Bicycles can last a lifetime, create local jobs and reduce waste
Before the gas hikes “The global bicycle market size was valued at USD 59.33 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.2% from 2022 to 2030” Quebec was once a powerhouse with over 1000 fulltime employees and sales of 800 million in today’s dollars. Fixing bikes reduces waste, prolongs its lifecycle, provides local employment and a repatriation of wealth.
Modern history of the bike market
From the hobby horse to the e-bike humankind has improved their mobility and prosperity. While providing an affordable means of transport for the general population it also generated large primarily domestic companies. Raleigh of England, Bianchi of Italy, Peugeot from France, Schwinn of USA were once national powerhouses employing primarily nationals and creating secondary suppliers like Simplex, Brooks, Mafac. These shops employed many skilled workers and provided livable wages to local economies. The Bike Boom late 60’s-mid 70’s in North America saw the creation of some newer North American domestic manufacturers like Trek, Specialized, Velo Sport, as well as the import of quality Japanese bikes like Miyata, Nishiki and manufacturers like Suntour, Shimano and Nitto to our shores. Bikes were big business and soon tariffs caused bikes to be built or at least assembled in North America. There was a gas crisis going on so bikes were a strategic commodity. The interest and cost effectiveness of bicycles coincided with gas prices and as gas prices went down so did the local ability to support bike manufacturers. The increased competition from inexpensive imports means the talent and wealth have been offshored with little in return for local interests.
Quebec and Montreal have historically been considered a very European vision of the new world. Along with the cuisine , architecture and language, these French, Italian, German , English and Irish all shared their passion for cycling. Quebec and Canada became home to many highly skilled craftsmen like Marinoni, Gardin, Bertrand, Miele, Mariposa, Lovell, Limongi and the list goes on. Quebec in the mid 1980’s employed over 1000 full time employees in the manufacturing of bicycles in La Beauce region Velo Sport and Waterloo Region Raleigh Canada. The revenues from Quebec based manufacturers was 200 million 1983 dollars, roughly 700 million today. Quebec spent 591 million on the bike industry in 2021 alone. Where once we exported we have become import dependent willing to accept inferior products and services without regard for the true economic disparity this cycle creates.
Amazon and the big box stores killed your local bike store.
There are 7.2 million bicycles in Quebec alone, but only 200 bike stores to do repairs versus 71 Walmart locations and 100 locations plus the web. Big box stores import 95% of their bikes from Asia, they provide zero setup, no technical staff and poorly assembled products. These products come with a one year warranty on most things but nowhere to get it fixed. The result is bikes made to fail at a price point low enough to entice the buyer. In the end everyone loses. E-bikes are now viewed as a sustainable alternative and again the drive is towards the lowest price point and not sustainability. There represents a tremendous opportunity to create a new circular economy around sustainability. E-bike battery maintenance , charging stations and the safe and secure disposal of the electronic waste need to be mitigated for all to succeed. This when coupled with the investments in public infrastructure can yield the greatest benefits from our communities and planet.
Bicycles the best investment we all can make
The environmental footprint of a car is When we compared the life cycle of each travel mode, taking into account the carbon generated by making the vehicle, fuelling it and disposing of it, we found that emissions from cycling can be more than 30 times lower for each trip than driving a fossil fuel car, and about ten times lower than driving an electric one. When you add in the price of gas , tire and oil changes, licensing, insurance, and the offshoring of car manufacturing, a lot of money spent on basic transport is exported. Bicycles have been proven to stimulate local economies, decrease noise pollution and create micro wellness communities and clubs. A bicycle is useful regardless of its age, with care and some components it can last several lifetimes, when that is the goal. This growing market can bring well paid employment opportunities to disadvantaged individuals and under used portions of the workforce including seniors, the disabled and diverse. Much money is spent on corporate wellness. In fact 94% of Canadian businesses provide some form of wellness benefits. Bike maintenance can most effectively be provided by employers acting as the aggregators in line with their wellness goals and budgets.
Why is getting your bike fixed a problem?
Getting your bike fixed can be a challenge in patience, logistics and finance. Biking for most is a seasonal activity due to the weather. This creates a hockey stick like demand for service each spring that is impossible to meet. The growth in the bike market will only compound this issue unless an alternative is introduced. Retail locations must charge high service fees to cover operational overhead and staff. The new mobile bike shops offer flexibility to offset some of the demand but at high cost to the consumer and bringing a large vehicle for bike repairs is not as ideal as intended. The cost of gas can make this cost inhibitive. Bike stores will not touch a big box bike. The repairs cost more than the price of the bike new and it’s a lose lose scenario where no one is happy. The latest trend is that some major repair shops will only cater to their customer base who purchased from them. It keeps their quality inhouse up to par but again the masses are an audience waiting to be serviced.
Let us look at a family of four taking their bike to the shop for an annual maintenance. Do we have a bike rack for 4 bikes? Let’s assume we do. Did you call to get an appointment? Do not show up at the bike store with 4 bikes without a reservation. You might be turned away as they have no space. The average wait time is 1-2 months for basic stuff if you can find a store with space. So you make the appointment and bring the bike both ways, wait to pay and be serviced 4 hours spent plus 280$ plus tax minimum. More likely 500$ as they need something to sell you, rent to pay.
Why fixing your bike is a solution
Retail is on life support while modern services dispense with the overhead and focus on timely on premise delivery. The tools required to do bike maintenance are very basic with a few specific tools for proprietary components. The skills are simple but expertise comes with practice. There are scores of qualified people working from their garages who can become the leaders of local teams expanding geographic availability of services. The opportunity to develop a sustainable B2B market benefits everyone equally. Create local jobs and improve the economic outlook of every single City, town and village.
The importance of maintaining your bicycle
Anyone who has ridden a bicycle can explain the pleasure and freedom and pure bliss derived from a quick spin on the bike. The opposite is true of the bike rider with poorly adjusted brakes, low tire pressure or just a simple flat tire. The bike often becomes an afterthought during winter and is left outside where a bit of rust makes people think the bike is unusable or too costly to repair. Simple annual maintenance can prevent all of the above or fix it when this arises. A basic cleaning and adjustment not only improves performance and safety but can extend the lifetime of your bicycle indefinitely. Chain wear can create costly damage to a bike drivetrain. Hundreds of dollars in cassettes, chain rings and chains. This can be avoided but checking and cleaning the chain regularly at very least yearly. With ebikes and their high torque motors, chains need even more checking and cleaning due to higher wear and tear. The rules of the road mandate certain reflectors and lights are properly affixed to bicycles, lest they get a ticket or worse, as reduced visibility is the primary cause of bike accidents. Be smart , stay safe and invest in maintaining your bicycle. It is a life saver.
The road to redemption
The bicycle has been a friend to humankind since its creation. The business model has adapted somewhat, but for certain the primary activities such as the transformation of raw materials into finished goods favors exporter nations significantly more than the importer. By choosing to fix versus by new, our local economies will prosper. The brick and mortar traditional method can be complemented with basic mobile services clearing the cues for major work and profitable repairs. The market can be segmented into B2B and B2C respectively with corporations taking initiatives with bike repair day events. Civic days should also include bike repair onsite. Electric charging stations and infrastructure will be local project opportunities for the new market. Marketers and recruiters can leverage bike repairs as a reward or a way to attract people. The opportunities are boundless however the current delivery method falls short of the demand. The time has come for us to rethink the delivery method, work towards economies of scale, sustainability and the emergence of a new circular economy that is bike repair.