need to find a cheap secure place to store bikes and work to keep overheads low to compete with LBS.

Good luck! :thumbup:
BMC Roadmachine 01 2017

AJS914
Posts: 4344
Joined: Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:52 pm

by AJS914

I'd say just start. Put the word out to everybody you'd done work for in the past and to your bike club. Then put the word out a little wider after that. Drumming up one or two bikes per week to work on is better than nothing and it costs you nothing in startup costs to start off in your garage. I would charge extra for pickup and delivery.

glepore
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Joined: Thu Mar 28, 2013 4:42 pm
Location: Virginia USA

by glepore

A friend who is an experienced wrench made the jump this year, and is doing well (he had been out of the industry for several years prior). The bulk of his work is, however, "family" bicycles-high end bikes are fewer and farther between, and the owners tend to already have a relationship with a shop. Family bikes are often more of a pain to work on than good bikes-they've been neglected, the materials are lesser quality etc. If you don't have experience wrenching on family style bikes, get some.
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wheelbuilder
Posts: 890
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:10 am

by wheelbuilder

I was a bike mechanic for many years including working for a uci women's pro-team service course, multiple shops, a wheelbuilding business, and Velofix. There is a lot of good information passed along here, and good luck in your venture. There are "certifications" available from a few bike repair schools ( Barnett, UBI) etc, and they are helpful for landing jobs in better shops, or to put on your resume but not worth much practically. I went to UBI and am a "Certified Professional Bike Technician" I'm also a "DT Swiss Certified Wheelbuilder" Both of those are pretty pointless cause your real experience comes from "doing the work" Most of the big brands "Specialized, Trek, etc, also have their own schools and certifications. These are valuable if you work in a Specialized shop, or a "Trek Store" and can up your earning power. I worked at a Trek Store for a few years and they sent me to Wisconsin for 10 miserable days to gain their "Certified Expert Technician" qualification.
I retired at a fairly young age from a government job, and did the bike mechanic thing to work in a field that I enjoyed, and to continue working, so I approached the whole thing in a very professional manner. Super lame, but I worked as a professional for my entire career and thought it was the correct way to go about it. In hindsight, you just really need to get a job in a shop in any capacity and learn/do. There are way too many standards and proprietary bikes out there now, to get everything covered during any kind of training.
My thoughts about your idea OP, while worthy of commendation and support is that you will likely have a hard time with this. Working on your own bikes or those of friends is a lot different than repairing shitty hybrids and 3 speed cruisers, or ultra finicky roadies with high end shit. Read through any thread on this forum and imagine yourself trying to expertly build/repair a bike that belongs to one of the members here. These guys fanatically obsess over minute details and stuff has to be absolutely perfect. Hard to charge people money if you are not 100 percent perfect. You also have to be fast and efficient otherwise you will hemorrhage money and NEVER make a profit.

One last thing to consider in your case specifically. When you work in a shop environment there are always a few other mechanics to ask for help from, or bounce ideas off of. There are guys/girls that are especially proficient in certain areas, and they will take the appropriate jobs for their strengths most of the time, so the shop as a whole can be more productive and make more money. How are you going to source parts. Even though pretty much everything is available now through online retailers at wholesale prices, you will still need a QBP or BTI account. Trust me. Lastly, if you are by yourself, (particularly) with a Velofix type appointment based job, you have to be a really good mechanic. You have to know how to fix the problem, diagnose, or install that part, cause you are on your own, and under a strict time constraint. Good luck man! If I can help, pm me.
Never cheer before you know who is winning

ShadesofTi
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:19 pm

by ShadesofTi

Guys thanks a bunch for all this input, it's very helpful. I think I need to explain my situation a bit more for better context:

I'm based in south London, next to one of the most popular parks for riding (Richmond Park), the club I belong to has several hundred members. In the UK during the lockdown the government provided a batch of £50 vouchers to the public to get their bikes serviced at their LBS. Which means that all the usual big players are totally overrun, some with longer than 6 weeks lead time.

My aim is to start with customers from the club (who mostly will have at least a winter and summer bike). I'll offer a consultation style service, high-touch, I'll initially only take on high-end road bikes. I'll have to refuse people who have their kids hybrid that needs looking at.

