Home

I currently work as an environmental engineer (no real engineering, just writing reports for other people) but I'm getting more and more fed up of sitting in an office all day doing something I don't really enjoy.

I'm in my early 50's and really don't want to be doing this till I retire, hopefully in about 10 years time.

Therefore, I've been wondering what I could do instead.

Although I've got a good education (Masters degree) I don't really have any transferable skills, so I started thinking of becoming a mobile mechanic. I can already build wheels and undertake most mechanical work, but I was planning on taking some proper formal training to get me to a level that will enable me to do this professionally.

I don't have a mortgage and I'm not too bothered about making a million out of this, however, I don't want to end up massively in debt either. I also thought that it would be something I could do to give me a little extra cash when I actually reach retirement age and I'm only getting my beer vouchers from HM Government.

Has anyone else done this?

Any personal stories of success or failure would be appreciated.

17 comments

Avatar
cristiansupernova [6 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Hi,

The absolute very best thing you could do is take a job in local bikeshop.. gaining real world experiance, is far more productive to your training, than a 2day or 3week course..

Working fast, working well, to a good (high!) standard is important in bike mechanics. Anything less would make it unviable.

Best of luck!

Avatar
jmferros [9 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

It is something I have done. I'm in a similar situation, approaching 50, and want to 'retire' to run a B&B and Bike Tour company. Yes, working in a bike shop is important but you will probably need at least a level 2 Cytech or equivalent to do that.

I did my level 2 plus wheel building at www.cycle-systems.co.uk/ and can thoroughly recommend it.

Good luck!

The Bicycle Doctor
www.bikedoc.co

Avatar
mavisto [10 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Thanks for the comments.

I realise working in a bike shop would probably be the best option, but there is the small problem of getting the job in the bike shop in the first place.

I also like the idea of working for myself and not for someone else.

Avatar
drfabulous0 [409 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I started doing this after ten years in the bike game and to be honest mobile spannering doesn't have a massive market, it works for a few but most customers prefer to bring their bikes to my workshop for repairs. My initial customer base grew out of loyal customers who would go to whatever shop I worked for and doing foreigners.

Repairs alone don't earn me enough though, I make more money by dealing in used bikes and I do freelance work for a couple of bike shops.

You really would be better off working in the bike trade for a while, you will need to build up the knowledge, skills and contacts, getting accounts with suppliers can be somewhat awkward.

Avatar
mavisto [10 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Has anyone ever made a successful business out of being a mobile mechanic?

There seem to be a lot of people doing it for a few years (setting up websites etc), but they don't appear to stay around very long.

I've signed up to do the Bike Inn course in March. I intend to do the training for my own satisfaction whether I start my own business or not.

Avatar
Stratman [77 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I've just used one in Derbyshire that suited me. He's already had 3 bikes and a complete rebuild from me, and I can see myself using him again regularly. (My job isn't 9 to 5 ish, and I can only get to the LBS once a week, which can lose a weekend's ride). From his website, I think he also does clubs and offers discounted rates.

He charges £60 for a full service, so at the rate of 10 per week (which I think is optimistic) that's a little under £30k per annum on service income allowing for holidays. Parts are extra, but I'd assume limited mark up on those, so I'd guess that you are in the £20-30k per annum range overall.

Minimal overheads once you have tools and a van with a mobile work stand, some consumables for cleaning and lubing etc, just marketing costs to build up a loyal base -I'd guess something like 2-300 customers (2x services per year) would do it.

Doesn't sound like a recipe for riches, but could become sustainable with the right customer base, especially when supplemented by additional product sales

Best of luck if you go ahead

Ps workplaces may be a good way to start - commuters who don't want to be without their bikes

Avatar
badback [302 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

There's one that goes to Sheffield station and one of the cities cycling cafe's on fixed days each week.

This maybe a potential plan of attack - especially if your local station has a lot of regular commuters. Even if they don't ride to the station on their bike they could drop it off and pick it up on the journey back.

Good luck with your venture,

Paul

Avatar
jason.timothy.jones [294 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I would say the Cycles Systems is a great place to start, the problem with working in a bike shop is finding one that will teach you properly to start with, I have seen some horrific practices in shops

Best of luck

Avatar
monty dog [457 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

The important thing about working in a bike shop is not the skills, but understanding the business model, distributor contact etc. Shops make most money on servicing and the margin on spares rather than bike sales.

Avatar
mike the bike [654 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I wish you every success sir and I hope the world queues at you door. But wasn't it Mike Sinyard who said if you want to make a million from your bike shop, you should start with two?

Avatar
Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I'd have to disagree with the advice on working in a bike shop; why would any bike shop owner train you up to a level of competence that would make you a potential threat to their business, either through enterprise or simply accepting a better paid position at another bike shop? They'd be pretty wary if they knew that was your intention. Apart from anything, the "training" you might receive may not be in keeping with best practice (and that's the polite way of putting it).

Get comprehensively trained at Cycle Systems Academy, and consider using a cargo bike (huge advertising potential) rather than a van, if you live in a large town. If you add extra training modules to your "CV" (such as Di2) then you might pick up some contract work from bike shops too.

But consider this...

I get my car fixed by the bloke I know down the road, because he does a good job and he's dirt cheap. But that doesn't mean that my local car dealership will go out of business tomorrow. It's the same with the bike trade; plenty of room for both savvy bike shop owners, stepping up a gear to give wealthier bike riders the premium experience they should reasonably expect for their hard earned cash, and mobile or home mechanics who can cater for the huge, relatively untapped new market developing as cycling increasingly becomes an economic choice, rather than just a lifestyle one.

