Bringing it Home!

When I was a kid growing up, we moved continuously (9 schools from grades K-12). My family finally settled in the San Francisco East Bay town of Danville for my last 3 years of high school – San Ramon Valley High School. My time living in Danville now represents less than 10% of my life, but is the place I call my hometown. My folks live in the same house we moved to in 1979, and I have great memories of runs and bike rides in the hills around town.

I started riding a bike for exercise when recovering from running injuries. That led me to triathlons and more cycling. We pedaled out Tassajara Road from Danville to Pleasanton when Tassajara had 2 lanes and open fields all around, and we rode up Mt. Diablo in the scorching heat. The Mt. Diablo Challenge (11.2 mile race from the Athenian School to the top of Mt. Diablo) started in 1981, and while I did not ride in the earliest races, I’ve returned whenever possible over the last couple decades to ride the Challenge the first week of October each year. Below is my remaining collection of Mt. Diablo Challenge T-shirts – I’m afraid many others have succumbed to the bike rag bin & are no longer recognizable as T-shirts (send pictures of your Challenge T-Shirts to bicycles@beelinebikes.com and we’ll add them to our Pinterest Board.

Mount Diablo Challenge T-Shirts

My remaining Mt. Diablo Challenge T-Shirts (1992 – present with many gaps)

I’ve now made the jump from riding a bicycle to working in the bicycle industry, and I’ve been joined by a committed team of mechanics, bike industry stalwarts and a world class software development team.  We are marrying a completely new technology enabled business model with best in class logistics and service.  Looking back over the past 2 years since we started Beeline Bikes, our goal is unchanged – we started with the idea that we would revolutionize the way the bicycle industry provides service – convenient, professional, friendly and at the customer’s location.

We’ve come a long way in refining our approach, and we have been fortunate to attract a great team of committed mechanics who not only provide excellent customer service, but also come back each day and let us know what part of our process works and what doesn’t.  Through mechanic input and feedback directly from customers, we’ve improved our mechanic support systems and the way customers interact with our system.  As an example, we recently updated our home page to display prominent “Home” and “Work”  service location options.  As the number of supported corporate partner locations grew to over 100, we found that we needed a more intuitive scheduling approach. After several weeks with the new scheduling flow in production, feedback has been great.  The approach is obvious now, but it took the feedback from our mechanic team and customers to get it right.

If we are fortunate enough to have you as a Beeline customer, please let us know what you think.  We know that we can always do better, and it is your feedback that helps guide us on our on mission.

P.S. – Below are a few other old school T-shirts with a Tri-Valley connection I uncovered while “researching” this post:

Tri-Valley T-Shirts

Tri-Valley T-Shirts


The Tree

It’s that season again……rain has come to Northern California, we just rolled back our clocks an hour as the days shorten, and the tree outside my window, while still beautiful, once again has transformed from vibrant green to golden yellow. As I’ve left for work each day over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed leaves drifting to the ground – first one by one, then a handful at a time, and now in droves weighted down by the light rain.  Soon a more violent storm will whip through with heavy wind and rain, and then, in a brief overnight battle, the tree will be bare and the ground will be covered with a blanket of golden yellow.

TREE IMG_2101

So far, I’ve avoided riding in the rain and dark, due in equal parts to a nagging cough, too much work, and other priorities (my  intense friends would add laziness – you can always squeeze in a quick ride at 5:30am). But the cough is dissipating, the rain has turned the air clean & crisp, and my energy level is on the rise. Time to put on the fenders & bright lights and enjoy.

Ride today! Time waits for no one, and in mere moments bright green buds will emerge from the branches of the tree outside my window signaling that the season has passed us by.

light macro 400lum

My bright light of choice

Listening to:  rain drops 


Beeline Bikes – 1 Year Anniversary

Last week we passed the one-year anniversary of Beeline Bikes serving customers in the San Francisco Bay Area. That first visit, one year ago, was to my home – with my wife signing up as our first customer. We’ve come along way in the last 12 months, with a great team of mechanics and four mobile bike shops running 7 days a week.

