A few years ago, Vancouver resident Chris Guillemet was a frustrated cyclist. Family, career, and the general constraints of life made it hard to find time for mundane tasks such as driving across town to get his bike fixed. Today, Guillemet is CEO and co-founder of Velofix, a mobile bike shop service that literally makes house calls, helping riders just like Guillemet get back on the road fast and hassle free.
Instead of a brick-and-mortar shop-front, Velofix utilizes a fleet of Mercedes sprinter vans (their tallest and longest) and outfits them with everything you need to address most bike repair issues. The work space is roughly 100-square feet. Service rates are $69 an hour plus tax, which Guillemet says put Velofix on par with most higher end shops. Payment is handled in the van, too.
“And we buy from all the major suppliers and have access to the best from Park Tools, Fox, RockShox, and so on,” explained Guillemet during a quick chat inside one of his vans during the Sea Otter Classic. “Customers can book service on the phone or on-line, picking their service level, and inputting what bike they ride and what the issues are. That’s all passed on to the mechanic.”
Currently there are 49 Velofix franchises roaming the roads of North America, with 20 in Canada (including all the major cities), and the rest in the U.S., mostly on the left side of the Mississippi.
“We have the west coast of the U.S. pretty well covered, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Orange County, San Diego,” said Guillemet. “We’re also in Salt Lake City, Park City, Boulder, Denver, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, and have another 12 franchises on the way in Boston, Florida, Chicago and other places.”
Indeed, Guillemet was as excited to tell us about the sale of franchises as the mobile service itself. He says Velofix generates revenue via home visits, event work, and corporate contracts. For example, Microsoft has hired the red-and-white vans to come to its campus as a benefit to its employees.
Velofix is aiming to have 100 outfits on the road by the end of the year. The franchise fee is $25,000, while a fully built out truck is roughly another $90,000.
“But you can lease the van, so when it’s all said and done, you’re looking at about $50,000 up front with a first inventory load,” he added. “We’re trying to keep it relatively low so that guy working in a shop that wants to start his own business can do it. Same for someone who has always wanted to get into the bike business.”
The business pitch is simple: one-on-one personal touch leads to lasting customer relationships — and higher ring totals.
“Instead of just dropping the bike off and coming back in a few days, the customer can sit in the van and ask questions and get educated about the repair process,” explained Guillemet. “That also gives Velofix the chance to up-sell because we’ll have stock of tires, power meters, Garmin, and so on.”
And even if you don’t need new rubber or fresh bar tape, the van has wireless internet, an espresso machine, and a flat screen TV. “People love to hang out and watch the Tour de France or Red Bull Rampage,” said Guillemet. “It’s just a better service experience.”
For more information visit www.velofix.com.
This article is part of RoadBikeReview’s coverage of the 2016 Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California. For more from Sea Otter CLICK HERE.