Business by Cargo Bike – Chapter 1

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 Business by Cargo Bikes – A series featuring businesses using cargo bikes.

Chapter 1 – Cargo Bikes in the Bike Biz.

Many of our customers purchased their cargo bikes with the intent of using them for business.  On our website, we’ve talked about a few of them and we’ve talked about why cargo bikes makes so much sense for businesses .  We’ve also, periodically, posted photos of our own cargo bikes at work. BUT, we haven’t really gone into detail about how we,and others in the bike industry, are actually using bikes – and specifically cargo bikes – for business.

Walkin' (I mean bicyclin') the Talk - our Bullitt with EcoSpeed put to work for the business.

So, what better place to start a series of posts about business and cargo bikes than right in our own arena? Certainly, we don’t know every bike shop or bike industry employee using cargo bikes for biz, but we know a couple of folks that do and think they provide great examples of the versatility and value cargo bikes lend to a business.

Case Study-Pearl Izumi Reps Make the Rounds: Appropriate Transportation
As you might know, or imagine, sales reps often arrive in a town, and over the course of a day or two drive to as many shops as they can, showing their wares. Not long ago, several folks from Pearl Izumi came to town for just such a purpose. Bikey town that it is, Portland has a few (understatement) important accounts scattered across town. Rather than drive from shop to shop, these three reps loaded all of their clothing samples, sample racks, and literature onto three cargo bikes (two Bullitts,  and a Yuba Mundo) and made their rounds.

Q:Why?
A: One of the biggest reasons was the PR. Even in the bike biz, cargo bikes are still a novelty and reps arriving by bike is also a novelty. So, three reps arriving by cargo bike with all of their samples really made an impression on the dealers they visited. It provided a great ice-breaker with buyers and other key shop personnel. But, another reason is that it was a huge morale boost for these reps. Bike biz reps love bikes but don’t always get to ride as much as they like. Getting to ride cool cargo bikes through town got them exercise and you can bet they arrived at each dealer in a great mood – no traffic hassles, no parking hassles, just wind-in-the-hair fun between each appointment.

Q:What benefit did that have to their business?
A: That PR was great guerrilla marketing. They were able to arrange to borrow the bikes for their visits so the impression they made that day was virtually free. That’s free marketing. One more time for impact: that’s FREE marketing. The impressions gained and positive company image portrayed provided a lot of traction in a very competitive market.

Q:Couldn’t they get to more shops by driving?
A: Maybe, but since they usually do such visits by appointment, they can only book a few visits a day. They arranged to visit the stores that were a reasonable distance apart and didn’t likely miss any additional sales opportunities. Besides, I can tell you it looked much easier to “unload” their samples and gear once they arrived. Instead of making multiple trips to the dealer to unload their car which would have been sitting in a hard-won parking spot, who knows how close to the dealer, they simple rolled right in the door, unloaded the bikes, and got down to the business of selling their wares. They saved time. They also saved money: no gas, no parking fees.

This situation is a great example of appropriate transportation. A couple of these reps had traveled long distances to get to Portland: flying and driving. While they did not have the ability to cycle to town, cycling around town, and using cargo bikes to carry their gear made great sense. They were smart enough to understand that in our fairly compact city riding cargo bikes made more sense than driving.

Splendid Cycles: Exploring the Limits
Since our inception, we’ve worked hard to explore the variety of cargo bike uses available to businesses. As time has progressed our need to use motor vehicles for business use has decreased. Initially, we required a car for long trips across town or for large bulky items but as we’ve expanded our product offerings and grew more and more committed to seeing how hard these bikes can really work, we’ve need to burn less and less fossil fuel.

Q: What do you still use a car or truck for?
A: Nearly all of our intown trips are done by bicycle. It’s the out-of-town deliveries and shows such as Biketoberfest in Marin that we’ve not yet figured out how to do by bike. If time wasn’t an issue perhaps we could pedal there but that’s not the case. So, if we want to take a cargo bike out of town, that still requires driving. But, because we have two bikes with electric assist (one BionX and one EcoSpeed equipped) and several trailers (Black Oak, Surley, Burley Nomad) there’s not much we can’t haul anywhere in Portland.

