Ask the trade: Will smart bike tech become a big opportunity for industry workshops?

Quickly following on from part one and part two of our smart bike discussion, the final segment of the discussion asks, might the industry be on route to proprietary brand servicing, as well as whether the advance of technology integration could instead be a good thing for trained workshops.

Could this complicate matters for consumers and shops if brands introduce proprietary plug-in style servicing?

Mark Almond, Revo Bikes
It could, yes. Consumers will both embrace the technology and study it to understand it, or be completely bamboozled by it. Shops likewise need to move with the times and embrace it. After all, you can buy a bike online, but you can’t service it, so it’s another potential USP for shops.

Training will be required, but if we are to position ourselves as professionals, we need to be professional in what we do.

David Barnett, Tring Motion
It depends on how much the brand is prepared to invest in its product, promotion, infrastructure and training. If it becomes omni-present, there is a good chance that multi-licence generic tooling will become available.

At the two extremes are Bosch and ION. ION is very secure, however sales are small and there are currently only three service centres. Bosch is investing heavily in training and backup as would be supplied in the automotive sector. A particular benefit of this is that any Bosch accredited dealer can fix, and source, any Bosch specific parts on any brand.

Both systems are in place to give the consumer the ultimate confidence that only suitably trained personnel will be working on their bike. This provides an added value to both sales and after sales in terms of perceived quality by the consumer, but also reliable quality and sourcing for dealers.

Neil Holman, George Halls Cycle Centre
Yes. It is bad enough already with bike suppliers not wanting to deal with non-account holders for service spares such as specific bolts, bushes and bearings. What is it going to be like if this happens?

It could force rival bike shops to actually talk and work with each other; there’s a thought.

Paul Corcoran, Pennine Cycles
They have already started it with some e-Bikes; this is not a good thing for IBDs.

Is this instead an opportunity for the bike shop to charge more for yet more specialist knowledge, software and tooling?

David Barnett, Tring Motion
Very much so. As yet I have not fully examined every aspect, however I do charge a price premium for e-Bike service, which people happily pay. As with all things, you then have to back this up with training and knowledge. I have a few clients who travel in excess of 50 miles due to the perception of a lack of customer support elsewhere.

This is also a warning for the industry too, in my view, as if consumers feel they cannot get after care on what is a premium priced product this will impact follow on purchases and customer recommendations.

Wholesalers should give this some consideration too. Who stocks electrical cable and loom parts, generic lighting, crimp tools and connectors, or the more unusual bottom bracket parts, for example? If someone came into your store with a generic e-Bike with a broken integrated headlight, could you splice one into the loom from your stock?

Neil Holman, George Halls Cycle Centre
Yes. If you have invested hundreds, if not thousands in this, you need to recoup the costs. The problem the shop would have is getting this across to the consumer. We still get it now, people see a bike, even if they have spent £2,000 on it, as a cheap mode of transport. As a result they wonder why it costs X amount to fix it when the same person would not think twice about spending three times the amount on a car repair bill, or paying the same for a boiler engineer to just turn up at their house; that’s before they have even opened their tool box or laptop.

Paul Corcoran, Pennine Cycles
I suspect set up costs, upkeep and updates will far outweigh costs, which will be acceptable to customers.

If you could integrate one piece of ‘smart’ technology into a bike, what would it be?

David Barnett, Tring Motion
I like the idea of an NFC controlled integrated locking system that has a mechanical and an electrical component to it. It’d be a pleasure to worry no more about lost/bent keys, or to find somewhere to store these on the bike.

Neil Holman, George Halls Cycle Centre
Telling the rider when their rear gear hanger has been bent and it is no longer safe to ride would be a great start. As bike maintenance gets more expensive, one thing I have been asked for a couple of times recently is “do we offer a service savings plan?” This is something customers can pay into, like an extended warranty. I know Raleigh offered a pay up front extended warranty years ago, but sadly it appeared to flop.

Keen to understand the direction of smart bike technology better? Read our ‘Welcome to the age of the i-Bike’ analysis here.