10 Questions with Velofix

Nov 9, 2015
by Pinkbike Staff  
Velofix

bigquotesThe mountain bike industry is changing rapidly with on-line retailers getting bigger and stronger, major manufacturers are now selling directly to the consumer so the traditional bike shop model will have to change or it will die. - Chris Guillemet, Co-Founder & CEO

The first time we sat down with the folks behind Velofix was a year ago, they had five vans on the road servicing Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and the Sea 2 Sky (Burnaby, North Shore, West Van, Squamish and Whistler and Vancouver Island); all in British Columbia, Canada. Now, just twelve months later, they have thirty-five franchises servicing both Canada and the United states. This time, we sat down with Velofix CEO and Co-Founder, Chris Guillemet to get the goods one their company vision, popularity, and what you can expect from their service.



What is Velofix?

Velofix is the largest fleet of mobile bike shops in North America. We now have thirty-five franchises sold! You book on-line and a fully equipped Mercedes Sprinter Van comes right to you; your home or your office, and services all of your bike needs. Our motto is 'Save Time. Ride More.'

VeloFix - Ron Sombilon Photography

How did you get your start?

We started with one van in Vancouver in January 2013. The business was started because we were frustrated with the inconvenience and length of time that it took to get our own bikes serviced in the current bricks and mortar [bike shop] model.

VeloFix - Ron Sombilon Photography
VeloFix - Ron Sombilon Photography

Describe your franchise model.

Our franchise model is a complete turn key solution for someone who has always wanted to own their own bike shop, but could not afford the massive investment of money and time. We provide the training, the back end system that handles the bookings, payment processing, CRM and inventory management. We also invest heavily in brand development and social media.

Where does Velofix currently exist?

Velofix is currently operating in Canada with one van Victoria, three in the Vancouver area, two in Calgary, two in the Ottawa/Gatineau, and seven in the Toronto area. We will be launching Montreal, Edmonton, and the Okanagan shortly. In the USA, we are launched in San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Denver, Boulder, Kona, and Cincinnati.

Velofix

What can customers expect from the 'Velofix' experience?

The Velofix experience is a premium and convenient service that eliminates all the hassle currently involved in getting your bikes serviced. All of our mechanics are professionally certified and we only use the best parts and accessories in the industry. The mobile shop has an espresso machine, flat screen TV and wireless internet to ensure customer comfort.

Who is Velofix ideal for as a customer?

Our service is ideal for anyone who rides a bike. Our service rates are the same as most bike shops and we service road bikes, mountain bikes, commuter bikes, fat tire bikes, electric bikes, and kids bikes. If you are busy and you want the shop to come to you, then Velofix is your answer.

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How does your service vary from a local bike shop?

Our service offers a personal one-on-one appointment, the Shop comes to you - wherever you are and you deal directly with the mechanic. Customers can stay in the van if you want to get educated and have the mechanic show you what he is doing or they can go back to work and be notified when the service is complete. With our booking system, you book the exact time you want your bike fixed and it will be done right there, right then.

Velofix

You've customized some of your vans to meet the needs of mountain bike specific areas. How do you identify these areas and how are you customizing your vans?

In some markets mountain bikes are the majority of the bikes we work on, so firstly the mechanic will be a mountain bike expert and secondly the mobile shop will be equipped with mountain bike specific parts and tools. Our North Vancouver van has a suspension station built in so we can do full repairs.

If someone is interested in franchising with you, what can they expect? How should they apply?

We have franchises available and people can simply go to www.velofix.com and click on Franchise to find out more. If they make an inquiry, they will be contacted within 24 hours of your request.

VeloFix - Ron Sombilon Photography

How do you see the Velofix model impacting the future of the mountain bike community?

The mountain bike industry is changing rapidly with on-line retailers getting bigger and stronger, major manufacturers are now selling directly to the consumer so the traditional bike shop model will have to change or it will die. We always say that the Internet can't fix your bike so there will always be a need for the direct to consumer service model and Velofix is that premium mobile service model.