EcoSpeed - the workhorse electric assist system with 1000 watts for big loads and big hills

Q:Anywhere in Portland?
A: Yes, pretty much anywhere, and with heavy loads too. Not long ago we were invited to show our bikes to the Portland Tandem Club. Their monthly meeting was being held in the Sylvan area so Joel packed up the trailer with  a couple of bikes, got on his powerful EcoSpeed equipped Bullitt, and off he went. Anyone that lives in Portland realizes that he had to travel from about 150′ elevation to over 1000′, and up some fairly steep grades to boot. Sure, the trip up was a bit of work, but he arrived in good time, and really showed what these bikes can do.

Q: So, you’re having fun and getting PR, what else do you gain as a business?
A: Well, Splendid Cycles is a SMALL business. Our ability to make ends meet depends upon keeping overhead expenses low. If we had to rent or purchase a vehicle to transport our  bikes to local shows and customers, our overhead would be unpleasantly high. We’ve been able to visit local wholesalers to pick up product again, saving  on gas ( and insurance, car payments) not to mention freight charges if we’d had that product shipped. So overall, the bikes help our small business keep expenses at a minimum – rent, utilities, shop supplies, distance travel but no company vehicle expense.

Q: You’re in the bike business so you know bikes. If a problem comes up, you don’t have the hassle of taking the bike to a mechanic and waiting through the down time.
A: True, no matter where we are, we always have a mechanic on hand  ;-) . But, the maintenance on these bikes has proven to be minimal despite heavy daily use. We put air in the tires, lube the chains,  and recharge the batteries for our e-assist and light systems on a regular basis. None of those tasks take up time during our business day. They are performed after hours (in the case of recharging) or only take a minute or two (air/lube).  Other than those regular maintenance tasks, we’ve found these bikes to be incredibly reliable, having required little maintenance so far. Besides, if you had a company car, that car too would require regular maintenance – oil changes, fueling, wiper blades, brakes, etc. Cargo bikes are not too different. That maintenance can be scheduled to minimize down time just like with a car. What we like too is that the repair bills, when they do come along, are substantially less expensive than you’d have for an automobile.

These are just two examples of cargo bikes and their benefits to businesses. Check in periodically as we feature other business sectors using cargo bikes: food, beverage, delivery are some of the sectors we’ll feature in future posts.

If you are, or know, a business using cargo bikes to succeed in the marketplace, we’d love to hear about it!

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2 Comments

  1. Kath Youell (@KYouell)

    I’ve been reading (and loving!) your posts backwards, from newest to oldest, and haven’t seen you mention the soup delivery company I’ve seen pedaling around our neighborhood, SoupCycle. Personally I find any food being delivered by bike almost too tempting not to order, but I haven’t ordered from them yet. If anyone in the house besides me ate soup it would be worth giving them a spot in the budget just to support the idea though.

    When you see a frazzled mom come in with her story about buying a bakfiets off of Craigslist, you’ll know I’ve finally managed to get my butt in your store! :-)

    • mudlips

      Kath,
      I couldn’t agree more, food delivered by bike IS the most delicious! And, SoupCycle is tops in that game. We didn’t omit them intentionally as we are big fans. There are so many wonderful people using cargo bikes for business, we just can’t mention them all so our posts have mostly focused on folks we know directly as customers.

      Now that I think of if, I haven’t really focused on food delivery businesses yet…thanks for the idea! Perhaps an upcoming post will so, if you or any other readers know of food delivery cargo businesses please let me know and I’ll file the info for a future post.

      Thanks for reading too, I’m really happy to hear you’ve enjoyed the posts! Feel free to stop by the store any time, even if you aren’t in the market to purchase…and in the mean time, if you want to join up with bike/cargo bike using parents, Kidical Mass is a great group http://kidicalmasspdx.org/

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