Can I Make money delivering on my bike? Does it make sense to use a bicycle for deliveries? Costs for a bicycle are dramatically lower than using a car, so is it more profitable? Can you earn as much on a bike as you can in your car?
Let’s talk about using a bicycle for deliveries.
Can I Make Money Delivering on My Bike?
There is no all-encompassing answer to that. There are so many factors to figure into the equation.
It starts with your market. If you are in a spread out area, using a bicycle can be more inefficient. In congested downtown areas where parking and slow moving traffic are major issues, a bicycle can be much more efficient.
Weather is obviously a factor. Rain and snow can obviously make a difference on your ability to get around well. Your level of fitness can make a difference. Personally, I like to dally every once in awhile on doing some deliveries by bicycle, however I’m much slower than I was years ago, and a four mile delivery can take 25 minutes for me compared to ten or fifteen minutes for someone fitter and faster.
Examine the cost savings on a bike
This is one of those drumbeat messages that I preach: Your car costs you a lot more than you realize to operate. So many people think only of gas expenses. When you figure in all the costs including your depreciation, your maintenance, fixed expenses like licensing and registration, everything else, the very best anyone is going to get by on is 25 cents a mile. Most of us are going to be in the 30 to 50 cent per mile range.
Here’s another fact: your actual earnings are your PROFITS, not the money coming in. Let’s face it: a lot of couriers are making very little money because they are putting so many miles on their cars for the dollars they are earning. If you're asking “can I make money delivering on my bike?” it makes sense that reducing costs are as important for your profits as bringing in more money.
Be real about the cost of a bicycle.
There is a tendency to go too far the opposite direction when comparing bicycles. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve seen that go into great detail on the costs of operating a car, but don’t go into the same detail on using a bike. Their approach isn’t consistent – they insist that the car costs so much more than gas, but then they look at the benefit of the bike as not having any costs.
One thing you have to remember is that using a bike isn’t going to eliminate a lot of your car costs. Unless you totally do away with your car and completely replace it with a bike, you still have insurance and taxes and registration. So in that way, some of those comparisons aren’t the most accurate.
The reality is, you will have expenses due to the wear and tear on your bicycle. Like with a car, it’s probably more than you realize. Bike components tend to be more fragile and need to be replaced more often. Bike tires can actually cost more per mile than car tires. Chains, chainrings, gear cassettes, brakes, bearings, wheel hubs all wear out over time.
Depreciation can be another factor. Bicycle value really has a lot less to do with how many miles are on the bike as the age and the condition of the components. If you buy a new bike, you can expect to lose half the value or more within the first year. If you bought a beater off Craigslist, depreciation really isn’t much of a factor.
Depending on your ability to do the maintenance and repairs yourself, your actual cost per mile using a bike is going to likely run 5 to 15 cents a mile.
Opportunity costs on a bicycle.
Using a bicycle can limit your earnings potential. You obviously have less storage capability, and this can limit your ability to take multiple orders at one time. If you are using a bicycle, many of the apps are less likely to offer you orders for larger items like pizzas, or they may limit the number of items on a bicycle order. Limits on distance of delivery may reduce your earnings opportunity.
For me, the greatest cost factor when using my bike is really about opportunity cost. Here’s what I mean: I do not live in an area where bicycle delivery is efficient, so that means I have to get my bike downtown or to a more densely populated area. I can ride there, but if I’m being honest about my costs I have to take into account how many deliveries I cannot take due to the time of that commute. Usually I will put my bike on the rack on my car and haul it downtown. That means I still have some mileage cost AND parking costs, and there’s also the time involved.
I can get in four to six hours doing bike delivery before I’m starting to wear down. And then I’m pretty well done, the rest of my day is shot. So that means there are limits to the opportunities. And the reality is, I’m slow as slow can be, and that will affect how many deliveries I can get in.
These are all things that can be very different for different people. If you live right in the middle of a good bike delivery area, these may not be a factor. If you are faster and in better condition, you may not have the same limitations. But they are factors to weigh.
My personal experience using a bicycle:
I’m a bike lover. I love tinkering on bikes, I have a garage full of bike parts, and I enjoy getting out and riding. I’m excited about a vintage trek road bike frame I picked up and about building that up and getting out and riding it. But I’m also what they call in the cycling world a Clydesdale – or some would call a Super Clyde. It’s obvious I don’t ride QUITE enough, but I’m a big enough guy that I am rough on my bikes.
Can I make money doing delivering on a bike? For me, bicycle delivery has been less about being profitable and more about just getting a chance to combine something I really enjoy doing with the opportunity to make some occasional money. My profit per hour isn’t that great, especially if I take into account the commuting time, but that’s the point where I’m not worried about that as much.
I wrote more about this in an ariticle I posted yesterday, and I’ll put a link in the show notes about this, but in the past my options were limited to Uber Eats and Postmates in my market. Grubhub and Doordash did not offer bicycle delivery, Uber’s dispatching was horrible and Postmates just hasn’t been busy enough. Doordash did introduce bicycle mode to their app, and so far it really worked out nicely. In fact, it worked out nicely enough that I may do more bike sessions.
Thinking about eBike options.
Yesterday, I stopped by a big eBike store just to get a look. I spent an hour test riding a few different options. Folks, I could see myself getting a fat tire eBike… but the bicycle purist in me is conflicted. The beauty on most eBikes is that it’s more about electronic assist – it’s not like a scooter where you can just kick on the throttle and away you go, you have to pedal still, but as you do so the motor kicks in. It’s tempting…. It could make a difference on speed, commute times, and how long I could keep going… so I don’t know, maybe rent one for a day and give it a try?
I think the thing about the times I do bike delivery, for me when it comes to doing the bike it’s less about the business and more about enjoying the process. And maybe there’s a lesson to be learned when it comes to the rest of delivery life for me?
Do you deliver on your bicycle?
Comment below, tell us how you enjoy it. Is it profitable in your market? What are the challenges? What's great about it? What would you say to someone wondering “can I make money delivering on my bike?”