MENTIONS: @velofix




92 Comments

  • + 52
 So much good and so much challenging about this business model. The direct to consumer brands need to partner with a business like this one to handle assembly and warranty claims. It's a win-win for both. If the mobile service company partners with a few direct to consumer brands it could help with the revenue challenges associated with the mobile cycle service model in all markets regardless of size.
  • + 9
 did they pay a good price for this marketing ad on pinkbike? Good for them on this business idea, not sold on this marketing strategy though.
  • + 2
 @makripper - definitely came across a bit on the "we purchased this space during a slow period" side of things (ie. an ad) but nonetheless, an interesting business model.

I'm not sold on the service only model especially in smaller markets and/or where the seasons are shorter. It sounds great when one comes across this business model (there is another out there, Beeline, I believe) but when you break it down into dollars and sense, the model gets challenging - quickly. Thus my comments about other revenue streams...
  • + 13
 If successful bike shops could ad this service along with their bricks and motor, this might work. That van and all those tools are not cheap. Also any decent mechanic will need to be paid. High school shop rats will not work with this model.
  • + 5
 @makripper, they did indeed pay for it, it says so right next to the article title on the front page - "Sponsored"
  • + 3
 I'd love to open up my own! I'd call it "Bike fix"
  • + 1
 bicycleta fix
  • + 1
 idk supporting a local shop is worth the time of going in and dropping off your bike to me at least.
  • + 33
 I am the owner of the Velofix-Santa Monica, CA Franchise. I'm a mountain biker at heart and I work on everything related to Mountain bikes and keep a good inventory of mountain bike related components in stock as well as servicing suspension in the van. I also keep a good stock for your road bike needs as well..

It was always a dream of mine to won my own bike shop. It is a awesome experience. If any Pink Bike readers in West Los Angeles (Or LA County) need their bikes worked on just contact me at www.velofix.com
  • + 12
 i've seen many riders looking for on-site mechanics at cyclocross races. maybe an idea could be to just show up on those races and make some clients happy Smile
  • + 3
 I'm stoked on this.
Let's just say for example: I'm crazy busy. I have a set of Stans flow ex wheels with a broken spoke and a hope hub that needs new bearings. I would like the spoke replaced, the rim re-taped, the bearings ordered and installed and maybe a quick tune up on the rear mech. I'm in Venice and parking isn't great. How would this go down?
  • + 16
 Start by emailing me at Lucas@velofix.com. We would have a phone conversation first. After that I would order the hub bearings if I do not already have that size in stock. I have spoke blanks and a spoke threading machine in the van, so I can cut spokes to any size. I have plenty of tubeless supplies in stock, the rear D is easy. As far as the parking goes a lot of times I will park in the red zone with my hazards on. I also keep a traffic cone inside the van as well for extra visibility. For some extreme cases I could park around the corner to work on the bike and than drive it back to your house.
  • + 8
 Sounds amazing. I lost my bike for 9 days when I had the same repair done last month. I'm sure you'll hear from me soon.
  • + 3
 These are the same guys that pitched this idea on Dragon's Den. Glad to see this idea has grown to become a success.
www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/pitches/velofix
  • + 2
 @Vincenzo Looking forward to it.
  • + 27
 You'll notice a lot of brick and mortar shops taking note of the needs of customers who need a delivery/pickup service. My shop, Oak Bay Bikes ( www.oakbaybikes.com ) has a pickup/dropoff service to compliment our regular in-store service. **cough cough, heavy advertising, cough cough** (Means you get a full shop worth of parts and tools, with the convenience of a mobile service.)

