Vantrepreneurs: Dave Crombie, Bike-fixed

This month, we spoke to Vantrepreneur Dave Crombie, owner of Bike-fixed, about keeping the wheels turning during lockdown and converting an ex-prison service van into a thriving business.

1. Tell us about yourself and your business?

My name’s Dave. I’m a devoted husband, daddy to an eight-year-old girl and a six-month-old son and the owner of Bike-fixed.

We are the original and best fully mobile cycle maintenance and repair service covering Poole, Bournemouth and the surrounding areas – and we’ve been servicing our customers for nearly 12 years!

2. What has been your experience of working through Covid?

Being, essentially, a cycle shop we have been extremely lucky, thankful and privileged to be able to carry on working as normal throughout Covid. That is, at least as normal as possible while maintaining our strict social-distancing guidelines.

Bike-fixed is honoured to also have been chosen to be the local mechanic of choice to maintain and service all staff bikes at Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch Hospitals throughout the last year. This has meant we’ve been able to ensure that staff can cycle to work and avoid having to use public transport keeping them, their patients and the general public safe!

The UK went cycling mad as lockdown hit and we have been extremely busy since. We’re proud that we’ve been keeping everyone’s bikes running, enabling them to maintain their exercise and fitness routines and no doubt positively contributing towards their mental health too.

3. What are your biggest challenges?

Keeping up with emails, messages and voicemails. Also, in current circumstances, stock availability has taken a huge hit and parts and accessories are becoming difficult to source.

Finding suppliers with these parts can also be time consuming which is difficult during such a busy period. However, I like a challenge and I’m determined enough so haven’t been defeated yet.

4. What do you find most rewarding?

Just thinking back to this little idea I had all those years ago and then knowing what our customer base is like now and how the business has grown from that initial idea!

Seeing people’s faces when they ride their bike after it’s been serviced and how surprised and happy they are at how smooth and quiet their bike is now, it’s just great.

5. What can you tell us about your van/how did you have to adapt it to suit your business needs?

My van is a 2004 Iveco Daily ex-prison service van, which I bought straight from its retirement from HM Prison Service. It had all the cells and modern luxuries you would expect to see in a prison truck and was a mission to gut out and transform into a functioning mobile cycle workshop, but it was a challenge both me, and hopefully my father-in-law who I roped into helping me, enjoyed doing.

I had to essentially make a cycle workshop where EVERYTHING is fixed or held down during traveling, and yes, I learnt the hard way to find the best way to do it! I’ve fitted some lockable drawer tool cabinets under a workbench with mounted vice. It’s kitted out with a vast and ever-growing array of Park Tools amongst others, I also just had to get one of Park Tools best workstands to enable me to work on any bike at a comfortable height and angle.

Initially I had stock tucked away in drawers etc to stop it rolling around in the van, but I have since added slatwall on all interior walls which means I can professionally display all my stock, with lots of bungee cords to help keep things in place during transit. The van also has numerous Saris fork mounts dotted around in carefully thought-out locations which means I can carry up to five bikes while still having room to work on one in the workstand! As for power in the van, it has two leisure batteries on a split-charge system and an inverter powering the lighting, compressor, music and an extractor type fan.

6. What advice would you give to people considering launching a mobile business like yours?

If you have a good idea that hasn’t been done or something that has been done but you can improve on it or do it better, then go for it! If things don’t work out for you for whatever reason, then you can at least say you tried.

I wish I’d have started up 20 years ago, but it was a big step to take turning down a comfortable salary while paying a mortgage and bills.
Research your local area and just get your business name out there. Make yourself easy to find – get a website and social media pages up and running so your potential customers can effortlessly find you.

Also, find a wife who’s got your back 100% this wouldn’t have been possible without her too!

7. Any plans to develop the business further?

It’s always played on my mind to franchise out but trying to find someone who I can trust and who is basically representing my business and my brand that I have grown from nothing is a thought which quickly seems to stop me from pursuing that route – for now at least!