Made it With Metric- Bicycle Vending by Bike and a Box
Metric-Sized Carbon Tubes Help Keep Custom Bicycle Carts Dry
Bike and a Box- Custom Bicycle Cart Vending
Made with Metric
Food trucks have been a fixture in and around Los Angeles, CA, for more than 40 years, in the form of Mexican taqueros, where one could get an authentic taco for at least half the price of a sit down restaurant. However, when Korean Roy Choi drove his Kogi Truck throughout the LA area, cooking up Korean short-rib tacos and kimchi dogs, a movement took off. Today, food trucks are a culinary fixture, serving everything from gourmet foods to ice cream, often as outposts of brick and mortar restaurants. But they are expensive to run, making them cost-prohibitive for budding chefs and cooks who can whip up a good meal but don’t have the capital to invest in a full truck. Albuquerque, NM-based Bike and a Box is the answer to their prayers.
Founded in 2016 by David Langer, Bike and a Box is the result of many conversations with customers involved in the coffee industry who wanted to take their business on the road. Langer has been in the coffee roasting and sales business for 26 years, owning a coffee roastery in Albuquerque now run by his wife. According to Langer, a food truck business can cost tens of thousands of dollars to start up. “A lot of younger millennials are getting into it,” said Langer. “It enables them to start a business. If one location doesn’t work, they can easily find another location. The investment is less than $5000.”
Langer’s son Jonathan is a design engineer and they conceptualized the design together. Six people assemble the bikes in a warehouse located across the street from the coffee roastery. The bike platform itself is imported from a large bicycle manufacturer in Taiwan. All components are in metric sizes.
In order to build the canopies that cover the customizable truck boxes, Langer needed to find a supplier that could provide metric size square carbon steel tubes that could be easily welded to the bike platform in a short period of time. He worked with Parker Steel Company (Maumee, OH) to order carbon steel square tubing ranging in size from 15mm x 15mm x 1.5mm to 20mm x 20mm x 1.5mm. The tubing is strong enough to hold the traditional canopy or the recently introduced solar canopy at 290N/mm2 min. tensile strength. The tubing arrived within days. “We needed a local supplier because the entire customization is done in the U.S. We needed someone who could provide the material pretty fast,” said Langer. Parker Steel is the only steel distributor in the United States that stocks exclusively metric dimensional metals. Completed bikes are usually shipped within two weeks of order.
The six-speed bike itself contains a 250W rear hub-mounted electric assist motor with rechargeable battery that runs at speeds up to 29 mph for those times when pedaling is just too tiring. “With all of the weight – you carry inventory plus equipment plus canopy and anything else – the motor really goes about 20 mph,” said Langer. The stainless steel and wood box is customized to accommodate what is being sold. All counter surfaces are made from stainless steel to satisfy Health Department requirements. “We customize the box depending on what it’s going to be used for. So, if it’s used for coffee sales, obviously it’s going to have coffee-related equipment, if it’s ice cream it will have a freezer,” said Langer. A tap is available for beer sales while heating equipment can be found on hot dog carts. Inside the lacquered plywood box is a stainless steel box that can be washed and sanitized. A floor drain allows water to be drained under the cart. Custom wraps with logos, etc., cover the plywood. The entire Bike and a Box structure is assembled in Albuquerque with parts welded by local fabricators.
The next generation of Bike and a Box will have a larger, heavier platform and box. “It’s almost a little kitchen on a bike that’s going to be able to do much more,” said Langer. “It’s going to have a bigger sink – or four sinks – and you can make food with a propane stove, not just serve it.” The four-compartment sink also fulfills Health Department requirements.
Business is growing steadily – they are now selling in 20 states – and Langer expects to sell more bikes with the introduction of the new generation in 2018. The company will be relying on its suppliers and fabrication partners even more as word continues to get out. The relationship with the bike platform manufacturer in Taiwan is strong and the need for a U.S.-based metric part supplier to fit the metric-sized frame is growing. With lead times of two weeks, the ability to receive parts in a day or two is integral to delivering these bikes to budding entrepreneurs.
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