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  1. #1
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    Does anyone have a home-based bike mechanic business?

    I mean, for real, not just fixing friends' bikes for a sixer. I'd love to do this, but the industry seems to guard against this. I can't buy parts wholesale from a distributor without a retail storefront, regular hours, photos of sales and repair areas, etc. I'd like to focus on maintenance and repairs, not sales, but even so I need to be able to buy wholesale to have any hope of making a profit. Frustrated...

  2. #2
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    I've been playing around with the idea trying to figure out if it can be done in my area(locally rural but looking into providing mobile services to a larger area). It wouldn't take much of an income to top my dead end factory job of 24+ years plus I'd be doing something I love and helping people. It's kind of funny but one of my co-workers thought I already had a bike shop.

    As far as not being able to buy from wholesalers that may actually be a blessing in disguise. A wholesaler is going to add a lot of requirements that will make things that much harder, such as a $2000+ month retail space. Some internet retailers and ebay sellers are selling new parts dirt cheap compared to normal prices. Providing excellent service to customers and making money off the labor is what I would focus on. It's a crapshoot so I don't plan to quit my day job until I know the business would work and be profitable.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
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    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You may have a point about wholesaler requirements. One of the reasons I want to work from home is to keep overhead extremely low, and that is one advantage over a retail store. I will look into "alternate" sources for discounted parts. I worked in one of the most reputable local shops for about 6 months. Seeing the markup on parts was an eye-opener...typically almost 100% for full retail on the high-end stuff. That's what has me locked in to this mindset that one must have a dealer account with the distributors to make money. Perhaps not. I definitely see advantages to being a one-man operation that can offer personalized service. Food for thought...

  4. #4
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    Check your local zoning laws. If a neighbor wanted to screw you, they can call the zoning board on you for operating a business out of a residential zone, depending on your local laws.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by wschruba View Post
    Check your local zoning laws. If a neighbor wanted to screw you, they can call the zoning board on you for operating a business out of a residential zone, depending on your local laws.
    I know. I have checked on the county website (I live in an unincorporated area) and they don't explicitly talk about bike repair. I will have to get clarification. If it's the kind of thing that could get my operation shut down, I won't start to begin with. Not interested in taking that risk.

  6. #6
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    Insurance. I would worry someone getting hurt on a bike I worked on even if it wasn't a system I worked on.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by rePhil View Post
    Insurance. I would worry someone getting hurt on a bike I worked on even if it wasn't a system I worked on.
    ^ This.

    You don't want to lose your house and everything you own because someone got hurt on a bike you fixed.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by rePhil View Post
    Insurance. I would worry someone getting hurt on a bike I worked on even if it wasn't a system I worked on.
    +1 That will cost you around $1500/year for liability insurance.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbiker4life View Post
    +1 That will cost you around $1500/year for liability insurance.
    Worth every penny.

    I do very occasional work which is always for free. I also do some machine work which I also don't charge for. However, I still made sure I was properly and completely insured for that. A single lawsuit can ruin your life.

  10. #10
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    I really wanted to do this when I got back from UBI. It still intrigues me for sure. Getting a steady flow of customers was what I could not figure out. Not very educated when it comes to advertising/market research etc. If it helps, I know that QBP and J&B will wholesale to a mobile one man operation if you have a yellow page ad, and professional graphics on your van/truck. Still would love to try this someday, but ended up working for a bike shop instead. Pretty happy there, I guess......I'm retired so income isn't a huge issue. Good luck man. Hope you can figure out a way to make it work.

  11. #11
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    Ghettocop, thanks for the info on mobile operations and wholesale. I wasn't aware of that. It's not my intent to "go mobile", but good to know that option exists.

    To the others, thanks for mentioning insurance. I'm well aware of this. I'm not really asking how to go about this. I'm more interested in hearing from others that have already gone this route, if there are any.

  12. #12
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    Yes, this thread is right up my alley. I have been doing repairs and resale of used bikes, as well as repairing bikes for others. Been doing it for 5 years. I Really like it, Its been a learning curve because I was the first in my area to do it and no one would give me any advice. If you have any specific questions or anything, shoot me a PM. Would be more than happy to help yall out.

  13. #13
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    PM sent

  14. #14
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    OP - you're on the right track. Every town needs a reputable "Bicycle Garage" devoted to repairs, and parts only. After all - most LBS depend on this business as their bread and butter....yet fail to adequately stock enough parts, and depend on completed bike sales of high-ticket items. Problem is, a high-end bike can easily sit inside a showroom for years, while parts sales are often overlooked. One thing I will not patronize is a LBS that has to make me wait a week for my part to arrive...and still charge me full retail for it!