Velofix is definitely on the right track- customers expect a level of service that goes beyond the traditional bike shop paradigm. If it keeps someone riding, then it's always good thing!
  • + 3
 One of the local shops that I am friendly with asked if they could start referring me to their upscale clients that do not want to put their dirty mountain bikes in their cars to bring to the shop.
  • + 1
 That's huge...depending on the demographic of course.
  • + 28
 I want that van
  • + 9
 Yes. That's a nice, juicy, van.
  • + 8
 Imagine shuttling in that van :o
  • + 16
 Shuttle your mom in that van. Shuttle ALL your moms.
  • + 2
 i like that van. that is a nice van
  • + 8
 just one thing missing: a bunk.
get me that van with a bunk and 3 bike and you will never see me again in a city.
  • + 3
 @Luneec I have a Velofix van (Ottawa) and I sleep in it at least one night a week. It's a sweet set up. I have 1" foam pad that you can deflate and is super compact when it's packed up. I did a 6000 km road trip this summer with my girlfriend, 4 bikes, and the van. It's the life!
  • + 10
 What about concierge service instead? If I owned a bike shop, I'd hire a couple college kids to meet people at work or at their homes before/during/after work, give them advice on what they need (sort of like a service writer at a car repair shop), bring the bikes to the shop for the work (where it can be done in a space that's already outfitted - and isn't all cramped, expensive, and always at risk of getting parking tickets), then deliver the bikes out after work is done. Shop owner gets additional repair/service volume to spread overhead with very little cost, plus they get to build a relationship with customers; bike owners get convenience.

Those vans require a fair bit of investment; seems like a bike shop that knows what they're doing would just eat their lunch.
  • + 3
 The shop I work at does that. (Oak Bay Bikes)
  • + 1
 It seems to me that the overhead costs would be different, ie monthly rent for the building. But what about all of us who live out in the country? I live 1 1/2 hr from the nearest Velofix would they drive to my door? That's a lot of gas money.
Seems to me that local bike shops that provide shuttle service would be best and the vans should follow the events around.
  • + 2
 I think it would be very cost effective. I don't know how much rent would be on an actual shop, but I bet a couple of months on a decent location would be the purchase price of a new van. Base yourself in a certain town or city, just like a shop, and reap the rewards. As far as I know one of the old mechanics from the shop where I used to work has set up on his own servicing from home because that shop closed down. All their customers are looking for another service outlet. A van would be ideal!
  • + 2
 @jaame and @WAtrailmaker - yes, rent on brick and mortar shops is expensive. So if you're an enterprising bike mechanic looking to make a living, the barriers to entry are much lower if you can do this out of a van than a building. But that's one guy, and it's not really scaleable - each van can only have one mechanic working in it. If you can generate enough service business out of that van to make that work, great - but you're running into some limits there.

On the other hand, if you have a bikeshop that's already set up and is reasonably successful, having that kid run around the city to pick up/drop off bikes would be a very cheap way to pick up additional service business, and perhaps gain a retail customer as well after building a bit of a relationship. This won't work for a shop that doesn't have their sh!t together - they've got bigger problems and are being squeezed out between the service-only van model taking their service business and the direct-to-consumer model killing their retail margins. But a good shop with the right combination of business savvy, great customer service, and a bit of moxy should be able to continue carving out a very comfortable niche for themselves.
  • + 1
 Why couldn't 2 people travel together and bring a portable bike stand and set up just outside the door! 2 people cranking out bike repairs.
  • + 1
 @barrysbikes - that would work if you go places where you can set up like that (trailheads, office parks, whatever), but not if you're going to customers' houses/condos/apartments/offices in big cities (can't really pull over on the side of the road and set up a mobile workstation - plus you're exposed to weather that way unless you put up a tarp). And paying two mechanics to spend a bunch of time driving all over the place - not sure about that, from a resource utilization viewpoint.
  • + 1
 @barrysbikes If I may.... I own a Velofix van and I do that all the time. I've never had an issue having one mechanic in the van and one outside. The van might look cramped and whatnot, but it's surprisingly spacious. When it's pouring rain (or snow... in my neck o' the woods), I have lots of room for a portable stand and a second mechanic. Again, it looks cramped from the pictures, but if you ever see the van in person, you'll be surprised by how much room there is in there.