I can see it'll take time to get my pricing right and turn a profit. Hopefully if it goes well I'll start to be known as the go to guy. The amount of people in my smaller local group that have £10k S-Works and don't even know how to seat their wheel properly, or are riding around with crunchy gears and a 50mm stack of spacers on top of the stem is ridiculous. Essentially my service will be I'll take your ride and get it to race-wrothy condition, offering advice on what upgrades and improvements to make.

One key thing for me is setting up supplier relationships (which I understand is unlikely with the larger companies). Any tips on how to do that? I already have been speaking with a BB and bearing supplier that have a lead time of 2-3 days. I'll offer a 24 hour turnaround time, but if I find problems where I need to order new parts then there'll obviiously be a delay.

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wheelbuilder
Posts: 890
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:10 am

by wheelbuilder

ShadesofTi wrote:
Wed Sep 23, 2020 9:18 am
Guys thanks a bunch for all this input, it's very helpful. I think I need to explain my situation a bit more for better context:

I'm based in south London, next to one of the most popular parks for riding (Richmond Park), the club I belong to has several hundred members. In the UK during the lockdown the government provided a batch of £50 vouchers to the public to get their bikes serviced at their LBS. Which means that all the usual big players are totally overrun, some with longer than 6 weeks lead time.

My aim is to start with customers from the club (who mostly will have at least a winter and summer bike). I'll offer a consultation style service, high-touch, I'll initially only take on high-end road bikes. I'll have to refuse people who have their kids hybrid that needs looking at.

I can see it'll take time to get my pricing right and turn a profit. Hopefully if it goes well I'll start to be known as the go to guy. The amount of people in my smaller local group that have £10k S-Works and don't even know how to seat their wheel properly, or are riding around with crunchy gears and a 50mm stack of spacers on top of the stem is ridiculous. Essentially my service will be I'll take your ride and get it to race-wrothy condition, offering advice on what upgrades and improvements to make.

One key thing for me is setting up supplier relationships (which I understand is unlikely with the larger companies). Any tips on how to do that? I already have been speaking with a BB and bearing supplier that have a lead time of 2-3 days. I'll offer a 24 hour turnaround time, but if I find problems where I need to order new parts then there'll obviiously be a delay.
Again, good luck. However I think the reality is going to be different than what you envision. I'm not sure if you already stated it earlier and I missed it, but what is your skill level and experience? I get the feeling that you are a guy that can tune and build your own bikes and maybe bikes of friends? How many internally routed frame-up builds have you done? How many different standards of bottom brackets/cranks have you installed? Not talking about removing cranks and them re-installing them......talking about installing a bb and crank out of it's packaging and installing it and the bb on a frame? Are you comfortable figuring out spacer arrangements on parts/frames you aren't personally familiar with?
Let me use an example you gave. That s-works with the 50mm of spacers that you want the steer tube cut on..... Regardless of what others think, to do it right you need to remove that fork. Is a brake hose internally routed? Are you going to shorten those hoses or cables after you drop it 5cm? Do you have olives and barbs and fluid for both standards? Is the whole front end internally routed? If a guy wants cables and housing or a Di2 bike built up, are you fast and efficient at routing everything? On bikes you aren't familiar with?
Regarding suppliers, the last time I checked (in USA) the 2 big distributers QBP and BTI need a photo of the front of your actual shop to set up an account. You will need accounts with Shimano/Sram as well, for tech support and warranty issues.
Never cheer before you know who is winning

bikeboy1tr
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Mar 21, 2013 3:19 am
Location: Southern Ontario Canada

by bikeboy1tr

Wow alot of great points here from wheelbuilder as I have thought about doing the same kind of thing when I retire but only low key out of my basement but you bring up many good points with internal hoses and filling, bleeding the disc brakes which I believe will require a few special tools and knowledge on the processes of all the different manufacturers. This is something that I am lacking at when it comes to the bici but I have done it on my motos many times. Taking a die grinder to a BB is something I have done to remove and replace with little issue. I dont mind working on and building friends bikes but I dont think I could do this for a living. Thanks for all the eye opening points of starting a bizz guys.
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fa63
Posts: 2455
Joined: Mon Feb 19, 2007 7:26 am
Location: Atlanta, GA, US

by fa63

I recently retired from engineering and started working at a bike shop. Prior to that, I had been doing pretty much all the work on my own bikes and thought that I had a pretty good understanding of how everything works.