I wanted to share a few of the interesting highlights & surprises that we encountered in our first year:

  1.  Variety of Bike Brands – We’ve serviced 230 different bike brands in the last year! How many bike brands can you name? I certainly couldn’t come close to 230. To give you a sense of how varied our customers’ bikes are, Specialized was the #1 serviced bike at 14.9%, and Trek was #2 at 13.3%. After that it tails off quickly with no brand greater than 4% and over 100 bike brands for which we only saw a single bike.   Keep bringing on the variety – we love it!
  2. Most complex service: One particular service took the cake for the “most complex job” we’ve done so far – if you are not into bike-speak/jargon, then skip to #3 below. The starting point for this service was a high-end cyclocross bike with Dura Ace 10 speed Di2, a new Cervelo road bike with Ultegra 11 speed Di2, and an extra Dura Ace 11 speed Di2 gruppo (not on a bike).  The customer requested that we swap the 11 Speed Ultegra Di2 from the Cervelo to the cyclocross bike and install the 11 Speed Dura Ace Di2 on the new Cervelo. The job involved converting from an external battery to an internal battery on the cross bike, ensuring identical fit match of the bikes, converting 2 wheels sets from 10 speed to 11 speed, and gluing new tubulars on a set of Mavic Cosmic Carbone wheels……Whew! And even this version is simplified for brevity, but you get a sense of the job.Cervelo s3 Crop
  3. Biggest house call: We visit a lot of families who have multiple bikes in their garage. It is not unusual to see a sign up for 4 or 5 bikes at one house call. However, on two occasions we’ve had customers who signed up to have 8 bikes In both cases it was a more than a full day for our mechanic and the mobile bike shop.   I met a prospective customer the other day who told me he has 12 bikes in his garage that needed service…..I’ll send out a tweet when that happens.
  4. No Bike Shop Service: Everyday we service bikes that were bought at a bike shop, but the customer never returned for service (even free service) simply because of the logistical difficulty of getting back to the shop. We see this primarily with families who have multiple bikes in the garage. Often, these bikes were ridden for the first year or so, but as soon as flat tires or mechanical issues arose, the bikes went onto hooks in the garage, and stayed there until the Beeline Mobile shop came to the rescue. With a little convenient TLC, these bikes are back out on the road.
  5. Can you sell me a new bike?  Today the answer is “Yes”, but frankly, we were surprised that customers wanted to buy bikes from Beeline. The key driver for our bike customers is the convenience of the bike shop coming to them. We see two types of bike buying customers: 1) customers for higher-end bikes generally know what they want, and have an existing bike to size against – we order correct frame size based on their existing bike; and 2) customers buying recreational or commute bikes want a little hand-holding through the process from someone they trust – the choices are many and we help them select the right type of bike in the color and size they want. In both cases though, our customers are time-constrained and want convenience.   We’ve now formalized our process and coming shortly our Online Bike Shop will enable customers to browse our catalog and connect with a Beeline Bikes expert for a consultation. Generally we will deliver the professionally built bike to the customer at their home or office within 7 to 10 days and provide a final sizing and brief tutorial with the bicycle delivery.

We are looking forward to our second year, and seeing more bike brands, more complex service calls, even larger house calls, and saying “Yes” when a customer asks if they can buy a bike from Beeline.

Ride Safe,

-Pete Buhl, CEO

Listening to:  an unhappy Bill Belichick in his post game interview


Sherlock & the Doggy Hotel

I’ve never had a relationship with a specific bike mechanic at any one particular shop. In the past, if I needed work done on my bike, I would make a few phone calls to find a shop that could take in my bike and have it ready for me in time for my next scheduled ride.

Once I figured that out (usually on a weekend), I’d load my bike into the car and drive over to the shop to drop it off. As I rolled my bike into the store, I started to get a nervous feeling in my stomach. I could never pinpoint the exact origin of my consternation. But the other day, the answer hit me.  We were headed out for a vacation and we had to drop off Sherlock – our Dachshund – at the doggy hotel. That familiar feeling set in as Sherlock passed through the gate to the place that he would call home for the next 7 days.  I began to worry and wonder – who exactly would be taking care of Sherlock, would they treat him well, would he have a nice place to sleep each night, would he have nice dogs to hang out with?

Sherlock

The worry was caused by a lack of transparency. We’ll never know the answers to the questions, because Sherlock can’t talk. And neither can my bike…….I roll my bike up to the counter and begin to check it in with a guy at the front desk (would he be the one working on my bike?). I make the noise of the clunking sound I hear when I pedal, and he writes down, “clicking noise” (it was clunking! – will the person working on my bike actually find the problem??).  After the ticket is written up, the guy at the front desk hands me a claim tag and says “I’ll take it from here”, and he rolls my bike into the place that it will call home for the next 7 days.  I hope my bike is treated well and gets to hang next to some other nice bikes.

House Call iPad POS

At Beeline Bikes, we’ve solved the “transparency” problem. When we bring our Mobile Shop to your home or office, the mechanic who checks in your bike does the work on your bike. And the best part is that we do all the work right in front of you so you never have to feel like you are abandoning your bike at the the “doggy hotel” again.  Now I just need to find a better situation for Sherlock!

Pete Buhl, CEO

Listening to: Road Trippin’


The Decay of Quality, Mostly…

Bicycles now are better, lighter, more efficient, faster, better looking, smoother, and groundbreaking. I know this because I have a few magazine subscriptions and an internet connection. They all agree about today’s bikes.

