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Industry Ticker: Velofix mobile bike shop now open for business in Portland

Posted by on January 14th, 2016 at 8:36 am

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The mobile bike shop wars are heating up.

Velofix, a Vancouver, B.C.-based company that launched in 2013, is now open for business in Portland.

Back in June we reported that another mobile bike shop company Beeline Bikes was looking for a Portland outlet. They’re still looking. Beeline Marketing Director Peter Small shared with us last week that they’re hoping to have their first Portland shop up and running before this spring.

Meanwhile, Velofix says their first van in Portland has been open for business since January 11th. Customers can book appointments on-line then sit back and wait for the big red van to show up. Will these bike shops on wheels disrupt Portland’s existing bike shop biz? That remains to be seen.

Check out the Velofix press release below for more info:

Mobile Bike Service Comes to Portland

Portland, OR The typical bicycle repair scenario goes like this: find your bike rack, install it on your car, load your bike up, drive it to your local bike shop, check it in and watch it get wheeled into the black hole that is the back room for up to two weeks. For some, this system simply doesn’t work.

As of January 11, cyclists have a more convenient option for bike repair with Velofix mobile bicycle repair service. Customers simply book an appointment online at Velofix.com and the van comes to their home or office, offering on-site service or pickup/drop-off options. The van houses a full service bike repair shop equipped for all levels of service, from installing chains to hydraulic brake bleeds.

Velofix’s Portland franchise is owned and operated by co-founders Bill Fuller and Brandon Bruins and head mechanic Brian Link. Link boasts over 15 years of bicycle fitting and service experience at major Trek retailers in Portland and Virginia. Bruins and Fuller are lifetime cyclists with over 10 years of Portland bike shop management experience.

Velofix was founded in Vancouver, B.C. by University of Portland graduate David Xausa, triathlete and marathoner Chris Guillemet, and mechanic and three-time Canadian national track champion Boris Martin. Velofix launched its first Mercedes Sprinter van in January 2013. It has since expanded to over 30 vans in over 20 markets.

For more information contact Brandon Bruins via brandon@velofix.com.

Want more local bike industry news? Check out our ticker archives. If you have a tip or would like to see your news posted in this column, please drop us a line.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

30 Comments
  • Beth January 14, 2016 at 9:24 am

    A mobile bike service opens while another brick-and-mortar shop closes. It’s all reflective of the rising cost of rent in Portland, the increasing difficulty of making a profit in the low-paying bicycle industry, and the fact that it’s easier to run a smalller, more streamlined business with fewer employees than to keep a large shop with lots of employees afloat in this economy.
    This trajectory makes a lot of sense, and perhaps paves the way for a thinning of the herd of brick-and-mortar bike businesses over the next few years. That also makes a lot of sense, since having nearly 70 shops in Portland does not make sense to me. There’s healthy competition, and then there’s superfluous competition. I believe the success of mobile businesses will help to predict the longer-term health of the industry as a whole. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next year or three.

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    • Todd Boulanger January 14, 2016 at 10:56 am

      Yes…though perhaps as this business service option matures we may see something similar to what has happened in the food cart/ truck biz…lower price of market entry for new ideas / new chefs that then later as successful business owners (with more investors/ borrowing power) open a brick & mortar based business.

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  • Hello, Kitty January 14, 2016 at 10:34 am

    While I am not a natural customer of this service (I live near a great shop), I have used a similar service for car repairs in the past. It is a model that can work really well in some situations. For example, if I broke a chain on my way to work, it might be easier to call this service than to get my bike home and into my shop the next day (or next weekend).

    I don’t love the fact that it’s a gasoline-powered shop, but there is potential for this to fill in the gaps in the service continuum by occupying a new niche.

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    • Matt January 14, 2016 at 10:42 am

      My understanding is that Velofix isn’t offered as roadside assistance–it’s more of an appointment-based service.

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      • Hello, Kitty January 14, 2016 at 11:04 am

        I was thinking I could limp into work and make an appointment there, as long as same-day service was available.

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    • wsbob January 14, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      If there’s room for reflection….since part of the business model is that the van goes to the customer’s location to pick up and work on the bike, likely not leaving until it’s repaired, in a typical working day, the amount of gas used could be half, maybe even less, of what may be used if the customer brought their bike into a shop and drove back home.

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      • Pete January 14, 2016 at 4:24 pm

        Yes, especially true if they correlate scheduling with route optimization.

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      • 9watts January 14, 2016 at 6:13 pm

        It all depends on what you’re comparing it too.
        If there is one thing we as a society have become very good at it is rationalizing driving….

        I’d rather it be a bike-based business. No reason it couldn’t. We already have a couple of those here in town.

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        • dan January 14, 2016 at 8:19 pm

          At first, I thought so too, but it can be hard to do some repairs in the rain. I supposed you could rig up some kind of deployable canopy…

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        • wsbob January 14, 2016 at 11:29 pm

          The need, and market for both variations of the mobile bike repair business may be strong and growing.

          I’m sure bike based mobile bike service, can cover some important, needed repairs. Definitely less overhead than with one of those vans. The working area and weight capacity of one of those vans should be able to allow a wider range of repairs. The work space is always set up and ready for starting work upon arrival at the customer’s place.