To make it short, it has been a humbling experience so far. Working on bikes is easy until it is not, and it really helps to have a knowledgeable person to bounce ideas off of when you inevitably run into something unexpected. This is especially the case with modern bikes where everything is internally routed with press-fit bottom brackets etc. To give you an example, me and another mechanic spent almost an hour this morning trying to route a derailleur cable internally on a frame with poorly designed cable routing. Not sure how long it would have taken if I did it myself.

You might also run into issues with purchasing parts. If you can't get an account set up with a distributor, you will have to procure parts at market rates then mark them up for a profit. Your customers may not love the idea of having to pay above MSRP if you go that route.

Good luck!

Sammutd88
Posts: 87
Joined: Sun Dec 31, 2017 3:14 am

by Sammutd88

ShadesofTi wrote:
Wed Sep 23, 2020 9:18 am
Guys thanks a bunch for all this input, it's very helpful. I think I need to explain my situation a bit more for better context:

I'm based in south London, next to one of the most popular parks for riding (Richmond Park), the club I belong to has several hundred members. In the UK during the lockdown the government provided a batch of £50 vouchers to the public to get their bikes serviced at their LBS. Which means that all the usual big players are totally overrun, some with longer than 6 weeks lead time.

My aim is to start with customers from the club (who mostly will have at least a winter and summer bike). I'll offer a consultation style service, high-touch, I'll initially only take on high-end road bikes. I'll have to refuse people who have their kids hybrid that needs looking at.

I can see it'll take time to get my pricing right and turn a profit. Hopefully if it goes well I'll start to be known as the go to guy. The amount of people in my smaller local group that have £10k S-Works and don't even know how to seat their wheel properly, or are riding around with crunchy gears and a 50mm stack of spacers on top of the stem is ridiculous. Essentially my service will be I'll take your ride and get it to race-wrothy condition, offering advice on what upgrades and improvements to make.

One key thing for me is setting up supplier relationships (which I understand is unlikely with the larger companies). Any tips on how to do that? I already have been speaking with a BB and bearing supplier that have a lead time of 2-3 days. I'll offer a 24 hour turnaround time, but if I find problems where I need to order new parts then there'll obviiously be a delay.
Don't mean to be offensive, just an opinion, but I wouldn't be taking my $10,000 S-Works or BMC (if I had one) to a new start-up. I'd be taking it to the dealer or a boutique shop with known experience in the high end. It's kinda like someone with a AMG Mercedes or a Porsche taking it for a service to a bloke down the road in his home garage instead of an accredited service centre. I believe you're starting at the wrong end of the market tbh.

Karvalo
Posts: 1265
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:40 pm

by Karvalo

Sammutd88 wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 10:12 am
Don't mean to be offensive, just an opinion, but I wouldn't be taking my $10,000 S-Works or BMC (if I had one) to a new start-up. I'd be taking it to the dealer or a boutique shop with known experience in the high end. It's kinda like someone with a AMG Mercedes or a Porsche taking it for a service to a bloke down the road in his home garage instead of an accredited service centre. I believe you're starting at the wrong end of the market tbh.
Not near Richmond park he isn't :wink: Especially right now after cycling went stratospheric during lockdown and some of the high end shops have workshop lead times stretching into months.

Karvalo
Posts: 1265
Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:40 pm

by Karvalo

ShadesofTi wrote:
Wed Sep 23, 2020 9:18 am
One key thing for me is setting up supplier relationships (which I understand is unlikely with the larger companies). Any tips on how to do that? I already have been speaking with a BB and bearing supplier that have a lead time of 2-3 days. I'll offer a 24 hour turnaround time, but if I find problems where I need to order new parts then there'll obviiously be a delay.
It's pretty easy to find out who the distributors and local reps for the brands you interested in are. In the meantime when you've registered a business you could email Sigma and ask for an industry account. You could even just get your customers to order the parts they need on Wiggle and deliver directly to you and avoid any of the pricematch/returns/warranty hassle of being a retailer.

AJS914
Posts: 4344
Joined: Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:52 pm

by AJS914

I would just go for it. It's better to do one job per week than nothing at all. After 100 jobs you'll be a lot more comfortable. After 500... You'll struggle through some problems. So what? You have nothing but time right now to read manuals and watch manufactuer how-to videos on youtube.

Or go get a job at a bike shop. Get the experience and go on your own in the future if you wanted.

by Weenie


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