Family Biking: Mobile bike repair to the rescue!

(Photo: Shannon Johnson/BikePortland)

Imagine this: your family bike needs repairs. Maybe you need your whole fleet of family bikes tuned up. Or maybe you have a heavy cargo bike or e-bike that needs some serious TLC. But how? When? How do you get broken bikes lugged to the shop? If you have multiple bikes, a large box bike, or a heavy e-bike (plus toddlers), it’s extra tricky.

I was swapping stories of bike maintenance woes with another mama e-biker the other day. For both of us, getting our large cargo e-bikes to a specialized e-bike repair shop is a huge errand. It means making an appointment and biking a long distance (on an in-need-of-service bike), then getting a ride or using public transit to get home, likely with a cranky kid along for the ride on an errand that can take half a day, with another half-day to do the pickup. And the worst part is being bike-less for the indefinite time in-between.

As a result, I was avoiding the needed bike doctor. I had a burned out motor and was limping along on a worn-out e-bike, with a box of replacement parts waiting in my living room, but getting all my ducks in a row to take the bike into a far-off shop was just too hard, and I loathed the idea of being bike-less for a week or more. 

That’s when someone finally told me about mobile bike repair. How didn’t I know about this wonderment? Like old-fashioned doctor house calls, these bike repair folk will bring their repair kit to your house or nearby park, and they will doctor-up your bike right there, on the spot. No need to hobble to the shop. No need to walk yourself home. No need to wait an unknown time period for the bike to be repaired. They come, they fix, they leave. Fantastic.

And you can watch! Which is kind of fun, especially if you are the protective type and don’t like letting your beloved steed out of your sight. You can also troubleshoot with the mechanic (ride around the block and say, “yeah, it’s still making a weird clicking sound”), and learn as they fix it. (Oh! That’s what that is! Now I see.) You might get to have some useful conversations like, “you could get a new X now, or you could leave this until next year’s tune-up” or “this would be really expensive to change, but it’s safe to ride” or “have you noticed this problem? This needs to be fixed right away.” 

So, it is with great delight that I can tell you that I had a mobile bike mechanic come all the way out to my house and fix my big family e-bike. A big thank you to Eric from The Bikeologist for making the trip! In just a few hours (the time it would have taken me to lug my whole family to a repair shop, and maybe still be waiting for the bus ride home), Eric replaced the rear wheel with motor, got a new back tire for me, adjusted the brakes, checked the chain, tightened up my seat, and took a look at a second bike that had some quirks. My kids got to continue running around us in circles outside. And I got to sip my coffee in the driveway.

Best of all: I never had to leave my bike behind and it was fixed in a jiffy. It’s the bike repair game-changer that I never knew existed. Yay for bike mechanic house calls!

Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)

Shannon Johnson (Family Biking Columnist)

Shannon is a 36-year-old mom of  five who lives in downtown Hillsboro. Her column appears weekly. Contact her via shannon4bikeportland@gmail.com

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

4 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Lois Leveen
Lois Leveen
5 months ago

What about emergency roadside assistance? I have loaded my standard commuter bike onto a bus or walked/rolled the bike home or directly to a bike shop, when it needed a sudden repair. But I’m pondering a longer commute that would not have access to public transit and would likely require a heavier bike that I could not possibly walk/roll home or to a shop … I would ride with more peace of mind if I knew there was a service to call in case I get stuck somewhere along the way. I’m most worried about a flat, because of course those are the most likely “sudden events.” In cold weather, my fingers don’t function well, and I don’t feel like I could fix a flat on my own as we head into winter.

Carrie
Carrie
5 months ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

Are you a AAA member? I know it seems ironic, but AAA will do exactly what you’re looking for — pick you up and take you to a repair shop if you’re bike is non functional. I’ve called and confirmed that they don’t have a limit on bike weight, etc.

Jillian
Jillian
5 months ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

Better World Club has roadside assistance for bikes, that is why I signed up for that vs. AAA. Additionally Better World is environmentally friendly focuses, and I’ve heard that AAA lobbies for the car industry/lifestyle so I didn’t want to contribute to that.

Iconyms
Iconyms
4 months ago

I got a flat on springwater riding with my 1.5 year old kid on the bike. I had a repair kit and a pump but I guess the repair kit had expired or something because the patch material was really really crumbly and I could not get it patched.

Seemed like I was in the worst spot near the wildlife refuge no cell service either.
I had to walk the bike about 30-45 minutes to the trek bike shop in Sellwood. Kid fell asleep on the walk. lesson learned I need to carry spare tubes lol.

This is pretty great though, I have a hard time finding time to maintain my bikes or schedule taking them somewhere and picking them up, would be great to have someone come to the house.

Thanks for the info!