Business & Real Estate

Can’t get to the bike shop? This one will come to you – in a Mercedes

Mobile bike repair brings new flavor to Sacramento

Jack Cauthen, who has spent many years working in local bikes shops in the area, now arrives at clients homes in a new Mercedes van outfitted for state-of-the-art bike repair.
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Jack Cauthen, who has spent many years working in local bikes shops in the area, now arrives at clients homes in a new Mercedes van outfitted for state-of-the-art bike repair.

For most of his long career in the bicycle industry, Jack Cauthen greeted customers, made sales and repaired their faulty chains, frayed cables and poorly shifting gears in a traditional bike shop.

Cauthen hasn’t left the bike business, but these days he’s rolling around town in a customized Mercedes van that’s essentially a repair shop on wheels.

Velofix is a Canadian franchise that now has a presence in Sacramento, with two new Mercedes vans operating from Elk Grove to Placerville and Auburn. Customers book appointments online and Velofix shows up at home or work – or even at a bike race or your kid’s soccer practice. Most of the repairs can be done in under an hour and Cauthen says prices are competitive with the brick and mortar bike shops.

They can come in the van and watch me work on their bikes. They can have a cup of coffee.

Jack Cauthen, owner of one of two area Velofix, on the convenience for customers of a mobile bike shop

“Working on bikes is something I really enjoy. This is a dream job for me to be able to be out there helping people and be with the customer,” said Cauthen, who has been with Velofix since the first van opened for business on April 3. “They can come in the van and watch me work on their bikes. They can have a cup of coffee.”

Cauthen and the Velofix van have been conspicuous at numerous bike events in recent weeks, from “May Is Bike Month” promotions along the American River Parkway to local office park criterium bike races in Folsom and Rancho Cordova.

Customers book appointments online. Repairs are typically completed within two hours. The base price, which includes cleaning and adjusting, starts at $79.

If your chain keeps skipping or your brakes won’t stop rubbing, Cauthen can help.

“The main thing is tune-ups. That’s mostly what we focus on,” he said. “If they need other accessories like tires and tubes,” they can purchase at the van.

The van is loaded with all kinds of blue-handled bike-specific tools from industry leader Park Tool Co. There’s a built-in air compressor in the front of the cabin, along with an assortment of bike tires, handlebar tape and a variety of accessories. While Velofix isn’t rendering traditional bike shops obsolete, it’s giving consumers a new and convenient option.

According to the Financial Post in Canada, Velofix was founded in Vancouver by cycling friends Chris Guillemot, David Xausa and Boris Martin. The trio launched their first mobile Mercedes Sprinter repair van in 2013. To keep up with growth, Velofix created a franchise model. Franchises are sold for $25,000 and the truck build-out is an additional $50,000, not including the cost for the van and tools, according to the newspaper.

The franchise owner in Sacramento is Ed Kurzenski, an avid cyclist from El Dorado Hills.

“We have all the capabilities of a brick and mortar bike shop, except we come to you. We come to your place of work or your residence and we deliver pro quality mechanic service as well as pretty much anything you can buy at a bikes shop.

“Every tool in the Park Tool catalog catalog we have in the van, so we can handle any maintenance or repair that you need to have done.”

Kurzenski says many of the potential customers are those who can’t fit a bike shop visit into their hectic schedules.

“Our target audience are people who are pressed for time. As we move through life, you’ve got kid responsibilities, job responsibilities as well as your social life. Most avid cyclists, if they’re not mechanically inclined, have to take their bike to a shop – they have to take time out of their day, load the bike in the car and take it in to have it repaired.”

The user-friendly online portal is a key part of the business. Customers put in their ZIP code to see available times the van is available. Then they book an appointment. Generally, repairs are completed within two hours. The base price, which includes cleaning and adjusting, starts at $79. The next level is $129, which includes truing wheels, lubing moving parts and making further adjustments. New parts like cables, chains and brake pads are extra.

Velofix plans to have 30 vans throughout Canada, but the real growth opportunity is in the U.S., where the company sees the potential for 450 Velofix vans, according to the Financial Post.

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob

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