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Doordash Bike vs Car: My Experience Using an E-Bike vs Car

By January 16, 2020March 26th, 2020No Comments

Contents:

8 min read

    8 min read

    Dasher extraordinaire, Dash Bridges, leads an interesting life – and his story about dashing via e-bike is no different! Below, Dash will cover how to deliver for DoorDash using an e-bike, how much you may earn delivering via e-bike, and some pros and cons of delivering on an e-bike.

    Recently, I was at a restaurant waiting for a lunchtime order. I was in Palo Alto, the intellectual center of Silicon Valley and home of Stanford University. While I sat there, a man at the next table started asking questions about dashing, “How far do you typically drive for a delivery? What do you get paid per order? How long do you normally wait for your food?” I willingly answered questions from him and his colleagues because, hey, I have deep knowledge about this topic and very few people care! So it was refreshing to talk shop. Eventually, my order came up and we traded information.

    instacart

    Fast forward several weeks later: he texted me to meet at their startup. This company, founded by Stanford and MIT graduates (off-topic: the side conversations are amazing!), is working on a semi-automated vehicle designed to self-deliver food from restaurant to customer. Early generations of this vehicle, called the DART, will require Dasher operation. Later generations will only require remote monitoring, and the ultimate goal is for these machines to deliver by themselves, at what scientists call Level 5 automation.

    (Full disclosure: I am now an official advisor to DART Robotics)

    Because these vehicles are meant to replace short-distance orders, gathering data from my car deliveries is only half the story. The true replacement orders are the ones delivered by bike and e-bike.  Who better to gather this data than the guy who knows nothing about coding, nothing about mechanical engineering and a lot about deliveries? Answer: me.

    I agreed to replace my typical lunchtime car dashes with shifts using this e-bike they kept at their shared startup space in Palo Alto. Together we developed a number of data points I needed to collect, and off I went.

    If you’re considering signing up for DoorDash and want to use a bike or e-bike, you’ll find my combined 250+ deliveries (via car and ebike) over a seven week period pretty informative! Here’s what I learned during my e-bike dashes.

    Quick links:

    You’ll Deliver Shorter Distances with an E-Bike

    Before you sign in for a dash, you click on the type of vehicle used.

    selection - medium.jpg

    Knowing this, DoorDash will restrict the types of orders received. You won’t get orders with deliveries 8 miles away, as it’s just not practical to assign that delivery to someone on a bike. In this region, there are a couple of Restaurant Row-type areas just a couple of miles apart. By e-bike, I picked up orders in the same place as a car, but the deliveries were all closer.

    Over this period, here were my three longest deliveries, from assignment to delivery:

    Unfortunately for bikers, DoorDash’s updated algorithm rewards you for accepting longer driving distances. While that might be obvious, anecdotally I feel like those additional miles pay at a rate that makes the distance worth the effort. So if your e-bike orders have limited distances, you’re bound to get lower-paying orders.

    It Will Be More Dangerous

    I have a lot more experience navigating streets in a car vs. a bike. Although I wore a helmet, practiced safe habits, and improved my awareness over time, I was always one distracted driver away from a broken hip, or worse. I also ended my e-bike shifts at dusk. My efficiency and skills improved over time, but these key drawbacks remain.

    Related: How We Can Make Streets Safer for Bicyclists and Pedestrians with Matt Brezina

    Battery Life Limits Shift Length

    My e-bike battery, which we ensured was 100% charged before each shift, only had enough juice to allow me to bike about 3 hours. Although that’s enough time to participate in the full lunch rush, you can’t dash indefinitely like you can in a car. Furthermore, your phone won’t have the constant recharge while connected to your car. The battery decreases quickly when you have the Dasher app, Mapping app, and anything else going on.

