No Spandex required at Beeline Bikes
Beyond mobile bike service, Beeline’s technicians also sell bicycle accessories. Above is CEO Peter Buhl, a hardcore rider who was frustrated by traditional bike repair shops.
Typical bike shops can be intimidating for casual bikers whose self image is not defined by a car-free lifestyle. The shorts are form-fitting, the proprietary lingo is pervasive, prices for quality equipment and accessories are often high, and booking an appointment during peak riding season can be a challenge.
Looking to address all of these pain points, Beeline Bikes is a new franchise looking to bring friendly, knowledgeable bike repairs right to your home—no spandex required.
Based in San Carlos, California, Beeline is the brain-child of Peter Buhl, co-founder and CEO who left the software industry in 2013 seeing an opportunity to revolutionize the bicycle industry, which continues its multi-decade growth spurt in the United States.
Buhl’s concept is a direct result of an experience he had several years ago trying to get his Trek fixed near his Bay Area home, which he felt was too frustrating and cumbersome for a non-hardcore rider.
“I probably had a $250 service job to be done, but I couldn’t get my bike serviced,” he said. “This was the early days of the internet, and I went on some Yahoo newsgroup, found a mobile service guy, called him and he came out to my office the next day.”
He was so pleased with the result that he recommended the mobile technician to his friends, who all marveled at the technician’s knowledge, ease of explaining the intricacies of the repairs, and also the accessories offered like tire tubes, air cartridges and locks, among others.
Then, in 2012 with the advent of Uber and TaskRabbit—a mobile handyman service—he reflected on his mobile service experience and felt there was an opportunity to bring the tech revolution to the bicycle world. As his current company was wrapping up in 2013, he decided to build a platform, lash together a business plan and take his chances going head to head against the entrenched bicycle industrial complex.
“I thought we would be more like a Starbucks concept—we would do this in the Bay Area and then we’d replicate it across a bunch of markets,” he said. “What we found pretty early on was that local market knowledge was really important. It’s not like we could go on a corner and open a coffee shop and it would happen.”
That realization—the importance of local knowledge and connections to an area’s biking community—caused Beeline Bikes to take a fork in the road and franchise the concept. Four years later, it’s on pace to hit more than 60 operating mobile shops across the U.S., with five new agreements bringing the concept to Colorado, Texas, California and Indiana.
At the headquarters, the brand’s biggest investments have been in its technology platform, an automated scheduling system, technicians and the customer experience, which he views as far superior to the traditional, somewhat stuffy brick-and-mortar bike shop. Automating scheduling and a technician’s route has proven to be a key part of the equation.
“Their efficiency during the day is critical, because this is largely a service, parts and accessory sales business,” Buhl said. “We built a back-end process that allows the operator on the vehicle to manage their profits very efficiently, whether that’s automatic routing to the next customer appointment, click to call or easy to touch buttons to mark an appointment done and send thank-you emails and set up service reminders—all those things that would normally take a lot of notes and paper.”
Aside from building an audience of happy customers, Beeline has attracted the interest of the Accell Group, a Dutch manufacturer of bikes like Diamondback and Raleigh, as well as Amazon, which has started direct bike sales, using Beeline as the default service provider to lessen the built-in benefits of buying through a locally based shop. It has also begun working with bike shops, allowing them to extend their service reach with a mobile component.
“There’s probably 150 million bicycles sitting in garages that are in need of repair, so there’s an installed base of customers who are not going to put their bikes in the car and go to the store,” he said. “We address a whole new world of customers out there that are not being serviced by the existing infrastructure.”