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January 27, 2019
Johan Erlandsson

Why is the Velove CEO out delivering each Friday?

Everyone that has ever been involved in a startup or scaleup knows that you have constant challenges to deal with and that it is hard to find enough time to do everything you need and want to do. For founders and CEO:s this might be especially true. So why do I, as the CEO of Velove, spend half a day a week to do deliveries?

Most Fridays, from early morning until lunch, I am out delivering for Pling. A typical day on the “A” round, that I usually do (6.30am-13pm), includes bread, pastry, post, lunch and flower deliveries, sometimes also exams for the university and other mixed deliveries. Deliveries previously done by van, now performed by Pling.

Already the very first Armadillo prototype was used by Pling, as well as prototype 2, 3 and pre-series bikes. This generated invaluable experiences in the development of the Armadillo, I myself rode a lot for Pling in these days. For each iteration, we implemented the learnings we made from each previous step. This is a major reason to why we today get the fantastic feedback we get from testriders and customers. This strategy of constantly learning from real life is continued, now not only with Pling but also with all our other customers.

We could collect info only by talking to customers, but that first hand experience is for me still very valuable. Every time I am out delivering I learn something new or remember some earlier issue or opportunity. The hands on experience is also very valuable when I talk to customers, we understand each other to the fullest. Sometimes customer representatives have ideas about the Armadillo without having ridden it themselves, in these situations it is also great to be able to explain in detail what it is really like.

(Not) feeling the pain of a broken bike

Ask almost any operator of high capacity cargo bikes, and they will tell you that maintaining and repairing their fleet is a pain, and a bike breaking down when it is out delivering on a tight schedule is causing extreme stress for the courier, the dispatcher, the customer and the one in management position that has to talk to the customer.

Believe me, I have felt this stress many times, in all Pling positions, in the early days of Pling. Our communication did not always work, bikes broke down and that just gave everyone a shitty day.

This led us at Velove to early on give a lot of attention to uptime questions. How do we prevent bikes from breaking down when they are needed the most? One small but important example is the introduction of the one bolt wheel release in prototype 3. This took away the most common reason for stress -a flat tyre. With one bolt wheel release, the courier could just always bring a spare wheel and solve the situation her- or himself in just a minute!

Nowadays, everytime I come to do my deliveries, I have a functioning Armadillo and can do my deliveries on time, stress free. This is because:

  • Velove constantly improve the reliability
  • Pling has a good, well-trained, well-informed mechanic
  • There are spare parts readily available
  • Internal communication and delivery management tools are working

Enjoying the great ride

One of our aims in the development of the Armadillo has been to provide a great ride. And we can with confidence say that we have succeeded in that, based on customer and testrider feedback. For myself, it is just a dream come true to comfortably cruise around town on our own vehicle. The comfortable seat, the great suspension, the agile handling, the small width -everything we have paid attention in this field is very rewarding when out riding. The exercise and the joy of riding really puts me in a better mood, being able to cope better with the day to day challenges!

Getting a feeling of belonging

Normal days for me is working in the office or being on business trips. The Friday mornings are a welcome break from that routine, where I get to see what is going on in the city, do small talk with Pling customers, people we deliver to and cyclists and pedestrians in the street that are interested about the Armadillo and Pling. It is also nice with all the thumbs up and to see the big eyes of every kindergarten group I pass by… Another good feeling is to be a part of the growing cycling community in Gothenburg!

Kalle trying his best to look like an outlaw

Pling was founded about the same time as we got to work on the first Armadillo prototype. Pling has an interesting organisation, being employee owned. This has both up- and downsides, but it has generated a unique atmosphere among employees and customers are super happy with the professional and friendly service they get. It is great to still be a part of this!

A comment on weather protection

Armadillo two-seater prototype

We get some questions about weather protection in the winter season. I rode for a full year with a more or less fully weather protected Armadillo prototype. Although it was nice on days with the worst possible weather (just above zero, windy and raining), there was a big drawback: I got disconnected from the city. Instead of being able to have eye contact with cyclists and pedestrians and also easily talk to them, I now sat in my own bubble, just as in a car. My own perception of the city was also reduced, with less sound coming through and impaired vision, especially in the dark. And for people around me, I guess their perception was that they now met a small electric vehicle instead of a cyclist, as they couldn’t see my face behind the windscreen, and not my legs moving.

It is clear that the requests for weather protection not often come from couriers themselves, but rather from management and unions. And if couriers ask for it, it is just a limited weather protection they want.

Photo: Simen Øvereng

If you count all the days with really shitty weather, to be honest, they are not that many. Some rain, if not combined with very cold weather and wind, is easy to cope with with good clothing. The same goes for cold weather, there are good clothing solutions for that. And as a courier, you will need to move a lot outside anyway. Read what Benjamin at DB Schenker in Oslo has to say about clothing!

Photo: Leon Vikanes
DHL Express in Nijmegen

Riding without weather protection, you are more than compensated for the few shitty days you have to endure, with great open riding on days with fair and good weather.

Anyway, let’s see if we can come up with something that gives some weather protection on the worst weather days, but does not at the same time disconnect you from the city all the other days!

Summing up

So, if summing up, why am I out delivering? To put it simply: because I enjoy it and to offer you the best possible Armadillo experience!

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