    If you’re driving shorter distances, only during daylight, for periods limited by various battery lives, naturally…

    You’ll Earn Less

    Some additional challenges to delivering on an e-bike:

    • Orders are typically smaller at lunch because people often order only for themselves
    • Evening orders are more likely to include items for an entire family
    • Higher meal values tend to bring higher tips
    • No huge corporate orders
    • You’re not equipped to deliver 12 entrees supporting a corporate event
    • Those $25 payouts on corporate orders offset the usual $6-$8 routine
    • Shorter peak pay periods compared to dinner
    • The extra few bucks/order helps
    • Miserable in bad weather
    • Rain and cold are normally great dashing opportunities, not so great if you’re the one dashing out in the elements

    None of these individual factors are showstoppers, but together they present significant headwinds to your earnings maximization. After all was said and done, my earnings were as follows:

    If you’re earning $1.78 less per order and you’re trying to get two orders per hour, it’s significant. In addition to the reduction in earnings by using an e-bike vs a car, you’ll also find these cons (and one pro!).

    Dashing with an E-Bike is a Hassle

    While it’s nice to avoid parking challenges in busy areas, I find that I spend the same amount of time fiddling with all of my additional gear. When I’m on a bike, I need to:

    1. Find something to lock it to.
    2. Leave my enormous backpack next to the bike or lug it into the restaurant. (No ability to carry different-sized bags like you can in your car)
    3. Take off my helmet (optional!) and hang it off the handlebars
    4. Lock the bike
    5. Do the reverse when I exit the restaurant.

    Doubles as a Trip to the Gym

    This could be a pro or a con depending on how you look at it! I consistently had great workouts. Even on an e-bike, which has a motor to assist from 0-100% of the effort, I naturally pedaled nearly the whole time. A modest effort over 10-12 total miles is a great workout. In that respect, you’re multitasking.

    Drinks are an Added Stressor

    E-bike orders might excuse you from picking up large pizzas, but not fountain drinks. I had plenty of them within my Panda Express and Jack in the Box orders.

    Before I learned to trust my Dasher bag side pockets, I did this:

    drinks0 - medium.jpg

    I DO NOT RECOMMEND this tactic!

    I had excellent success placing 20oz and 32oz drinks in the side pockets of the DoorDash bike bags (15.75″W x 12.5″L x 19″D, $30 each at my local DD office). To my own surprise, I never spilled.

    drinks side - original.jpegdrinks - medium.jpg

    As you can see in the photo, I safely delivered all four drinks and both order bags from a Wingstop order.

    If Dashing With an E-Bike, You’ll Want These Items

    1. A phone clip. Similar to a window or dashboard clip in your car, you MUST use a handlebar clip. You absolutely do not want to fish your phone out of your pocket while you’re riding along a busy street.

    phone clip.jpg

    I don’t have any specific brands or styles to push, but something from Amazon here will do the trick.

    2. A towel. I keep one in my car, and it served me well on the bike. I use it to fill space in the surprisingly cavernous delivery bag. The goal is to reduce food movement inside.

    towel - medium.jpg

    In conclusion, I’m not giving up my Prius anytime soon. My comfort level is highest when I’m in the seat of my car. Of course, my experience may have been different in a more densely populated area. Also, if I was a more seasoned city biker, I might have fared better. Thankfully, there are others who prefer using a bike, and I shall cede the short orders into their care.

    Also, my technology story isn’t necessarily predicting DoorDash is going to encourage (or provide) bikes, Segways, mopeds or other type of alternate vehicle anytime soon. There are many different applications for this dashing technology.

    But dashing, and the activities of dashers, is going to evolve. All industries do. DoorDash didn’t exist in 2010. It’s America’s largest food delivery service in 2020. Our only guarantee for 2030 is that dashing will be very different. We should embrace the changes.   

    Until then, drive (and bike) safely!

    You can sign up to become a DoorDash deliverer here (via bike or car!).

    Would you deliver for DoorDash or another delivery company by bike? Are you comfortable enough on a bike in an urban environment where this would be worth it?

    -Dash @ RSG

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    Dash Bridges

    Dash Bridges

    Hey! I'm an independent contractor in Silicon Valley working Door Dash as a side hustle to my day job. I sincerely enjoy my work as a Dasher, but let there be no doubt, I am here to maximize earnings!