‘VeloAcademy’ New Mechanics’ Training School Will Be Open to Everyone

Brisbane headquartered bicycle retailer 99 Bikes is about to open a new mechanics training school, that staff from any bicycle shop will be welcome to attend.

“We’re starting a new project called VeloAcademy. It’s a mechanics training school that is partnered with an RTO (Registered Training Organisation),” explained Tom Dodd, Head of Training and Recruitment at 99 Bikes.

“We’ve just set our first course dates. It will run from Monday 6th to Tuesday 14th July. Rob Dean, who was trained as a bike mechanic (Cytech) in the UK and has been with 99 Bikes for nearly five years as mechanic, Team Leader and Bike Buyer, is moving into the training role within VeloAcademy full time. His title will be ‘Training Co-Ordinator’.

“We’re fitting out about an 80m2 space is our head office in Fortitude Valley with work stands and all the necessary tools and classroom equipment to practically train six to eight people on site at once.

“Our Velo Academy philosophy and vision is, ‘Professional Bicycle Mechanics trained using the learnings from the surgical and medical professions’.

“Students will get an Industry Qualification in Bicycle Mechanics at two levels. VA – 1 and VA -2, along with a Diploma of Business if they choose that option.

“It will be 100% open to other trainees, not just 99 Bikes staff. The real goal of this is to address the issue that we need more trained mechanics in our industry. There are people out there with the fundamental desire and aptitude to work, but they don’t know how to be a mechanic. It’s not reasonable to just throw them into a shop and get them firing from day one.

“If people show commitment to learn by signing up for the course and funding themselves, and if they do well in the course, then there’s a strong chance that we would offer them a job at the end of it.

“But we’d like to think that the quality of the course will be such that other shops, totally unrelated to 99 Bikes, would like to send some of their junior staff along to get up-skilled.”

“Course costs are currently being finalised and will be around $11,000 for the Business Diploma and VeloAcademy Mechanics training which is eligible for VET-FEE help. This means students can pay back the cost once they are working. This course includes 16 practical days training split into two eight day terms, supported with tuition through our RTO partner for the Business Diploma.

Tom continued, “There is a very cool bonus built into the Diploma course too, for every graduate of the course 99 Bikes will give them a $2,000 voucher to spend on a bike. We want our students to love riding as much as we do.

“There will also be a VeloAcademy only course option (without the Diploma). We are finalising the costs. Our current estimate would be $3,500 total.”


Store Expansion

Meanwhile, 99 Bikes is continuing to expand their number of stores, which currently includes 11 in Brisbane, one on the Sunshine Coast, two on the Gold Coast, and three each in Sydney and Melbourne.

“We’re laying the foundations for more expansion over the next two to five years,” Robert Bekavac from the product team confirmed. “We’re looking at eight new sites in the next 12 months. We’ll be continuing in the three states that we’re already in at this stage, (NSW, Vic and Qld), staying in the capital cities.

“We’ve got two sites that we’ve signed already and we have a full time property person in our support team who started two months ago. For their role to be justified, we need to be putting down new sites, for sure.

Over the eight years since 99 Bikes opened its first store in Milton, Qld, 99 Bikes has gradually refined the operation of their stores and the type of premises they’re looking for.

“Leasing is our standard business model,” Robert continued. “We have bought sites before, and if there was a new development being built, we might consider that, but the fundamental model is to lease sites.

“The current store footprints that we have vary from about 250 m2 to 800 m2 on our largest sites.

“We’ve learnt that somewhere in the middle of that is ideal for profitability, but it’s good to have a couple of big shops as well.

“I think 400m2 to 600m2 is what we’re gravitating towards. Smaller locations are too limited in terms of how much we can scale up in them.

“Staffing is always an issue for any business that’s growing. We look to develop store managers from within the business where ever we can. Our ‘Team Leader’, as we call the role, that’s a really key role with a diverse responsibility and there’s a lot of aspects that we run quite decentralised. We’re always recruiting! Right now we need an experienced product person to replace Deano as our Bikes Product manager at 99 Bikes and our partner company also has a vacancy for an experienced Parts and Accessories Manager.”