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Cycling is a popular sport in the United States, with people regularly using bikes for fun, exercise, and transportation. In 2015 alone, 17.4 million bikes were sold in the country. As bikes are used, they occasionally break down -- and most people aren’t well-versed in repairing bicycles. A bike repair business fixes and refurbishes bikes for customers when their rides break down.
Who is this business right for?
Anyone mechanically inclined who is passionate about cycling may enjoy running a bike repair business. Enjoying the sport will help a business owner connect with their customers, and making repairs requires basic mechanical skills.
What happens during a typical day at a bike repair business?
Bike repair business owners spend a lot of time working on bicycles. This work includes:
- Testing bikes to diagnose issues
- Stripping bikes down
- Checking and cleaning components
- Repairing or replacing broken pieces
- Rebuilding bikes
When not working on a bike, business owners spend time ordering parts, conversing with customers, and marketing their businesses.
What is the target market?
A bike repair business’ ideal customer is an avid cycler who doesn’t know how, or doesn’t want to take the time and effort, to repair their own bike. Such a customer will likely need repairs and maintenance fairly often, since they use their bike a lot, and they’ll be willing to pay for the work their bike requires.
How does a bike repair business make money?
A bike repair business makes money not only by fixing bicycles, but also selling used them at a discounted rate. Many shops choose to offer tune-ups for a flat fee, and charge more for additional repairs.
What is the growth potential for a bike repair business?
Many bike repair businesses are individual locations that serve the local cycling community, and a number are run by just one or two people. Some, however, grow beyond a local area, eventually becoming regional or national businesses. Bike Doctor in Maryland is an example of a regional bike repair chain, and Velofix is a national one.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful bike repair business?
Successfully running a bike repair business requires an in-depth knowledge of bikes, how they’re put together and how they work. Business owners must be able to take apart any bike they work on, identify any issues, address those issues and put the bike back together.
Many regions have community programs and trade schools where business owners can learn these skills. Entrepreneurs who don’t have a program or school nearby may gain the necessary skills by working at an established bike repair shop for a season. The National Bicycle Dealers Association hosts seminars and educational programs for professionals in the bike industry, and may be another useful resource.
After completing any training, business owners should keep a couple of bike repair manuals readily available for consulting. A few widely available repair books are:
- Zinn & The Art of Road Bike Maintenance
- Zinn & The Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance
- The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance and Repair
At HowToFixBikes.ca, Gerry (a professional in the industry) recommends that aspiring business owners prove their skills by working on their own bikes. Stripping a bike down to just its frame, lubricating all bearings and fully rebuilding the bike will help a business owner feel confident they’re ready to repair other people's bikes.
What are the costs involved in opening a bike repair business?
Startup expenses associated with opening a bicycle repair business are fairly minimal, although you’ll probably need these essential items:
- Basic tools (open wrenches, hex keys, screwdrivers, a ratchet set, wire cutters, adjustable pliers)
- Specialized tools (tire spoons, a chain breaker, a tire pump and pressure gauge, a spoke wrench, a crank arm pulley)
- Work stand
- Truing stand (for wheels)
Business owners who don’t already have these tools should expect to spend a few hundred dollars on them.
Repairing bikes also requires a workspace and replacement parts, but both of these potential costs can be kept to almost nothing. Many bike repair business owners have begun by fixing bikes in their garage or basement so that they didn’t have to worry about lease payments until their business was established. The cost of replacement parts is normally built into the invoices customer pay, and customers who need expensive parts can be asked to provide a deposit upfront. Such a deposit can be used to cover the cost of the needed parts.
What are the steps to start a bike repair business?
Once you're ready to start your bike repair business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your bike repair business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your bike repair business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Recommended: Fizzle.co offers video courses and a supportive online community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Try one month membership for free.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a bike repair business?
Business owners can increase their profit margin by seeking out donor bikes -- free bikes that no one wants, regardless of their condition. When work is slow, business owners can strip down donor bikes for spare parts. Many bikes have bearings, brake calipers, chains and cranks that will work on other models.
Bike repair business owners can then use these parts whenever they work for a job. Owners can ultimately sell the parts, earning pure profit on anything they charge since the parts were free. Alternatively, owners can provide the parts free of charge, as long as cyclists pay for the labor that a repair requires. This can be especially helpful in growing a business, as the parts cost only time to acquire, and everyone enjoys receiving freebies.
How to promote & market a bike repair business
The best way to promote a bike repair business is to become connected with the local cycling community. Business owners can do this by volunteering at cycling safety events, bike races, and mountain biking trail maintenance days.
Business owners may also want to carry basic bike repair tools on them at all times, so they can help cyclists whose bikes break down. On-the-spot repairs would likely have to be provided for free, but volunteering to help a cyclist fix their bike could lead to a lifelong customer.
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How to keep customers coming back
Bike repair business owners can set themselves apart from competitors by developing a reputation as a cycling guru who knows everything there is to know about bikes. Business owners will become respected biking experts if they know a lot about bikes and regularly volunteer information. Maintaining a regular blog or newsletter with useful biking tips is another great way to grow your customer base.
How and when to build a team
A bike repair business can remain a small business that’s run by just one person, or it can grow to have several employees who are constantly working on bikes. Business owners usually hire their first employee only after their business’ revenue can support an employee. The Recyclery pays its bike mechanics $13 per hour.
Read our bike repair business hiring guide to learn about the different roles a bike repair business typically fills, how much to budget for employee salaries, and how to build your team exactly how you want it.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a bike repair shop business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Certificate of Occupancy
A bike repair shop is generally run out of a small store. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a storefront:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a bike repair business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a new location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your bike repair shop will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
How much can you charge customers?
Many bike repair businesses offer basic tune-ups for a set fee, and perform more advanced repairs at an adjustable rate. For example, Wheels in Motion offers three levels of tune-ups that range in price from $79.99 to $214.99. Repairs that go beyond what’s included in a tune-up are usually priced based on the parts and labor they require.
What are the ongoing expenses for a bike repair business?
The ongoing expenses for a bike repair business are fairly low. They include:
- Employee salaries
- Workspace or storefront lease
- Utility costs
How much profit can a bike repair business make?
Some bike repair business owners earn up to $35 per hour or more, not including any profit they earn on parts sales. Business owners who grow their business into full-time businesses may earn $1,600 per week or more.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Bike repair business owners can add new revenue sources and increase their profits, by offering workshops on fixing bikes and repairing old bicycles. Some cycling enthusiasts will pay for a class that shows them how to care for and repair their own bikes. Refurbishing old bikes can also net a nice profit, as they can be sold once they’re repaired and working properly.