If you like to ride your bicycle, you’ve probably also experienced the traditional bike shop. Whether you visit for a tune-up or to purchase a new set of wheels, bike shops can be intimidating for newcomers. For competitive cyclists, the wait time on repairs can mean a week of missed training rides. Then there’s the hassle of transporting a bike to the shop or trying to schedule an appointment within limited operating hours.
Velofix CEO and co-founder Chris Guillemet is no stranger to these frustrations. He and fellow co-founders Davide Xausa and Boris Martin saw an opportunity to disrupt the current business model.
“We experienced the pain points of the bike shop from both sides,” says Guillemet. “That’s what prompted us to start the business.”
Launched in 2012, Velofix took the bike shop and put it on wheels. Using an online booking system, customers simply enter a zip code, choose the service they’d like and select the date and time for service—and where exactly they’d like it. When the time comes, the mechanic rolls up to the predetermined destination (often a home or office) in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter armed with everything they’ll need to complete the service inside the van. A test ride of the bike at the end ensures everything is good to go.
Premium bike services for busy people
Customers who call Velofix to their offices may continue working while the bike is being serviced. Alternatively, clients can always stay, enjoy some coffee and chat with the mechanic. Depending on the service, everything is wrapped up in one to two hours.
“First and foremost, we wanted Velofix to be convenient, because the current business model is not,” says Guillemet. “We also offer premium service, which is another area that the traditional bike shop is lacking.”
The mobile shop does more than standard tune-ups or repairs. Velofix mechanics will also perform full bike overhauls, fit people for bikes, sell bikes and build and deliver bikes that people purchase online.
Guillemet says Velofix will even come to a corporation’s headquarters and do maintenance on bike fleets. Some companies may also pay for Velofix to do tune-ups on employees’ bikes, a perk for those who commute on two wheels.
Rolling with the e-bike trend
Guillemet sees the cycling industry changing. Velofix services e-bikes, and Guillemet himself rides one. He thinks e-bikes will continue to garner popularity, especially among commuters who want to avoid arriving sweaty to the office and older folks who may not have the stamina for longer rides.
Velofix also works on e-scooters and e-skateboards. Guillemet says this is an important area of growth for a company that will have an estimated 150 franchises in the U.S. and Canada by early 2019 and is in the process of discussing franchise agreements in the United Kingdom. Guillemet says that on a recent business trip, he didn’t use his car at all. He used an electric scooter to get to and from meetings.
“Times are changing,” he says. “People are embracing bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters and even e-skateboards. Driving cars is just not sustainable.”
A bike business built on relationships
Part of the premium experience Velofix can deliver has nothing to do with its modern approach and everything to do with good old-fashioned human connection.
“What sets us apart is the one-on-one relationship that’s created between the mechanic and the customer,” says Guillemet. “You can ask the mechanic any questions you’d like—even those you might not be comfortable asking in a bike shop.”
Guillemet says the company boasts an astounding Net Promoter Score of 96. A Net Promoter Score is a customer satisfaction benchmark based on customers recommending the service to others (the top possible score is 100). The company’s high ranking is a big point of pride.
“It tells us that people like the service and would refer it to a friend,” he says. “That’s what our business is built on.”
Inside a Velofix van
How does Velofix manage to fit tools, $10,000 to $15,000 in merchandise, a mechanic and cleaning and work stations inside a 24-foot van? According to CEO and co-founder Chris Guillemet, the mobile bike shop was modeled and designed after a sailboat, allowing the mechanic to run a tight ship within the confines of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
The Sprinter has more space than any of the other large cargo vans on the market, and each Velofix franchise maximizes its use of that space. The tools are stored on a magnetized wall. All the van’s shelving locks to keep everything in place when the van is on the go. When the shop arrives at the customer’s home or office, the mechanic will do all the work inside the van. The customer can leave and return or stick around and enjoy the van’s most beloved feature: the coffee maker.