Mobile Bike Businesses

Mobile Bike Businesses

Posted on 16. Sep, 2009 by in Bike Services

I was inspired to learn more about mobile bike businesses after reading two recent posts on BikePortland.org about a mobile coffee shop and a mobile beer and pizza pub. (Header image found here).

So what exactly is a mobile bike business? It seems to me that a mobile bike business has a different kind of flair and purpose than say a bike delivery service. Though the two are very closely related, a mobile bike business is a store, a restaurant, a cafe, what-have-you on wheels. Whereas a bike delivery service typically focuses on bringing goods to a customer, a mobile bike business would more likely arrive a designated location and then wait for the customer to come to it. The differences are not really terribly important, the important fact is that both types of cycling service are replacing services that are typically accomplished with a motor vehicle.

I decided to do a little searching on the Interwebs to see what I could find in the way of mobile bike businesses. Not surprisingly, most of the mobile bike-based businesses that I found are based in none other than Portland, Oregon. Here is a short rundown of some of the mobile bike businesses I found.

Mobile Coffee Shops

Cafe Velo was the subject of one of the articles that inspired me to write this post. Cafe Velo is Portland’s first bakfiets-based business. A bakfiets is a cargo bike with a large box in front for carrying goods. Cafe Velo’s creator – Rick Wilson – in his article on BikePortland.org, emphasizes the necessity of keeping things simple when establishing a mobile bike business. He recommends sticking to one service – in his case serving coffee – in order to maintain high quality. See photos of the bike and the business on Flickr.

In the Winston-Salem area, a few entrepreneurs decided to make use of the cultural connections between cycling and coffee drinking by adding a coffee shop on wheels to an already existing group of business.

And perhaps my favorite thus far is the BikeCaffe, which was originally founded in the U.K. The BikeCaffe is a mobile coffee shop much like the ones mentioned above, but if you are curious about the experience of running one yourself, the BikeCaffe has franchise opportunities available for the ambitious, bike-riding, coffee-drinkers out there!

caffecoMobile Pubs

Just as coffee and bikes go nicely together, so do beer and bikes!

Once again, those Oregonians are leading the charge in mobile bike businesses. In the morning you can have your coffee from a mobile cafe, and in the afternoon/ evening, you can have some brew – and a slice of pizza – from a Hopworkfiets. Metrofiets, a box bike builder in the Portland area, built the bike for the Hopworks Urban Brewery. The bike has everything from a stereo to space for two kegs to an ice-chest to a pizza rack! Check out photos of the amazing Hopworkfiets on Flickr.

Of course, most people have seen or heard of the famous and fantastic Bierfiets or bike bar. Though slightly different from a mobile bike business, as it is usually rented out by a group of people, it has the same effect of creating a similar atmosphere to a mobile bike pub (ie. getting some sort of service by bicycle).

Bike Vending Carts

Moving on from beverages, it is also quite common to find mobile bike businesses that cater to your hungry belly. Bike vending carts are quite common in the downtown areas of large cities, where the vendor can set up a location for the day. Bike vending carts can be found as trailers that attach to the back of your bicycle, or they might be three-wheeled cargo trikes, or even two-wheeled long-john style bikes with a box attached to the front (much like a bakfiets).

Portlanders aren’t the only ones running mobile bike businesses, and in fact, such businesses are much more common in Europe, especially bike friendly cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam. This post on Copenhagenize.com has photos of an assortment of three-wheeled bike vendors who sell sushi, ice cream, vegetarian food, and other food items.

worksmancycle-icecreamAn ice cream vendor bike from WorkManCycle.

Mobile Bike Shop

And what about your bike repair service needs? Well those are covered by mobile bike businesses as well.

In Portland, the North Portland Mobile Bike Shop can make house calls to help you repair your broken bike. The shop’s owner – Dennis Kelly – makes house calls to people who are too busy or too intimidated to go into a regular bike shop. He pulls as many tools as possible with his cargo bike and though he focuses on just one region in Portland, he will ride to most any place in the city.