In service departments, and now a truck, I find that modern bicycles are largely finicky, fragile, expensive, poorly assembled, cheaply made, and in many cases, disposable. I dig on what carbon fiber can do. It’s cool stuff. But a road frame weighing less than 900 grams? I know computers say that it is stronger and stiffer than last year’s 1000 gram frame. But do the computers test for the knucklehead outside Peet’s Coffee that rams his pedal into my chainstay?

I’ve owned one carbon bicycle and it broke inside of a year, just from normal riding. The manufacturer warrantied it and I received a new frame. But the “New and Improved” frame that was stiffer, lighter and more efficient was also incompatible with my existing front derailleur, bottom bracket, headset and fork. In the name of progress the only free warranty replacement frame was going to cost me a couple hundred dollars to work.

This is not a bash on carbon. Some of the Trek and Specialized carbon frames made 10 years ago will likely outlast their owners. This is an inquisition into the value of lightweight. If a wheelset is lightweight and the right price, do you care about durability? What happens if one of the 18 spokes break and the wheel won’t move through the frame any longer. Lightweight is cool when you have the team car following you with a sponsor-provided replacement…..Right hand in the air, problem solved. I haven’t gotten my contract yet either.

There are still good and great products out there. But I haven’t seen a magazine (does anyone read those other than me?) or website interested in focusing on real-world riding. I don’t think the sponsors in those publications want that anyway. But talk to a mechanic—they know. While I make a living fixing broken bicycles, I prefer my customers to have products that are durable, reliable, fit their riding style, and weigh maybe 40 grams more. I find value in a product that will last 10 years with minimal maintenance, not something suited for a single season of use under a 130 pound Tour de France racer.

Neil Macc, VP Bicycle Operations
Album (The Specials: The Specials)


Does the brand of my tube really matter?

A tube is a tube is a tube is not the same tube. With boxes of tubes stacked in every bike shop across the country, seemingly all the same, it is hard to tell if the brand matters. I mean, they all hold air, right? So beyond the question of “does it fit my tire size,” does the brand matter? Aren’t they all made in the same Chinese factory anyway?

Well sort of, but maybe not. Most of those boxes have a brand name on them that’s quite a bit different than who actually made the tube. And most of the tubes you’ll find come from one of a handful of producers in Asia. But this doesn’t necessarily make them bad. Nor good.

Remember how much a “normal” tube was when you started paying attention. It was $2.99 for me. Now they seem to be about $8.00, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Fact is they are cheaper now too. Not less expensive, but that ugly word ‘cheaper.’ Largely this is done to keep the price of the tube down below $10.00. And after all, a tube is a tube is a tube. At Beeline, we choose to sell a higher quality product made by Schwalbe. It is about a buck more than a “normal” tube, but the rubber Schwalbe uses flexes more. Their tubes also have more uniform wall thickness. This allows the tube to inflate evenly around its circumference, eliminating stress points that other tubes have out of the box–stress points that cause failures.

Image

 

It is true that the Schwalbe tubes we sell cost a bit more. It is also true that we make less money off each tube sale. More importantly, it is true that we feel confident that we are offering a product that is better for our customer: less likely to have failure from defect, holds air better and longer, and less likely to have punctures. All qualities I value in my rubber.

Neil Macc, VP Bicycle Operations
Album (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Some Loud Thunder)


Flat tires: More than meets the eye

Personally, I have more bicycles than I need. But I want them; they serve unique purposes and make me happy. However, keeping all of them happy all of the time is easier said than done. 

I have two mountain bikes, two carbon road/race bikes, a vintage 10-speed, a pre-war cruiser and a track bike. When I snapped the photo below, there were at least 10 flat tires and a missing nut/bolt here and there. While most of the bikes looked operational and safe, that was not the case. 

Image

As a bicycle enthusiast, I presumed all I needed for my favorite mountain bike was new inner tubes & tires. However, to my surprise, it needed much more than that…it needed love and attention. It had not been ridden in a few years and despite the fact it was in a garage, nice and dry, it had generally degraded.

After talking to a mechanic, I realized that when a bike is not used, the wheels, tubes and brake pads degrade, and the shifter and brake cables begin to seize up. Most importantly, my bike was just not safe for riding. With a professional tune-up including some new tires, tubes, brake pads and cables (all relatively low cost items), my bike was riding smoothly again.

Consider your old, favorite bike and its flat tires. It really wants to be ridden, but chances are it needs more than just new tubes and it may not be safe.  It needs some of your attention, and the attention of a professional mechanic. But with a tune-up and some basic fixes, both you and your bike will be happy. Have a safe and enjoyable ride!

Jason Matt, Market Development Manager