And to add to the other comments here, the overhead with Velofix is much lower than brick-and-mortar (in my experience). I used to manage a shop in town before my Velofix days. With the van I'm not paying rent, or heat, or hydro, or as many staff.
  • + 6
 OK , so it looks like expensive bike wash/lube/adjust. What about suspension overhaul and major repairs? Don't tell me this little van can solve all problems of this world. Are they certified to work on major suspension brands etc. ? I feel like I see another "we can do it all - plumbing / electrical / heating " truck passing by. I like this idea but looks more like help for "condo people" who don't want lube on that expensive laminate floor. I vote for local Pro shops !
  • + 3
 If they can not do major repairs, they could certainly adjust their setup to be able to. I used to work for a suspension manufacturer and a part of my job was to offer full technical support to athletes at world cups. My workspace was no bigger than this van and I could do just about anything in there. Even though I was working for a suspension brand, I was doing lots of maintenance and tune ups for the whole bike for the riders who were not supported by a complete racing team.. just to help them a bit. Bearing services, suspension services, wheel services, brake bleed and services, tune ups, etc etc.

I honestly think that you could fit everything you need in a van to be able to perform 99% of the work you may need on a bike. You really don't need that much stuff.
  • - 3
 Looks like perfect match for you t1000. I love to work on my bikes and that is how I learn to "McGyver" my way out of woods should something go sideways. I will support my local bike shop heroes who may be grumpy at times - they do get major repairs to do for me on 100%. I don't like most of people standing behind this Velofix company anyway , but I wish only the best to franchise owners , hope Velofix won't turn into money sucking monster .
  • + 6
 I did a write-up on the Calgary franchise back in July: http://www.cmbalink.com/velofix/

No attractive blonde women in my story, but there is a guy with a beard...
  • + 3
 I see a lot more beards on trails than attractive blonde women. So yours must be more realistic.
  • + 3
 there's a bloke who does bike maintainance out of a van in my area which is great as there's no bike shop near me, and honestly it makes sense less overheads than a shop, and you can go wherever the need is and if it keeps people from going to halfords and getting screwed over it's all good.
  • + 3
 I don't like this statement, "We always say that the Internet can't fix your bike...". Um.. Not physically it can't, but verbally and visually it provides more advice with less bullshit promotion and sales persuasion than a LBS or a mobile workshop.
  • + 6
 This is random, but did PB update the flags?
  • + 3
 I think they did... carry on
  • + 2
 I dont need to get other people to work on my bike much, but this spring I needed to do a bunch of stuff before a big trip to Hornby Island and I didn't have the time to get it done so I booked VeloFix to come work on my bike....the service was awesome, fast and the same price as a shop. Loved it! What a lot of people don't think about is not only the time it takes to drop off and pick up the bike from the shop...but some times of the year I can't even get my bike back under a week, the down side of living in the cycling capital of Canada. With VeloFix I had my bike back in my hands in under an hour...awesome!
  • + 2
 Recently needed a headset press, shop was going to take the bike in for 4 days. LBS need to step it up and take note, customers don't want to loose their ride for 4 days just to do a 30min job. Love supporting my local but not if my bike has to sit at the shop for days untouched.
  • + 4
 I'm seriously thinking about doing this myself. Dunno if they'll stretch their franchise to Scotland, but it's a great idea and I'm going to seriously look in to it now!
  • + 1
 It seems only works with clean bikes... Imagine your dirty and muddy bike to have a suspension tune-up or re-load the no-tubes sealant... Well, I'm a bicycles mechanic and I've seen last week two bikes with rusted spokes and even with flies on it!... Anyway...
  • + 3
 That Ridley in the photos has TRP brakes for Shimano levers, yet is equipped with Sram levers. I wonder how the tech will adjust without the lever pulling to the handlebar.
  • + 1
 I think I'd rather have a shop with an actual location. A lot of distributors and vendors will not sell to you unless you have a fixed retail location. Plus foot traffic and passers-by can turn into potential customers on the fly.
  • + 1
 I do a similar set up which I own (no franchise fee) for auto repair. This is a very workable business model but it depends on how motivated you are and what you would consider a nice income after your yearly franchise payments. Remember when Velofix had capped they needed to expand to create new income (I am doing the same thing now after 12 yrs.) At the end of your fifth year I would think your bottom line will be your expected income from there on. There is something to be said for the freedom of self employment. Good luck.
  • + 1
 I do most of the maintenance and repair work on my bikes myself, but when I do take it to a shop to be seen to it really isn't that difficult. Do the shop a favor and phone beforehand to ask when is convenient and discuss what needs doing rather than dragging it down there and wondering why it takes so long when there are 20 other bikes before yours. Plus most bike shops nowadays SHOULD offer a price-match guarantee against anything found online (within the country), presumably they order it from the very same site and claim the VAT at the end of the year.
  • + 1
 Is use this for the jobs I don't have tools for like pressing headsets, extracting sealed bearings from cups, etc. that I have to go to the shop for, which drives me nuts because I pretty much do everything if I can. I could basically barrow the tools this way. I like the idea.
  • + 4
 Lots of videos out there on how to do many of these jobs without the expensive bike specific tools. Getting ready to do my frame bearings when they arrive. Will save almost $300 and won't have to be without my bike for a week or two.
  • + 0
 Pros need the fancy tools, as they get used a lot, so need to last and also might be faster or easier to use, but if you're only pressing the occasional headset (or whatever) then cheaper or DIY tools should be fine.