But wait, it gets better, well sort of. AAA will now make roadside assistance calls to cyclists who have membership in some states. Now this is pretty cool, and it’s a bit like a mobile bike business, but unfortunately I don’t see anything about AAA employees riding out to members who call for assistance. Anyways, it deserves some mention for being a mobile bike business (though not a human-powered one).

Other Mobile Shops

Mobile bike businesses don’t stop at food, beverages, or bike repair, anything can be sold by bike as the photo below demonstrates. The possibilities are endless!

goldfish1Photo from LetItBeChina

Lastly, in Nicaragua, where many people use mobile call shops to make national and international calls, some entreprenuers have created a mobile call shop called Pedaled Phone Calls (Llamadas Pedaleadas), which also generates energy from riding and can be used to charge cell-phones. More info at BikeHacks.com.

What have I missed? Do you own a mobile bike business or do you frequent one? Let us know and send us some photos!

8 Responses to “Mobile Bike Businesses”

  1. Ralph Massetti

    25. Oct, 2009

    Melanie:

    I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your coverage of BikeCaffe.

    We are equally excited about the growing use of bikes in the business services segment, and expectedly, we believe that BikeCaffe remains among the most unique viable concepts to come to the growing list of offerings.

    With BikeCaffe franchises now being offered throughout the US and Europe, we are hopeful we can make a material contribution to the growth and awareness of the possibilities available for Cycling Services.

    Thanks again for this and your frequent valuable contributions.

    Ralph Massetti
    President
    BikeCaffe – US Operations

  2. Melanie Meyers

    28. Oct, 2009

    Hi Ralph,

    I’m glad to see you discovered our site and the post! Indeed, we look forward to watching mobile bike businesses grow and learning more about the possibilities for cycling services. I think they are endless!

    Thanks for your comment.

    Best, Melanie

  3. Thomas

    20. Dec, 2009

    Dear All,

    I have a question, how do you operate the coffe machine itself as it is no electricity on the bike or maximum 12 V?

    Is there a manufacturer who is selling special coffee machines? I am looking for an answer, and for a link prehaps.

    cheers
    Thomas

  4. Melanie Meyers

    21. Dec, 2009

    Hi Thomas,

    Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to your questions, but here is a link to the “Contact Us” page for Bike Caffe: http://www.bikecaffe.com/requestinfo/

    Perhaps they could help answer some of your questions.

  5. Tammy

    20. Aug, 2011

    Hi, I liked your article however wasn’t what I was looking for. I want to own and operate an electric bicycle rental and repair shop and I am considering on making the business mobile.

  6. Joe V

    30. Jul, 2012

    Why is there nothing like this in Canada? I have been trying to contact BikeCaffe and others, but have got nowhere. I suspect that the use of a gas powered espresso machine makes it hard to get certification in a overzealous safety culture. I would really like to start up a business like this, whether a franchise or not.

  7. Drew Kawell

    13. May, 2013

    Hello all!

    We are a new business in Corvallis OR called Café à la Carte, and we are an espresso bike similar to Cafe Velo’s bike. This one was made custom and it has been a blast so far! Only been open and doing business for less than a month but the community loves it and it is especially loved for being so green. Thank goodness that Corvallis is so bike-friendly! As far as we know we are the third bike-business in this area (although there may be biking landscapers around too) just wanted to thank you for the article and let’s keep getting the good word out, for pedal-power. Check out our website for more info at oregoncafealalcarte.com.

  8. Luke Beckel

    28. Sep, 2013

    HI there, this article is great! I am in the process of opening up my own bike vending business in Portland and it involves cooking and serving food items. While the portland food carts page has been helpful with the rules and regulations of opening such a business, I still haven’t found information regarding where exactly you are legally permitted to stop your bike and sell. Are there rules and regulations that anyone know of pertaining to this?

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