How does Upway refurbish e-bikes? Dive behind the scenes of its XXL warehouse

CssTricks had the opportunity to visit the Ile-de-France warehouse of Upway, a French company expert in the reconditioning of electric bicycles, to discover the complete process of the group. From the arrival of a VAE to the release of a refurbished and resold model.

Upway is a French company that started reconditioning electric bicycles at the end of 2021. Since then, this young company has grown rapidly: it is now present in four European countries (France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands), as well as Brooklyn, New York.

CssTricks met one of its co-founders, Toussaint Wattinne, who told us in detail and in complete transparency about how the company works. It was also an opportunity to visit their Ile-de-France warehouse, located in Gennevilliers, in order to discover behind the scenes of all this beautiful ride.

Upway, a well-established process to be optimized

Upway’s warehouse is divided into two levels: the lower one is dedicated to receiving, diagnosing, reconditioning and sending e-bikes. The second level has its effect: it is here that the brand stores its reconditioned VAE. “We have almost 1000 currently available for sale, we can go up to 1200 », whispers Toussaint Wattinne.

The least we can say is that these cycles as far as the eye can see plunge you into an intoxicating, almost disconcerting whirlwind. You no longer know where to turn, as the place is full of different models, brands or categories of bikes. It’s simply impressive for any bike enthusiast.

The second building [Upway France va grossir avec un second site qui jouxtera l’actuel, ndlr] will allow us to review the operational flow to further optimize the process. But the real heart of this machine is located just below, where all the mechanics are busy with their tasks.

In France, we are around 35 to 40 people, managers and mechanics alike. In the world, we are about 80 people», Begins Toussaint, before getting down to business. “When a bike arrives, it is registered in our platform and placed to the right of this channel(see picture below). In fact, our entire operational chain is digitized“.

Upway warehouse

To start, we identify the bike, the seller, the condition, with a validation of the inspection. The inspection is very basic: we make sure that the engine works, the wheels too, etc.», continues the entrepreneur. “The second step is to send it to the workshop: it is then entrusted to a mechanic responsible for its reconditioning“.

From this stage, the electric bike will undergo an in-depth diagnosis. “It is subject to 20 control points: condition of wearing parts, operation of structural parts, checking of the frame and potential cracks, potential bent wheels», lists our interlocutor.

Extensive battery tests

We also have electronic diagnostics, to check the operation of the engine via software, the charging cycle on the battery or the number of kilometers already traveled by the bike. We can also identify a problem on the torque or rotation sensor, on the controller or even the on-board computer.», explains Toussaint.

Upway carries out relatively extensive battery tests, thanks to a stand specifically designed for it. Arranged in a fireproof cabinet, the accumulators are subjected to test machines sometimes directly supplied by the brand. This is the case with Bosch. Otherwise, one device can sometimes be enough to test batteries of several brands.

Upway warehouse

Here, we fully charge the battery, then fully discharge it and define the remaining capacity in relation to the initial capacity. If the battery has been used for several thousand kilometres, we carry out a diagnosis of its state of life. The idea is to be the most transparent about it“, insists Toussaint Wattinne.

If its capacity falls below 80 or 85%, it is then reconditioned or replaced. But ultimately, a battery suffers a loss after 500 or 600 charge cycles. Based on an average of one charge per week per user, life cycle is long“, he believes.

Goals for mechanics

Once the diagnosis has been carried out by the mechanic, the bike is placed in the so-called “backlog” area found at the start of the chain: it is then awaiting reconditioning, decked out with a colored badge according to the quantity of work to provide. This makes it possible to anticipate the duration of the repair.

The next step is to take the bike out of this backlog area, to replace or repair its wear parts or bleed the hydraulic brakes, for example. In short, fill in the specifications of each VAE to be retyped. “We can also do electronic repairs“, explains Toussaint Wattinne, who discusses with us the rhythm of the mechanics.

Each mechanic has objectives, which vary according to the difficulty of the bike. Extreme example: for bicycles in very good condition, a mechanic can recondition between 6 and 8 per day. On the other hand, it can take a day and a half for a bike in very poor condition.“, nuances the interested party.

Upway warehouse

It’s all about balancing easy and hard repair. There are also seniority levels for each mechanic», continues Toussaint Wattinne.

Some will focus mainly on wear parts, while others will be able to do everything, or have particular appetites for certain parts, such as wheels, mountain bike suspensions. As the team grows, there are specialties that naturally develop.»

Codified plots

At the very end of the warehouse, another category of bikes is patiently waiting to be taken care of. “These are the bikes with certain parts that need to be replaced. The parts are ordered, we are waiting to receive them“. Here again, a colored plot system makes it possible to codify the progress of the project.

Upway warehouse

Plots are used to determine if the part has not yet been ordered, has been ordered or has been receivedexplains Toussaint, who then guides us to other aisles of the warehouse. “Before a bike is put online, a mechanic performs a complete check to verify all inspection points and meet our standards.“.

Dressing up for the photo shoot

The end of the process includes a short visit to the cleaning booth… and the photo booth. A real real thing, in a room specifically made for shooting, which clearly stands out in the middle of all this tooling, all this mechanics, all this big machine.

Then comes the shipping area, where the final checks are carried out: tire pressure, battery charging, etc. “We then remove the pedals, we provide a tool and instructions for use, then we slip it into the box. The electric bikes that are waiting to be sent are necessarily at the bottom“.

In total Upway has refurbished 10,000 electric bikes since its launch at the end of 2021.

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