13 July, 2021
I have already written about the rapid growth of bikes-as-a-service, or bike subscription services. The opportunity to have a bike available without bothering with its maintenance is appealing to many new (or not) riders who switched from public transports during the pandemic.
Last week, the European leader Swapfiets announced a kind of mise en abyme: using its own as-a-service model, Swapfiets becomes the first major client of Vittoria2Go, a tire subscription service by the Italian manufacturer Vittoria.
What is Vittoria2Go?
Vittoria2Go allows bicycle-related businesses to get access to its tire range for a monthly fee per bike. The client will of course get the initial supply of tires for its fleet, but more services are included: tires will be swapped free-of-charge if damaged, or stolen/vandalised. Vittoria will also refund the cost of fixing a puncture/changing a tire and collect the worn-out tires for responsible recycling.
All the events and claims are reported online (Web, API, app), allowing quick communication and better performance analysis. If the benefits are obvious for the client, this model is also an incentive for the supplier who has to optimise its revenue by improving its products.
Yes, it is the same model as Swapfiets, and it comes with the same benefits: the client is outsourcing the operational risks and knows how much the use of tires will cost at the end of the month. And I believe that outsourcing the supply risks in this time of shortage for many bicycle parts is another circumstantial benefit that Swapfiets considered.
So when on-boarding a bike subscription service, are you going to ride a bicycle that you do not own, made only of parts that the operator does not own either? The model seems to make sense for all the wear-and-tear parts (tires, tubes, brake pads, chains and sprockets, bottom brackets, headsets) for the same reasons given below.
It might also be a good option for wheels, which are the parts more likely to be damaged during regular usage. Other parts that require punctual maintenance or rarely suffer damages (frame, fork, seat post…) do not represent a high enough operational risk to be outsourced.
But with the boom of electric micromobility, I definitely see more potential in battery-as-a-service. First of all, batteries are high tech products that require a lot of expertise to be properly build and maintain. Operators are also lacking long-term data for failure rates and lifespan, and are therefore taking a lot of operational and financial risk by managing it themselves. With the growing importance of the environmental impact of their services, the recycling complexity is another argument for outsourcing their batteries management.
If I doubt that all the parts of your future subscription bike will be managed through an as-a-service model, it might become common for wear-and-tear parts, or high tech ones such as batteries or motors. On their path towards sustainability, operators – of subscription or shared micromobility services might be keen on adopting risk-free options for parts management, while manufacturers will optimise their parts and related “operation” thanks to their expertise.