How to Provide Bike Shop Services Without Dedicated Space

Some large companies have prioritized cycling and have dedicated on-site bike shops. While that’s amazing for employees who need a bike, a bike repair or help with their commute, most employers simply don’t have the physical space. But, no worries! There are creative ways to offer bike services without having a permanent real estate for it. Here are our favorites.

Good things come in big containers

Shipping containers are the Legos of building material. Then can stack, they can be taken apart, they can be repurposed, and they’re easy to get—there’s always a selection on Craigslist. We’ve long advocated for using a parking space or two (really, that’s all it needs!) for a shipping container bike shop or bike info center.

Shipping containers are also cheap compared to building out a dedicated space—about $4K for a used one (note: they come in different sizes). They can be loaded, transported via a truck, plopped anywhere, and then picked up again and moved if needed.

Our favorite bike shop shipping container is installed in South Africa, Whippet Cycling Co. It has three windows and bike window dressings that just beg passersby to drop in. Bike manufacturer Specialized has a “traveling” container it uses to display bikes and perform bike fits. And Austin has a seriously cool bike tour and rental container, complete with an awning and shop garage doors.

Swap square footage for wheels and an engine

With the help of Bikes Make Life Better, “Gili,” the affectionate name given to Facebook’s bike shop trailer, came into being.

Gili is Facebook’s mobile bike repair shop—a towable trailer with everything staff needs to fix employee bikes.

Gili is a trailer that can be towed and parked at different spots on Facebook’s large campus, allowing employees who work far from one of the campus bike shops a convenient place shop to drop their bikes off for service. Gili also expands the bike program’s reach because it has wheels; now the bike team can be anywhere and everywhere!

There are some instances where bikes and combustion engines do in fact mix. Mobile bike repair shops have been around for awhile. The biggest players, velofix and Beeline compete for markets around the country, and mostly use sprinter vans outfitted with tools, stands, parts, and accessories. These franchise services can be found in office parks, at large employers, at community bike events, basically anywhere where they can get customers. They’ll also service individual homes by appointment.

Have Mobile Concierge; will travel

What if you still want a physical “bike presence” but can’t staff a shop and don’t have storage for something that large? This was the case for Stanford Research Park—a campus of 150 companies with a collective 30,000 employees. Two years ago, SRP asked Bikes Make Life Better to come up with a way to take bike-related info and in-person help to employees throughout the Research Park. The solution had to be mobile, eye-catching and flexible. And bike-powered (of course).

To help SRP reach its far-flung population, we prototyped and built a custom bike “pop-up” information center. The bike part of the system is a cargo e-bike; the “pop up” part is a fold-out table, complete with drawers and compartments, mounted on a trailer and hitched to the bike. We added an umbrella, two folding chairs, and a sandwich board to complete the look.

This e-bike-powered “pop up” can be spotted cruising around Stanford Research Park, an office park that spans about 700 acres.

The e-bike allows the Mobile Concierge to easily move around the park with all the supplies needed for a pop-up info session. Once parked, the Mobile Concierge makes an impressive focal point for sharing tips and advice to enable more bike commuting.

And storage is easy: The table folds into a cart to stow materials. When not in use, the entire set-up is wheeled inside and stored in an unused stairwell with a nearby outlet for charging the e-bike.

Facebook’s Transportation department saw SRP’s Mobile Concierge at a conference and decided to commission its own. Fondly nicknamed “Connie,” the Facebook Mobile Concierge has a streamlined design (its table space is smaller and doesn’t fold), and is branded in Facebook blue. With Connie, Facebook’s bike staff can roll over to busy parts of campus, set up shop, and share all kinds of bike info with Facebook employees.

The Mobile Concierge is a great way to increase the visibility of bike programs and reach a large and geographically widespread audience. They have a much smaller footprint and require less upkeep than a mobile bike shop. And, they’re eye-catching: Employees in cars or walking around parking lots often stop to watch the Mobile Concierge roll by.

The bike doctor is in

A low cost and time-efficient way to connect with people in a physical space is to start an office hours program. This is exactly what LinkedIn’s bike staff did to help employees with their questions face-to-face. Although LinkedIn has a small shop space, its sole purpose is to service the company’s campus bike fleet; employees would never happen upon the spot intentionally, unless they were strolling by when the garage door was up.

To help put a face on the program, LinkedIn’s bike staff promotes office hours—a weekly occurrence where employees are encouraged to visit the shop, meet the staff, and talk bikes. The program is effective in identifying serious cyclists, who can be tapped to champion other bike initiatives to their colleagues, and newbies who have questions on how to start biking to work.

And you don’t need to have any sort of dedicated space to start office hours. Booking a recurring conference room works, as does tabling in high traffic zones over lunch. For an added boost, try to find an executive who bikes, and ask them to help host office hours.

Need help developing a bike room, shop, or other facilities at your company? Bikes Make Life Better is dedicated to helping large organizations use bikes for healthy sustainable transportation. They’ve helped design bike parking and facilities for Facebook, Salesforce, Airbnb, Stripe, Pembroke Real Estate, LinkedIn and many others.