A guide talks to his tour group during one of Fitz&Folwell’s tours in Montreal, QC. Photo by Yelp Inc.
Let’s face it, most of us are not going to become world-class professional bike racers or get paid by Red Bull to pedal around on the rooftops of La Gran Canaria. While bike commuting is a great way to get to and from work in a fun, affordable fashion, it isn’t actually paying the bills, only reducing them. But what if bicycling was the work? What if, instead of riding to our jobs and back, riding was an integral part of the job itself?
With bicycling on the rise all across North America and more cities installing safe, dedicated infrastructure for people on bikes, new opportunities are arising to capitalize on this second North American bike boom. While there are careers aplenty in the world of bike manufacturing, maintenance, and sales, we want to highlight a few income-generating options that involve riding bikes directly. Some are more lucrative than others, and some require a little bit of creative innovation, but each one will get you out in the sun in the saddle for at least a few hours of every day.
1. Bike messenger
The bike messenger is inarguably the most iconic of bicycle-based careers. With a history dating back to the late 1800s, bike messengers have been delivering letters, parcels and packages across urban centers the world over. Though its characteristics have shifted over time and across geographies, bike messengers have developed a unique culture that has in many ways shaped urban bike culture in general. Bike messengers ride fast, work hard, and don’t make much money, but if you like the freedom and the thrill, this is one way to get paid to spend the entire day on your bike.
2. Bicycle Tour Guide
Bicycle tour guiding is a great way to spend most of your time outdoors while showing off your hometown to the people eager to learn about it. One part cyclist, one part amateur historian, and one part entertainer, bicycle tour guides know their city or town in and out, and know the best way to experience it on two wheels. Many cities around the world have at least one bike tour operation who hire mostly for the summer. If yours doesn’t, consider this a push in the direction of starting one.
If urban bike touring isn’t your thing, you could also consider a career in long-distance bike tour guiding. Look for an outfit (or start your own) that offers overnight trips, and get in touch with nature while getting paid.
Whether you’re trying to be the next Dashed, or simply trying to make a few extra bucks on the side, offering last-mile delivery services by bike is a completely feasible money-making venture whose startup costs are little more than a bicycle and a working phone. While restaurants are an obvious choice, any company that needs it products delivered could benefit from this service.
4. Bicycling Instructor
Bicycling instructors teach cycling skills and safety to children, or adults who are learning to ride for the first time. Most of the positions available are with non-profits, bike advocacy organizations, or occasionally municipalities taking a proactive approach to getting residents on bikes. Cycling instructors typically need, along with well-developed bike commuting skills, a few years of experience in group facilitation or some form of education.
5. Pedicab Driver
In many cities where the weather permits it, pedicabs are the transportation of choice for visiting tourists or throngs of people all leaving a large-scale event such as a sports game or festival. You could either hop on board with an existing pedicab operation, or start your own business to fill a gap in the market. Check the licensing requirements for pedicabs in your city if you’re going the latter route. Much like a taxi system, pedicabs drivers don’t typically own their own pedicabs, they are leased from a company for a flat rate, and whatever’s left over at the end of the day is pocketed by the driver. Pedicab drivers can make a little or a lot depending on the season and the amount of tourism in the area. While operating a loaded pedicab is no small feat, it’s a surefire way to stay in tip-top shape while meeting tons of people and spending your days and evenings out on the town.
So while the initial investment might be a little higher here because you’ll likely need a cargo bike, the tradeoff is that you’re working for yourself doing exactly what you like. Always wanted to own a small café? Put it on a bike. Love sandwiches? Make a pedal-powered sandwich truck. Your town’s missing an essential service? See if you can make it happen by bike.
The option are endless.
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