Author Topic: Starting a cycling business- lots of questions!  (Read 2299 times)

bombay_to_goa

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Starting a cycling business- lots of questions!
« on: July 03, 2016, 02:35:08 AM »
Hi everyone- long post coming up. We are a couple with a toddler currently living in an Indian megacity. In the next few months, we are FIREing and moving to a village by the sea. We currently have desk jobs Ė husband in finance and Iím in the environmental sector. We wanted to get ideas from fellow mustachians who have started their own businesses, experienced cyclists, and those who run cycling-related businesses.

The business: Half-day cycling tours- clients book spots on our website, we meet them at a central point, drive them in a vehicle to the start, they start cycling with one of us on an easy flat route, the vehicle trails behind and anyone whoís tired can hop into the vehicle. After 2 hours (with photo and water breaks), we stop at a scenic place for a picnic. We then drive them back.

Qs:
1.   Should we fix GPS trackers on the cycles? What kind? This would be to prevent theft (unlikely) and tracking down people who get lost (possible, it happened to us once).
2.   I donít think we can get insurance for the cycles (good quality hybrids). If someone crashes/ trashes a cycle, do we write it off? Determine whether the person was at fault or not? How would we get them to pay? We may not have credit card information for all cyclists. And we donít plan to take a deposit.
3.   We plan to have a payment gateway on our website for bookings. But everyone doesnít use credit cards. For bookings made on the phone- how do we deal with the problem of no-shows?
4.   Our target market is families and we will be providing small bikes and child seats for kids. Anything additional to keep in mind for kids?
5.   Riding in the rains is brilliant here. We plan to target the monsoons as our peak season. Anything to keep in mind, for organizing rides in heavy rain?
6.   The accessories we plan to provide- helmets, reflective vests, small bike bags and cycle clips. Anything else we should provide- like elbow and knee pads, cycle bell, mirror etc?
7.   For those whoíve gone on bike tours like this- any other thoughts?

Thanks!

DagobertDuck

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Re: Starting a cycling business- lots of questions!
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2016, 03:59:38 AM »
Cool idea!

Some ideas on the questions you posted

1.   A gpx tracker also requires a sim card with data plan, so I'm not sure it's worth it.

2.   Isn't it an idea to take some form of deposit? Might prevent theft, and you can keep the deposit of someone thrashes a bike. May just something like 50 USD, but it might be better than nothing.

5.   Make sure the bikes have fenders / mudguards and get proper maintenance.

6.  Bikes  should definitely have a bell.

7.   For those whoíve gone on bike tours like this- any other thoughts?

Quote
they start cycling with one of us on an easy flat route[...]
 (good quality hybrids)
If you're going to do easy rides on flat trails only (especially in the rain) I would definitely use single speed bikes! Way less maintenance, replacing drive train parts is cheaper and the are more moron/idiot proof. If you have geard bikes already, you might consider converting them to single speed when the shifty bits wear out.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2016, 04:12:16 AM by DagobertDuck »

Syonyk

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Re: Starting a cycling business- lots of questions!
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2016, 03:35:03 PM »
1.   Should we fix GPS trackers on the cycles? What kind? This would be to prevent theft (unlikely) and tracking down people who get lost (possible, it happened to us once).

If they're cycling with a group, how will they get lost?

You can get GPS trackers that tuck under the seat, but you should weigh the cost of them (and their ongoing costs - they require a SIM card, battery charging, etc) vs the likely cost of replacing a bike.  Taking people's name and driver's license #s should deter "I'm going to go on a tour and ride off with a bike" type thefts, since you can just report them to the local police as the last known possessor of stolen goods.

It looks like you can get GPS trackers for $10-$15/ea in bulk, so if you can find a good price on low data SIM cards, it might be worth it.  Do the math?

Quote
2.   I donít think we can get insurance for the cycles (good quality hybrids). If someone crashes/ trashes a cycle, do we write it off? Determine whether the person was at fault or not? How would we get them to pay? We may not have credit card information for all cyclists. And we donít plan to take a deposit.

Factor it into your rental costs, then.  Things will happen.  Parts will break.  Bikes will get damaged.  You'll presumably have a shop, and if someone wads a bike up, you can still scrap parts from it to use on other bikes.  It's pretty hard to really damage a bike that badly with a low speed crash - usually all you do is tweak the bars.  Maybe mess up a wheel.  You have to crash really, really hard to damage a frame.

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3.   We plan to have a payment gateway on our website for bookings. But everyone doesnít use credit cards. For bookings made on the phone- how do we deal with the problem of no-shows?

