Road Wrench: Bike biz gets you back on the road
The BikeMobile is a much needed business in...
Last summer, after several years of frustration with a temperamental gearshift on my bike, I finally walked it down the street to Revolution Cycles and, boom, two weeks later my 20-year-old mountain bike was as good as new. I rode it around Lake Monona for the first time in years, and I’ve been contemplating a two-wheel commute to work. I love my bike again.
It really hadn’t occurred to me that my bike and I were having serious relationship problems until I was talking to The BikeMobile owner Andy Quandt. His business is a fully stocked mobile bicycle repair van that does on-site service for individuals and businesses. He charges $49 for single-speed bike servicing and up to $119 for a pro tune-up.
I’m not alone, he assured me. Lots of bikes are hanging in garages, neglected for one reason or another. The chain’s broken, the gears don’t shift, the seats are uncomfortable–and it’s a royal pain to haul it to the repair shop.
Quandt says almost everyone has a bike at home. “If it was their dishwasher, they’d call a guy.”
He couldn’t be more right! The only reason my bike is fixed is because the bike shop happens to be two blocks from my house. My husband’s 30-year-old bike is also as good as new now, but only because a neighbor friend is an ex-Trek gearhead, and he offered to tune it up in his garage. Neither one of us would’ve wrestled our bikes into the car and hauled them anywhere to be fixed. We’re not lazy; our bikes just weren’t a priority.
If you think about it, it’s amazing Quandt’s mobile bike repair business, launched in March, is the only one in town. First and foremost, Madison is a Platinum Level Bicycle Friendly Community, the highest designation possible by the League of American Bicyclists and one of only five in the country. The city hosts Ironman Wisconsin every year, featuring an 112-mile bike course through rural Dane County. Madison B-Cycle’s bike sharing program is uber-successful–40 stations, 350 bikes. On weekends when the weather is nice, the Capital City State Trail can be as congested as the main streets.
Quandt agrees a business like his is long overdue here, which is why he saw revenue just six weeks after he was “struck with sudden inspiration” to launch the idea and already has a business plan to franchise it in other communities around the Midwest.
“I’m breaking down barriers between people and their bicycles,” Quandt says, citing convenience, comfort and cost as the three most important ingredients to winning customers in today’s bicycle marketplace.
Plus, Quandt, who’s been repairing bikes off and on since he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996, is emulating a business model that’s already working in San Francisco and Toronto. All he needs now, he says, is a co-investor–“somebody with experience in franchising”–to complement his skills and experience as a small-business owner and sales and marketing professional. Before this, he co-owned a business he bought on Craigslist, which, by the way, is also where he bought his bike truck.
Quandt is also a client at the Small Business Development Center at the Wisconsin School of Business, where he’s working with experts to implement the Lean Startup model, which is considered the premier tool for startup ideation and product development. While Quandt will happily book an appointment at your home (he recently tuned up a fleet of family bikes at my friend Carrie’s house–she gave him a thumbs-up), Quandt’s target market is corporate wellness programs that bring him on-site for the day, subsidize the labor for employees and repeat the business. Neighborhood associations and community events, too, could contract his services.
Ironically, Quandt tells me he’s never been an avid biker: “I like fixing them more than I like riding them.”
Now in its seventh year, the eight-day entrepreneurial extravaganza Forward Fest is August 18-25 at locations downtown and on the UW-Madison campus. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or thinking of starting your own business, the fest is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the startup community. A new addition is a tech event for teens, organized by the new nonprofit Maydm, whose mission is to connect more youth, particularly kids of color, to tech through summer and after-school programs that focus on coding and career opportunities. Find out more at forwardfest.org.
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