The opportunities for the home or mobile mechanic over the coming years are enormous, and there's far more chance of earning a sustainable living if you are dealing directly with the customer, rather than earning money for a bike shop owner.

Apart from anything, being able to offer affordable bike repairs in your area will help reduce the number of cheaper utility bikes being consigned to landfill, which must be a good thing for the planet.

Good luck in your new venture.

Avatar
Username [178 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Bike fixing might not be such physical work as car fixing (lying on your back in the cold) but the car mechanics I know through my brother and his friends all want to go the opposite direction to you because they say being 'on the tools' in your 50s is no joke.

Just a thought.

Avatar
mavisto [10 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
mike the bike wrote:

I wish you every success sir and I hope the world queues at you door. But wasn't it Mike Sinyard who said if you want to make a million from your bike shop, you should start with two?

Thanks for the good wishes. I've heard that comment before about making a million out of a bike shop, however I'm hoping that sales will only be a minor part of the business.

With the growth of internet and mail order cycles sales, I'm hoping that there will be a need for 'set up and fitting" to be done. I'm also hoping that with the growth of the larger stores, their reputation for poor service and the associated reduction in local bike shops, I'm hoping for a bit of a niche market. At 6'4" with long legs and size 13 feet, I may try a sideline of bigger cycling clothing as another niche market.

I'm also planning to specialise in Campag, modern road bikes and suspension forks.

With regards to being 'on the tools', with all the bad weather we've been having, I was thinking how unpleasant it would be working out of the back of a van in the freezing cold and driving rain.

However, as people keep reminding me, you very rarely regret the things you have done (or at least tried) and nearly always regret the things you haven't,

Avatar
drfabulous0 [409 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
mavisto wrote:

Thanks for the good wishes. I've heard that comment before about making a million out of a bike shop, however I'm hoping that sales will only be a minor part of the business.

That doesn't really matter, you're not trying to make a million, just make a living. Running a bike shop is hugely expensive, the idea is that as an independent you have much lower costs

Quote:

With the growth of internet and mail order cycles sales, I'm hoping that there will be a need for 'set up and fitting" to be done. I'm also hoping that with the growth of the larger stores, their reputation for poor service and the associated reduction in local bike shops, I'm hoping for a bit of a niche market. At 6'4" with long legs and size 13 feet, I may try a sideline of bigger cycling clothing as another niche market.

I'm also planning to specialise in Campag, modern road bikes and suspension forks.

There is definitely a market for setup, but don't expect to be doing it on bikes over £100, ever, fitting will involve setting the saddle height. Hoping for a market is not realistic, you need to do thorough market research and business planning. If there is a market in your area for Modern road bikes with Campag and suspension forks that is not already well served then great, but let the market decide what you specialise in.

Quote:

With regards to being 'on the tools', with all the bad weather we've been having, I was thinking how unpleasant it would be working out of the back of a van in the freezing cold and driving rain.

Mark my words, you need a workshop, if you want to go down the van route why not get a big one and put the workshop inside the van?

Quote:

However, as people keep reminding me, you very rarely regret the things you have done (or at least tried) and nearly always regret the things you haven't,

Yes, things you are likely to regret not doing may include:

Doing a comprehensive business plan

Doing thorough market research

Gaining industry experience

Gaining the industry recognized qualification which is Cytech 2, not the Cycle Systems course. Public liability insurance is mandatory, whether one course is better than another is irrelevant if they are not recognized by insurers, look into it first.

Also bear in mind that this is a GCSE level course, I have a GCSE in biology but I would not make a good doctor, bike spannering isn't much different, what happens when you don't know how to fix something?

I don't want to discourage you, I make more money doing this than I ever did in employment and I work flexible part time hours, but with no qualifications, experience or reputation you have a lot of work to put in. It's worth noting that my original plans were similar to yours but it turned out there was no market for it, through research and planning I was able to adapt my business to the market and make it successful. I recommend you get help from whatever organization assists with new start ups in your area.

Good Luck

Avatar
jon.colborne@he... [1 post] 2 years ago
0 likes

I set up over 5 years ago, as a keen cyclist I had the basics but decided on getting a formal qualification and trained under Alf Webb at the Bike Inn near Spalding. absolutely invaluable.

I would certainly recommend attending a formal course, getting industry experience etc. but get it done. I have also worked at the nations biggest cycle shop and with attention to detail you will certainly be hugely better than the untrained youngsters who they let loose on customers bikes.

Avatar
mavisto [10 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
jon.colborne [at] helmwind.co.uk wrote:

I set up over 5 years ago, as a keen cyclist I had the basics but decided on getting a formal qualification and trained under Alf Webb at the Bike Inn near Spalding. absolutely invaluable.

I would certainly recommend attending a formal course, getting industry experience etc. but get it done. I have also worked at the nations biggest cycle shop and with attention to detail you will certainly be hugely better than the untrained youngsters who they let loose on customers bikes.

I'm signed up for the Bike Inn course in March. At the moment I'm trying to get some info on start-up loans and Enterprise Allowance schemes etc. The job centre has said there are courses I can attend, but they have been rather unhelpful with just about everything I have asked them. That is part of the reason I have posted on a couple of forums.

Any help and advice can only be a bonus.

Avatar
mooleur [537 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

http://londoncycletherapy.com/ -- these guys are "proper" mechanics and seem to be doing pretty well.

There's other companies that are more repair/first aid types (going round fixing punctures for ladies on dutch bikes with nice nails etc), here's a list; http://www.londoncyclist.co.uk/london-mobile-bike-repair/

I'm not sure on courses, I know there's a lot of new companies doing training. I can only recommend the CTC who provide quite good quality training; http://www.ctc.org.uk/courses-and-training/maintenance-courses