I spent ~$150AUD ($100US) on a headset remover, press, crown race remover and installer which all work well, and I feel way more comfortable than using a hammer and screwdriver as some friends do Smile
  • + 3
 Brilliant fucking idea.... Just as long as the prices are competitive. Chris will be a rich man....
  • + 1
 What happens when you need parts ordered? I realize that you would try to figure that out ahead of time, but sometimes that just doesn't work. Would I have to pay for two visits?
  • + 1
 @higuyjoe I can help answer that question. I have a Velofix van and run into this situation from time-to-time. When I'm working on a bike, I start by looking at what needs to be done/what parts I'll need. That way I'll know right away if I'm missing anything. If I AM missing something, there are a few options:
1) I can do the whole job, without replacing the part that needs to be changed, and return with the part when it's in. I.e. If someone is getting a tune up done and need a new chain/cass/brake pads, and I'm missing a set of brake pads. I can do the tune up, change the DT and order the pads. Once they're in, I can swing by and pop them in. No additional cost to you.
2) If I don't have the part in stock and the bike CAN'T be ridden without it (i.e. broken hanger). I can order the part and come back when it's in (in my case it's next day delivery. My supplier is only 180km from my front door) OR I can take the bike with me and bring the whole bike back when the work is done. This situation rarely happens because I call my customers ahead of time. If someone books online, I'll give a courtesy call and see what's going on with their bike. If they tell me the hanger is snapped, I'll order one ahead of time.
3). Loaner parts. I.e. in my van I carry a loaner set of hydraulic brakes. If someone needs a new brake, I'll pop on the loaner brake, and I'll order the exact model they want. That way, you can still ride. Again, no extra cost for loaner parts or the second visit.
  • + 2
 This would be a good thing for the southeast of the USA as the riding season is pretty much year round. Some people like that one on one attention.
  • + 0
 I'll put my stores customer service, knowledge staff and years of being part of the cycling community against any Van any day of the week. Their is a reason shops are busy during the peak riding time. People value the stores service skills. You think we are just standing around doing nothing.
  • + 2
 Keep in mind, not just anyone can wrench for them. They require the mechanics be certified through their approved institutes (which are listed on their website).
  • + 4
 Real mechanics don't wear gloves. they get their hands dirty.
  • + 2
 At the World Cup, suspension pros wore gloves.
  • + 0
 I Wish them good luck i understand they have a great idea. Not sure if owning a van (franchise) is That good on long term you Will need a Serious list of client to keep you busy. At one point your market Will be limited, i dont thing you be welcome TO cruises in Whistler on your van. It look to me like the on going debate with food truck vs restaurant. On my side i have access to excellent bike shop around i Will stick to them. the save Time ride more doesnt really make ANY difference to me
  • + 1
