It’s another day — and night — of criss-crossing Montreal and environs for Sacha Gosselin. He begins in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, then heads out to Dollard-des-Ormeaux, makes a pit stop in Côte-St-Luc and then several more stops in Brossard before hitting his bed.
Gosselin is a one-man travelling bike-repair crew. His Vélofix van brings welcome sighs of relief to beleaguered bikers, who despair at the prospect of otherwise waiting lengthy periods for appointments at overbooked brick-and-mortar shops.
A year ago, Gosselin was bemoaning a lack of business and was almost ready to toss in the towel, even with a proliferation of local bike paths. But then came COVID-19 and a boom in bicycling, which led to a boom in sales and repairs. Gosselin has been, at times, putting in 17-hour days and seeing up to 10 clients a day to keep up with demand.
“COVID has been so bad for so many people, but when my business was considered essential, I just happened to be in a position of being able to help cyclists,” says Gosselin, 43, while tinkering on a couple of high-performance road bikes in D.D.O.
He reports that the bike business has exploded this year, to the point where there is an acute shortage of new and used bikes for sale in the city and around the continent. As such, people are hanging on to their old two-wheelers.
However, with this new dearth of bikes, Gosselin points out that Montreal could become Canada’s capital for stolen bikes and cautions cyclists in their choices of locks and docking locations.
Much of Gosselin’s work entails tune-ups on bikes that have been getting more use than they’ve had in years. He also changes everything from brakes to pedals, tires to chains, and is fortunate to have a large inventory and solid connections with parts suppliers.
“Customers, more than ever, have become dependent on their bikes as their preferred mode of transit and want to make sure their bikes are in top form to avoid any kind of breakdown,” notes South Shore resident Gosselin. “I have customers now doing several thousand kilometres a year, requiring three or four tune-ups a year. It’s a much different scene now than it was when people took their bikes out only for weekend spins.”
Gosselin’s customers range from enthusiastic amateurs to triathletes, riding everything from basic financially friendly three-speed models to multi-speed imports costing many thousands of dollars.
“Friends and family members thought I was a fool at first when I bought my Vélofix franchises two years ago. But even though business was really slow at the beginning, I always felt there would be possibilities with home repairs, because people don’t often have the time to take their bikes down to get them fixed at shops. So instead of their bikes being out of action for a couple of weeks, they’re only down for a couple of hours.
“But no one anticipated the rush that would come with COVID. Customers love that I come to them and do repairs in their driveways and garages or even at their places of work. Now friends and family members are no longer laughing. And I’m looking to hire someone to help me out.”
Gosselin got wind of the Vancouver-originated Vélofix after catching a pitch from its creator on the Canadian TV version of Dragons’ Den. His franchises cover the West Island, parts of the West End and the South Shore.
Curiously, prior to getting involved with Vélofix and boning up on all aspects of bike repairs, Gosselin had spent most of his adult working life in the four-wheel world. His father had been a South Shore car dealer, and Gosselin did everything from car sales to body shop and service management.
“It’s been like night and day,” Gosselin says. “The bike world has been so positive for me compared to the car world, where you have a lot of unhappy customers, especially when it comes to expensive repairs. What a difference it is to be greeted by customers who are actually happy to see you.”
But this business boom has had one downside for him:
“Yeah,” Gosselin quips “Sadly, I just don’t have the time to ride my bike very much anymore.”
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