Advice on bikes for bike delivery

Advice on bike delivery
June 3, 2020 Adam Stead
~ read | In Delivery
bike delivery

Hiring a bike rider

Hiring a bike rider rather than a moped or car driver saves you a lot of money, and a lot of hassle. That’s because your target employee pool is likely to own a bike, and even if they don’t, it’s much more cost effective to buy one. 

You can also target younger employees. The minimum wage for people under 18 is £4.55 per hour. For adults, we advocate paying a full living wage of £8.72 per hour. 

The downside is that the possible delivery radius is smaller. Depending on the number of hills and traffic lights, it takes around 10-20 minutes to cycle for around 3 miles. If you’re asking your rider to cycle more than 30 miles over the night, consider giving them fast energy releasing foods like bananas and chocolate over the night. There’s a saying in competitive cycling – if you start to feel hungry, you’ve already lost the race. 

Getting an employee’s bike ready for deliveries

Even if you hire someone who owns a bike themselves, you might have to do a small amount of prep to ensure they can deliver food successfully.

A “pannier” refers to a metal accessory designed to affix bags to the back of bikes. They look like this and they cost from £20-£40. 

Next, it’s time to think about the thermal bag. Generally, it’s possible to affix three bags to a pannier – one which can sit on top and two which can clip to the sides and hang down. Look carefully at how tightly it’s possible to bind it to the pannier – it may make more sense to get a plastic outer pannier bag which you can screw in. There’s a bit of a trade-off between measures to prevent wobble and measures to preserve heat – which is more important to your food?  

It’s vital to get good lights and some people may have worse lights than are appropriate for late-night delivery in a city. Good bike lights aren’t expensive – these £14.00 Balhvit lights are superior to many bike lights in the £30 region because they have a large lit surface area, rather than a small “blinking dot” which can be drowned out in the other light. Get two packs and keep them on constant charge rotation. 

If you want to know your rider’s location, there are plenty of GPS tracking apps to choose from to ask your employee to install on their phone, which they can turn off after shifts for privacy. GPS use generally drains phone battery, so you might wish to install a bike phone USB battery pack and power bank to keep your phone charged. This can be affixed via a bicycle phone mount. 

Buying a bike 

We’d generally recommend a “hybrid” bike for deliveries. 

Why? Hybrids have flat handlebars compared to the drop handlebars used on road bikes – this means your fingers are closer to the brakes if you need to stop suddenly.  Flat handlebars generally encourage an upright sitting position – which is slower on cross-country bike rides, but faster in environments with lots of stopping and starting, like a delivery shift. They also have thicker tires than road bikes, which means fewer flat tires. On the other side, hybrids are a bit faster than mountain bikes which have super thick tires, but are slower. 

It’s nearly always better to have a lighter bike – but this doesn’t affect safety, it’s just a speed thing, and heavier bikes are cheaper. So, a heavy steel frame is OK, and an aluminium frame will be great! It probably won’t be cost-effective to invest in fancier frames like carbon fibre. Suspension is another element which is likely to come with more expensive bikes – but if your food is delicate, it could give it an easier ride. 

The cheaper outlets to buy bikes include Halfords, Decathlon, and Triton Cycles. Reputable premium stores include Wiggle and Evans Cycles. 

It’s usually cheaper to buy a bike online. However, for technical reasons, you’ll want to get your first service about two weeks after the bike’s first use – the chain will slacken and the gears will go a bit weird, but these effects will reverse after the first service. Many bike shops include a “first service” – which normally costs around £30 – with their bike for this reason. You may be required to do a “self-assembly” if you buy online, which is about the same difficulty as assembling a furniture item.  

All bikes require secure storage, and you may have heard the “10% rule” – which says that you should spend around 10% of the value of your bike on bike security. Personally, I own a kryptonite U-lock and cable which allows me to lock both the wheels and the frame. Because I store my bike outside my house in London overnight, I go further and I also own a motorcycle lock. Motorbike locks are too heavy to carry, but the lock stays where the bike stays overnight – and it means I can secure my wheels to a greater extent than a cable could. And if you’re left in doubt, consider this – I used to have a £14 U-lock, and my bike was nicked. 

What next?

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