Accept it, don't worry about it, and move on with life.  It's not likely to be that large a problem.

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4.   Our target market is families and we will be providing small bikes and child seats for kids. Anything additional to keep in mind for kids?

You may want to offer bike trailers.  I don't know how much your target audience will have child-bike-experience, so child seats mounted "high and rear" may cause problems for people who haven't bicycled much.  I would suggest using trailers and "child tow-behind bikes" more than bike seats, if you can.

Quote
5.   Riding in the rains is brilliant here. We plan to target the monsoons as our peak season. Anything to keep in mind, for organizing rides in heavy rain?

You're insane.  But, whatever.  Fenders would be nice for light rain or wet paths, but won't matter a bit in heavy rains - you'll get soaked either way.  Definitely have bright tail lights on all the bikes for this type of riding.  You may want different color headlights as well, if legal in your area.  A separate light color for the last rider in the group would make it easy to see if the whole group is there, even in heavy rain.

Quote
6.   The accessories we plan to provide- helmets, reflective vests, small bike bags and cycle clips. Anything else we should provide- like elbow and knee pads, cycle bell, mirror etc?

I would put bells and mirrors on all the bikes, but I feel naked riding a bike without a mirror at this point.

The single speed idea is a good one.  If you have even front and rear sprocket counts, the chain will always ride in the same spot, and your chain + front sprocket + rear sprocket will wear together and get you very long life - as long as you don't put the chain back on a tooth off, then it'll skip.  You can get incredible chain life this way, and you simply replace all the relevant components together.

You probably want some sort of chain guard.  If you can find a fully enclosed chain housing, that should reduce dirty pants a good bit, and also increase chain life a good bit - it keeps the chain off your pants and the road off your chain.

Consider a trike for people without good balance - older riders or handicapped riders may prefer that.

bombay_to_goa

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Re: Starting a cycling business- lots of questions!
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2016, 04:40:29 AM »
Thanks, DagobertDuck and Syonyk!
Will definitely add mirror and bell.

We need to think about the kids seat issue more- I don't think you get trailers easily here. Also not sure about the fixed gear bikes- we'd like to do monthly trips in a national park with lots of undulating hills. But will talk to the cycle shops about the chain configurations.

If they're cycling with a group, how will they get lost?
Let's just say it happens if you don't follow instructions and like to wander off on your own.

You're insane.  But, whatever. 

Yes :-)
But on flat roads, with cool weather, no traffic and lush paddy fields, it really is fun.


GuitarStv

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Re: Starting a cycling business- lots of questions!
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2016, 06:18:59 AM »
I enjoy riding in rain and snow quite a bit . . . but it radically increases the amount of maintenance needed on a bicycle (having fenders helps a bit on this count).  It also requires a bit more skill than riding in dry conditions . . . I'd be surprised if you don't have increased accidents and falls.  Do you have someone trained in first aid, and how easy is access to medical care on these trips?

If your target market is families, you might want to see if any of the families will actually sign up for rain rides before spending too much money preparing bikes for them.

I'd recommend decent bright bike lights (particularly the tail light) for any bicycle that will be ridden in dark/overcast/rainy conditions.  A cygolite hotshot or the planet bike superflash turbo would be decent choices for good battery life, not over the top expensive and pretty reliable.

Fixed gear bikes are going to be harder for older and weaker people to use.  It might make towing a kid in a trailer more difficult too . . . the ratio that works for that will be different than the ratio that works for riding with no towing.  A low cost 8 speed Shimano derailleur system (Altus/Alvio/Acera) is reasonably cheap and robust, but will require regular maintenance.

It might also be worth getting bikes with disc brakes if you're seriously planning on riding in the rain.  Your wheels will last a lot longer (no grinding away the rims), your clients will be able to stop better, and while they can be a bit finicky to set up discs tend to need less maintenance once they're working well.

Using trekking/butterfly bars on your bikes might also be a good idea.  They have a lot of hand holds so perfect bike adjustment isn't necessary . . . the rider will be able to find a comfy spot somewhere.  Nothing is worse than being sore on a long bike ride.

bombay_to_goa

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Re: Starting a cycling business- lots of questions!
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2016, 12:58:11 AM »
Thanks GuitarStv!
Good suggestion on the butterfly handlebars!

We've decided to slow things down - move to Goa, do more market research and then start the cycling business. So should have a better idea of customer demand, medical facilities, cycle maintenance etc.

lhamo

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Re: Starting a cycling business- lots of questions!
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2016, 01:45:37 AM »
Posting to follow. And then probably going off to research how much airfare to Goa is from Seattle ~we may become customers!