          Compared to stationary bike repair, I think availability of needed parts could be the weak side of the mobile business. I’ve gone into my LBS for parts for my bikes, to find they have to be ordered, and it’ll be some time before the parts are in the mech’s hand. The stationary shops don’t have to drive to the customer’s to find they’ve got that situation to deal with.

          Velofix’s vans look great…excellent advertising.

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          • Hello, Kitty January 15, 2016 at 4:27 pm

            Do you think they’d come fix my bike? I’m down here on the Avenue of Terror.

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  • Todd Boulanger January 14, 2016 at 11:10 am

    And for the owners of Beeline and Velofix [or other mobile repairers]..don’t forget the opportunity to service downtown Vancouver (WA)…as we have cyclists here but we lost our last downtown bike shop this fall – it had very strong repair service business demand.

    (Perhaps set up a weekly pop up repair presence at one of the local coffee shops near the Columbia Street (I-5) bike lane…and then social media it.

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  • dan January 14, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    There is a simple irony of the Portland biking community embracing a motor vehicle based convenience. How will it work in the denser neighborhoods w/o street side parking?

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    • resopmok January 14, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      Perhaps the irony is lost on the realization that your LBS receives deliveries, probably twice weekly, from motorized transport. Our economy depends and is based on fossil fuels. No matter how much we want it to be otherwise, in the modern day, it isn’t.

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      • Hello, Kitty January 14, 2016 at 2:37 pm

        Mo more fossil fuels for me… I buy from Amazon!

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      • dan January 14, 2016 at 3:00 pm

        That’s certainly true but in my view, hardly ironic. At least in that example, those deliveries (hopefully) enjoy the efficiency of bulk, and the trucks are at or near capacity when they start their route.

        For mobile repair,travel time and gas aren’t free, and will be built into the shop costs.

        I myself see a certain value in the service (especially for events), but again, I think it would be ironic if it took off here.

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      • David January 14, 2016 at 5:03 pm

        Perhaps a pedicab company could combine with this idea and create a mobile LBS on a bike.

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        • 9watts January 14, 2016 at 6:14 pm

          we already have several bike-based bike-fix-it businesses here in town, do we not?

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  • Captain Karma January 14, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    I would take my broken down bike on a bus or max or taxi van and go to my regular shop. I know them.

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    • David January 14, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      Of course you probably didn’t know them before the first time you went. If you consistently use Velofix, then they sort of become the guys that you know and go to.

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  • Granpa January 14, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    I have called mobile bike repair to come to my office to deal with repairs on my coworker’s bikes. Many cyclists don’t do their own repair work, and let stuff slide until they are on unsafe bikes. I like my shop, but I want everyone on the road to be safe.

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  • AJL January 14, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Mobile Bicycle Rescue in Seattle is a successful example of this model. They started out small, with a couple sites (they park at different days at different businesses throughout the city). I used them because it was great to be able to drop off my bike in the morning, then pick it up before I left work right at my building…or a short jaunt and I could meet up w/them a different day. The bike shop hours/locations are not always convenient for everyone and same-day service is not always guaranteed.

    Now MBR has a storefront too – and lucky for me it’s conveniently located on my ride home; their model hasn’t made my relationship with a bike mechanic any less involved. In fact, they likely see me and my bikes more often because of the convenience.

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  • Todd Boulanger January 14, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    A better Portlandia business model would be to outfit a streetcar that ran in circles on the east and west tram tracks every 10 minutes – that could pick up bikes to repair or sell a spare tube. (UPS used to have private streetcars that made deliveries.)

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    • Hello, Kitty January 14, 2016 at 3:39 pm

      There is also a VW factory in Dresden that uses the streetcar tracks to deliver car parts from one factory to another. I think it’s a great idea to get more use from the installed infrastructure.

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    • Pete January 14, 2016 at 4:21 pm

      I hear Amazon is testing drones to pick your bike up from its rack… 😉

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  • B. Carfree January 14, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    I suppose there could be rare times when this service would make sense. However, I never would have imagined that people would drive their bikes to bike shops to be repaired (ghost riding, simple carrying, a cart or just plain walking have always worked well for me), nor would I have believed that people would drive their bikes places to ride them, so no surprise that I didn’t see this coming.

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  • Jeff Bernards January 15, 2016 at 8:48 am

    I was in Bristol England recently and a van was set-up at the train station, not driving around to each appointment. People left their bikes, took the train to work and picked it up on the way home. fixed. I actually talked to the guy for a long time about the business model. I’m not sure it would work in Portland, but maybe some day.

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  • rain waters January 15, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Wrong.

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  • Kath Youell January 19, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Does no one here know about Holy Spokes? Started out mobile, expanded to brick & mortar, still has mobile. Right on Division and I’ve seen their Rolling Wrench truck parked on Clinton. My husband has been in there a couple of times and says they’re nice people.

    http://www.holyspokespdx.com/mobile-service/

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    • VTRC January 22, 2016 at 8:31 am

      I had great luck with Rolling Wrench so I took my bike to Holy Spokes last weekend. Phenomenal service and value. Really, really good work, same day, and for a fantastic price.

      I cannot say enough good things.

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