    Your BEST investment is getting a reliable parts distributor(not QBP!).
    "The ONLY person who needs to race.....is the entrant"

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachariah View Post
    Your BEST investment is getting a reliable parts distributor(not QBP!).

    ???? Far and away the best I've used- fast, excellent fill rate, and super reliable.

  16. #16
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    There was a guy in my area that did this. Had a big van filled with repair stuff and would come out to your house and fix bikes. It seemed like a good idea- I always seemed to notice that my bike had a problem the night before a ride. He normally charged a bit more than a shop for the convenience of coming to your house and working in the off hours.

    I haven't seen him advertise on craigslist in a while though so I wonder if he stopped doing it. It seems like a good idea and it would also open the opportunity for you to buy bikes people weren't using on the cheap and then resell them for a profit.

  17. #17
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    A couple of things I would add here... First, most bike shops will stock a nominal amount of popular items, and then order most anything else. My LBS laces an order every Monday and gets their shipment on Wednesday - meaning I might have to wait upwards a week (if I ask for something on Tuesday) to get it.

    Then there are the home-based issues that have been described here, but also throw in parking, riding/testing, late nights and then the neighbors.

    So, my thought has been.... Amazon for parts! They are typically 20-40% cheaper then my LBS and with a Prime account, I can get most things in 2 day with no shipping costs!

    For a location, I have been looking into self-storage units. Most every one I have called have no issues with me running a business out of their facility! I,m currently looking into one that is less then 1/4 mile form my home. It's 10x15 with a large overhead garage door, electrical power and access from 4am - 11pm everyday. It would only cost me $90/mo - totally sweet deal!

  18. #18
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    Most LBS fail to stock enough parts. Period. The average wait time tolerance for a rider needing a part, is less than 24hrs. Don't even go into the prices LBS charge either...
    "The ONLY person who needs to race.....is the entrant"

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by csgaraglino View Post
    For a location, I have been looking into self-storage units. Most every one I have called have no issues with me running a business out of their facility! I,m currently looking into one that is less then 1/4 mile form my home. It's 10x15 with a large overhead garage door, electrical power and access from 4am - 11pm everyday. It would only cost me $90/mo - totally sweet deal!
    That's an interesting idea. If you can pull it off, more power to you! Way to think outsi...err...inside the box.

  20. #20
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    Actually, I go back and forth between two ideas: home-based repair business and custom framebuilding.

  21. #21
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    We have two local guys doing weekend repairs at the local swapmeet / flea market. They advertise on Craigslist. Both seem like they are aimed at repairing low end bikes.

  22. #22
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    How about a mobile-based Van, for on-call repairs?
    "The ONLY person who needs to race.....is the entrant"

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachariah View Post
    How about a mobile-based Van, for on-call repairs?
    Yeah, that's a good niche for the self-starter. The thing is, my wife and I bought a property a couple years ago that came with a sweet, new Morton equestrian barn that we have converted to workshop space (my wife is a part-time silversmith). So I have my heart set on working out of my barn. That, and I really hate city driving, and I'm in the Denver area.

  24. #24
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    A mobil service is the way to go! What does it cost to get an account with qbp and BTI, other than a business license official graphics on a van and some advertising?

    Might cost you a few professional tools you dont have, but qbp has those at wholesale!
    i only ride for fun.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by ridefast84 View Post
    A mobil service is the way to go! What does it cost to get an account with qbp and BTI, other than a business license official graphics on a van and some advertising?

    Might cost you a few professional tools you dont have, but qbp has those at wholesale!
    Actually, QPB requires a Brick-and-mortar storefront address. I prefer KHS myself, price-wise.
    "The ONLY person who needs to race.....is the entrant"

  26. #26
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    I've worked out of my house in Georgia for 25+ years as a computer consultant and mail-order business.

    There has been no problem getting a business license. As a rule, if you don't have a stream of customers coming to your house, it isn't a problem. The wording prohibited "operating a business in which customers normally come on-premises" or something like that. Houses in subdivisions typically have protective covenants that are more restrictive than zoning laws. We had to get the developer to write us a letter saying he did not object to our business. And no signs advertising your business.

    A lot of how much hassle you are going to have depends on your neighbors. I am married interracially, and back in the day we had a neighbor who hated us and repeatedly called zoning on us with obvious bogus complaints -- like a swimming pool without a fence around it. Well true, there was no fence, but there was no pool either. But zoning still repeatedly hassled us -- "we have to check it out". We finally got a lawyer to threaten to sue the neighbor and the county, and that was the last we heard about it.

