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Velotooler: The app that matches cyclists with mechanics, and could help recover stolen bikes

Velotooler works to put riders and mechanics in touch, and hinder the sale of stolen bikes

Local bike shops are an endangered species and more and more are being forced to close their doors due to the competition from online retailers, skyrocketing rents in many British cities and a lack of appreciation for such a fantastic resource. When a shop closes and mechanics are forced to look elsewhere to make a living, the unique and extensive knowledge those mechanics possess is lost with their jobs.

Across the Atlantic, similar problems exist but a start-up has come up with a solution that could keep mechanics working, retain their knowledge within the industry and provide riders with an assured service.

Velotooler.com is a revolutionary idea that's growing in popularity across North America, and counts around 400 mechanics and mobile shops in Canada and the USA who have signed up to get involved.

Velotooler HQ interviews each interested mechanic and so far 70 have been verified and are active on the site. The company predicts it will have increased that number to 130 over the next few weeks but are limited by being a small team.

'All of our mechanics are covered by our group insurance, which allows them to service individual clients and bike sharing companies through the Velotooler platform,' explains founder Yahor Buben.

'We also have an option to hire a mechanic per hour for events or to help at the bike shop.'

When a rider is in need of a mechanic, they can choose either a specific service from a list or hire a mechanic by the hour to get the job done on their registered bike.

The process is pretty user friendly and allows enough flexibility that should mean it's workable for most riders and mechanics.

As a rider is making the work request, they can choose the best available time for them, and give a few options.

The mechanic then sees all the information together with a user profile and opts for an arrival time. The user can then approve a time slot and a mechanic profile.

The platform also provides a chat function where details and images of the bike can be exchanged so the mechanic has an understanding of the work that needs to be carried out before they arrive.

Following the service, both parties get reviewed and the bicycle receives a work report from the mechanic which is stored on its profile on Velotooler.

To diversify Velotooler's offering away from simply putting mechanics and riders with broken bikes in touch, the verified mechanics also work as part of the distribution channel for bicycle companies.

This works by allowing bike manufacturers to sell directly to consumers when the option of using a local bike shop isn't available, and a Velotooler mechanic will then assemble and check the bike before the buyer rides it.

Early next year Velotooler is planning an expansion into the British and EU markets. There are already over 30 individuals registered on the platform over here but a concentration on the US market means that they haven't yet been activated.

'The bike profile feature is not limited to a region,' Buben explains. 'People still can register and transfer bike profiles on Velotooler.

'The idea of the profile is to protect people from selling stolen bikes. Every time you register a bike you agree to claim the profile as a bike owner.

'This way when transferring a profile to another user that user has proof that this bike has belonged to the previous user.'

Away from the physical work of bicycle mechanics, the most important feature of Velotooler is this bike profile function.

'The bike profile is the foundation of Velotooler,' Buben points out.

A look at Velotooler's site shows that these profiles can be created and used by companies and individual members to track the location and ownership of bikes, and also log repairs and warranty checks.

Buben adds, 'We do not delete bikes from the database. All created bikes can be marked as stolen moving them into a pool of stolen bikes.

'They also can be put for sale and as a result transferred to another user. Or can be recycled, allowing anyone to restore the bike with its history, claiming a new ownership.'

He goes on to expand on plans for the growth of the platform. 'We really want to give bike profiles a status of eternity, turning them into valuable data over time.

'In the fall [Autumn] we will set up a system to allow bike donations using the profile,' the company founder says.

Tour d'Azerbaidjan 2017

CCB Velotooler at the 2017 Tour d'Azerbaidjan. Photo: Jack Elton-Walters

Although now resident in America, Buben is a former member of the Belarus National Cycling Team where he rode alongside current Bahrain-Merida rider Kanstantsin Siutsou.

With Buben's personal links to the world of professional cycling a move in that direction is logical and was only a matter of time. Velotooler's more immediate plans revolve around the launch of professional team profiles on the Velotooler platform.

This has recently gone live and teams can sign up at: velotooler.com/team/account

This will be beneficial to team managers, sponsors and cycling fans alike.

For team management the platform will help in protecting bikes from being sold on if they're stolen, allow bikes to be easily matched to riders, hire a Velotooler mechanic on demand and sell off bikes at the end of the season.

From a fan's point of view, the listed bikes mean that it's easier to get hold of a former race machine and track how much riding has been done on it, among other options.

CCB Velotooler's John Harris at the end of a tough stage. Photo: Jack Elton-Walters

The first team to sign-up was the company's own CCB Velotooler, a team we saw in action at the 2017 Tour d'Azerbaidjan.

A team of young racers who are just out to see what they're capable of and make the most of the experience of racing in far flung parts of the world, they race for fun and you can guarantee they'll always try to get a rider or two in the break.

For more see: velotooler.com

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