 In sf they park these things outside office buildings. So on Tuesday there is a bike shop in a van, on Wednesday a barber, and on Thursday some guys doing oil changes. Could work if you're busy and have a tough time making it to the shop before they close. Except the one time I tried they didn't have a race face bb tool Frown best bet is just buy the tools and do it at home
  • + 2
 Cool idea but often you need to order parts so it would not be quite as slick
  • + 1
 The mechanic that falls for this model is a dummy. Drive around all day and then stand in a hot box? No thanks.
  • + 2
 I work in VAN, down by the RIVER
  • + 2
 @cabester98 Logan should invest in this
  • + 2
 I didn't know they were in Salt Lake, I'm have to keep that in mind.
  • + 2
 This is brilliant... terrific idea!
  • + 2
 if i bought one of those vans, i would have to live in it too.
  • + 6
 Yeah, but living in it would stink the van up. Then that hot blonde wouldn't want to hang out with you and have an espresso while you work on her bike.
  • + 9
 im married. i can legally stink and not worry about it.
  • + 2
 Exactly what I thought too.
  • + 1
 Pull an enclosed bunk/living trailer behind it (like my 6' x 12' v-nosed), unhook it where you want to sleep, then hit the town for repairs....stink avoidance! You got your own bikes in the trailer and you can ride when your done working. You can alert folks online where you will be that day or week. You can go where the riding and business is good and be free from the one location blues!
  • + 1
 The vans are well ventilated. I sleep in mine all the time and so far, no stink! My girlfriend and I did a 6000 km road trip in the van together and it made for a sweet camper!
  • + 3
 What a great idea!
  • - 2
 What a great idea! If I didn't do my own work on my mountain bike and road bike including building my own wheels I'd be lost as there are no good bike shops in my area. I've ridden and rebuilt motorcycles for a hobby since I was 15 years old so it's easy for me but allot of people that ride are not mechanically inclined. One man I know here in town that rides allot on an older Rocky Mountain took his bike into a local shop here in town for a new cassette, he brought in an 8 speed and it came back a 7 speed!
  • + 1
 Where the hell else would you take your bike for a new cassette? Safeway?
  • + 1
 I do the same job in south of France now but i have a Citroën Nemo, it's more stylish... !
  • + 1
 Check out "The Bike Doctor's Mobile Bicycle Repair Manual" on Amazon
  • - 2
 the reason I don't like to enter bike shops……….attitude or they are too busy to cash out. This is a one on one personal on your time experience. great idea and should be bi sexual.
  • + 7
 Wait, what?
  • + 0
 sorry I mean have girl mech
  • + 2
 brilliant
  • + 1
 i'm pretty sure they just ripped off the beeline business model...
  • + 1
 omg.good service Velofix.
  • - 3
 From what I've heard from multiple people that have worked for Velofix in the past they are terrible employers to work for and they all recommend to stay away. And no I'm not a shop owner trying to save my ass haha.
  • + 2
 Also heard the same thing, knew someone who worked "part time" full time hours and then had to chase down a paycheck.
  • + 1
 Are they hiring?
  • + 1
 Buy a franchise Smile
  • + 1
 They might be hiring in Canada still, I've had job postings available in the last few months on my website.http://www.winterbornebikes.com/resources
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