    Anyway, know your rights and don't let neighbors push you around.

    But if your house is back off the street and you have a place for people to park off-street, hopefully your neighbors won't even know what you are doing. And most restrictive covenants expire after 20 years. Heck, you have a barn and all, so if you are zoned AG you can do pretty much whatever you want.

    The mobile repair truck is a good idea -- go to a busy trailhead to pick up business. My LBS owns a trailer that they pull to a trailhead, and not only repair bikes, but rent them. Even if you still want to work at home, you'll have a pretense of not working at home, and if you park it strategically, it will solve the problem of not being able to have a sign in your yard.

    About liability, look into forming an LLC. I would still get insurance, but insurance for an LLC would be less since there is less liability. You lose your truck and tools, big deal.

    Incidentally, you don't need a license to transact business so long as you do it under your own name. "Bob Golden's cycle repair" is ok. "Superior Cycle Repair" would require a license. Not recommending that tho -- you still have the liability issue.

    You will have to get a sales tax number from your state and collect sales tax. It is no hassle at all. It will allow you to buy certain stuff for your business and not pay sales tax on it.

    Hope it works out well for you. Now may actually be a good time to take the risk. With all this hope-and-change and the poor economy, shoestring businesses with low overhead are doing well, because customers are more cost-conscious. There is security in owning your own business too. While business may get slow, it is unlikely to dry up completely. You have a real job and get fired, you've got nothing.

    Disclaimer, I am not a lawyer or accountant, just a crazy guy on the internet. So take this advice at your own peril

  27. #27
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    Thanks, Dennis. You make some good points.

    Where I live, we have a great network of county open space parks with tons of trails. I've often wondered about parking a repair van at the trailheads. I've never seen it done, so the county must have regulations against it. But that would be a killer way to get business where I live.

    Regarding zoning, we live on an acre zoned a-2 (ag) I believe. I know we can have horses, and many of our neighbors do. Everyone around us has 1 or 2 acres. So I'm not too worried about starting a home-based business in our neighborhood. Oh - an NO HOA, no covenants! Hoo-ray! I detest HOAs and their stifling control. That's why we moved here, to get away from all that petty crap.

    Whether I go the repair route, or the framebuilding route, forming an LLC is a must. Gotta protect my ass(ets).

  28. #28
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    I know. I have checked on the county website (I live in an unincorporated area) and they don't explicitly talk about bike repair. I will have to get clarification.
    I would be careful who you ask -- don't tip your hand yet. Zoning is pretty much in the habit of saying "no". I would just go ahead and get the license. They will ask zoning-related questions, but IME are easy to deal with. Then if you have to do battle with zoning, at least you can say "but they issued my license". Your county commissioner (think votes) could be a good ally. It might be money well spent to buy an hour of a local lawyer's time to find out where you stand.

    Around here we don't see any mobile services other than the one I mentioned. It seems like a good idea. The trailhead that our LBS goes to is at a state park. It's likely there's some quid pro quo. It wouldn't hurt to start getting friendly with the powers-that-be.

    Research the laws though. Not likely I guess, but it's possible there is nothing prohibiting it. Doesn't mean they can't administratively ask you to leave, so still develop relationships with elected officials and park bureaucrats.

    If you start lobbying for it, don't forget the safety angle -- government types go gaga over that. People are less likely to ride with marginal parts if they can buy from you, or ride without a helmet if they forget theirs and can buy one from you. Offer free safety inspections or something. And they will be getting sales tax from you.

    If there is a convenience store near the entrance to the trailhead, they would probably be glad to let you use their lot. The marketplace effect would increase their store's traffic.

    Don't forget road bikes too -- might actually be more business there. There is one mtb trailhead at a county park where roadies also stage from.

    Yeah, it sounds like your zoning is more liberal. The county where we were having neighbor problems was a rather hoity-toity. They require at least 5 acres to have a horse. We have since moved to a more rural area. People here generally mind their own business and don't care what you do.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachariah View Post
    Actually, QPB requires a Brick-and-mortar storefront address. I prefer KHS myself, price-wise.
    I wasn't familiar with KHS, so I looked them up. Whoa....they're based in Olney, Illinois! I used to work at Roadmaster across the street from them. Crazy coincidence? I remember Union Froendenburg having an office there. Sounds like there's some sort of relationship between UF and KHS. Well, a trip down memory lane for me.

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