Wrench-in-a-Box: Getting Started in Bike Repair

Cartlandia Bike Rack for saleWhen I came across a for-sale listing on Bike Portland for a bike repair turnkey operation, I realized two things: it’s an awfully long way to go to buy out a business; and whatever the fantasy that a turnkey business offers – like a fully-contained wrench-in-a-box bike repair trailer – setting up shop in SoCal as a bike repair guy simply isn’t for me. Sure, I’ve got a few Park tools in a cabinet. Once in a while I like to turn a wrench. But a career in cycling isn’t for me. It could be a great opportunity for someone, right?

Cartlandia Bike Rack rearBut it did get me to thinking how career opportunities in turnkey bike repair seem to come along much more often than other endeavors. Last Fall we were approached by the founder of a local hardware store in Beverly Hills who was looking to complement the store’s sales of low-end hybrids and cruisers with a service facility. There was space in the back of the shop, and even a large storeroom that might be converted.

With what little business sense I do have, I recognized an opportunity: out back of the shop was the city-owned parking garage where a fleet of rental bikes might be one day moored. And at that moment, City Council was mulling over Crescent Drive in front of the store for a bike route. With practically zero bucks required, there was no barrier to entry. The enterprising wrench could simply show up to grease some hubs.

325 North Crescent exterior

This could have been a bike shop!

But that opportunity found no takers. Nor did an empty, small city-owned retail space on Crescent – a space affordable enough at a low city rent to launch a bike business. Why is it that these opportunities are chasing entrepreneurs?

I had that thought again as I saw this Portland listing for a full-equipped, portable bike repair trailer. In business for only a year, it had occupied a space designated for a mobile business like a food truck. (An innovation that we don’t have down here yet, evidently.) There’s nothing to say that a creative bike wrencher couldn’t make this setup work for housecalls. Or perhaps set anchor on a park corner with the permission of local authorities much like a bookmobile. Remember those? Remember the slogan, Reading is fundamental? So is cycling. Let’s find people to seize these opportunities.

Working on planning a recent show on Bike Talk, I’m beginning to realize how widespread is the co-operative movement globally, and how it’s pervasive in so many industries. (Best Western, the American hospitality corporation: I bet you didn’t know it was member-owned.) We need to connect cooperatively-minded folks with low-barrier or cheap turnkey opportunities like the Bike Rack. Good for them, good for cycling, good for everyone.