Local bike shops: a vital part of the new normal

I Want to Ride My Bike shop and café in Cardiff
I Want to Ride My Bike, a café and workshop in Cardiff, has seen lots of demand from new cyclists
Local Bike Shop Day on 5 September is a chance to celebrate the role of neighbourhood cycle hubs in getting the nation pedalling

The bike boom during 2020 has been well documented. Even though it has been born out of difficult circumstances, the rise in cycling journeys and focus on active travel has been welcome – but if we are to make this new golden age of cycling continue, good local bike shops are vital. To celebrate these neighbourhood fonts of mechanical wisdom, Saturday 5 September has been designated Local Bike Shop Day.

The importance of bike shops in keeping Britain active during lockdown was recognised by the government, which gave them special dispensation to remain open as an essential service while most other shops and businesses were closed. As more and more people were encouraged to take up cycling by the empty roads and glorious spring weather, they realised that they needed help to get their neglected bikes back in running order.

“It’s no secret cycling is on the up, with data showing that cycling levels during lockdown rose by up to 300% on some days,” says Tabitha Walker, PR and marketing executive at the Association of Cycle Traders (ACT), the organisation behind Local Bike Shop Day. “This increased uptake in cycling combined with the government offering 50,000 Fix Your Bike vouchers as part of its Better Health campaign has certainly been reflected in the demand bike shops have seen over the last few months.

“All this is promising to see and shows that local bike shops are still valued additions to our local communities. Local Bike Shop Day was created to celebrate these businesses and spread the message further by helping the general public to recognise everything their local bike shop has to offer.”

Independent businesses have had a tough time in recent years, with internet shopping threatening their survival, and bike shops have been no exception. But bike shop owners we have spoken to say the increase in new and returning cyclists has highlighted the importance of having local expertise on tap. Arek Bartniczak kept his shop, Velo Times in Sale, Greater Manchester, open throughout lockdown. “We’ve been extremely busy,” he says. “Lots of people who had a bike that had been stored away made the decision to get it fixed up and start riding again.”

We've been extremely busy. Lots of people who had a bike that had been stored away made the decision to get it fixed up and start riding again

Arek Bartniczak, Velo Times bike shop, Sale

Velo Times started offering a basic free check-up, where people could bring their bikes in and he would explain what work needed to be done and why. “People really appreciate that,” Arek says. “It was a really good time to make contact with people and help to make them more knowledgeable and comfortable.”

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, echoes this view. “When I first worked in a bike shop as a teenager the range of products, services and bikes on offer was a fraction of what’s available now via online sales and the larger retailers,” he says. “While this suits some people, it can be daunting for those new to cycling, especially if you don’t know where to start when it comes to bike repairs or you’re thinking about cycling for the first time in many years. 

"That’s why local independent bike shops are so important, because they can provide a friendly and reassuring environment that gives novice and potential cyclists the confidence to ask questions and seek advice, and hopefully get and keep them riding.”

This year’s Local Bike Shop Day has two main themes: encouraging both children and adults to see cycling as a viable option as we return to school and to work; and to keep the nation cycling as we head into autumn. Both of these tie in with Cycling UK’s goals to support active travel as a natural choice for short journeys, and to get a million more people cycling.

Local independent bike shops are so important, because they can provide a friendly and reassuring environment that gives novice and potential cyclists the confidence to ask questions and seek advice, and hopefully get and keep them riding

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns, Cycling UK

We have asked Cycling UK staff around the country to nominate their favourite local shops: see some of their choices in the sidebar. One of these, I Want to Ride My Bike, in Cardiff, is a former winner of our Cyclist Café of the Year award.

Although the café and workshop had to close during lockdown, the owner, Jonathan Wright, found that there was increasing demand for repairs and spare parts from new cyclists as well as those getting back on their bikes. “We even had quite a few bikes coming in that had been bought and then left in a shed or garden and never been ridden – some of them hadn’t ever been built properly, so we were able to get them set up and ready for use,” Jonathan says. “Having that advice aspect is very useful to raise people’s confidence.”

“New permanent and pop-up cycle lanes have appeared all round Cardiff, and people have realised that they don’t need to drive.”

To support Local Bike Shop Day, find your nearest participating shop using the interactive map on the website and make sure to pay them a visit this Saturday. If your local shop is not on the list, support them anyway and suggest they join the initiative next year. Take a photo or write about what your shop brings to your community, and share it on social media using the hashtag #SupportYourLocalBikeShop.

Top of the shops

We asked Cycling UK staff around the country to name their favourite local bike shops. Here are a few of their top picks:

Belhaven Bikes, Dunbar: "They are continuing the Big Bike Revival for Key Workers scheme over the next couple of weeks to fit everyone in who requested a service, as well as loaning out a free bike to a key worker who himself has had a stroke.  He’s using it to build up his fitness again whilst he waits for a bike he’s ordered to arrive." – Angie Kinghorn

Berkshire Cycles, Crowthorne: "A high-street fixture for decades, it offers friendly, speedy and efficient service even at busy times, and great value for money." – Rob Kingston

Bicycle Coffee Shop, Belfast: "For those that love their bespoke, custom-built bicycles, suave componentry and accessories, it's hard to beat." – Joshua Murray

Bicycle Links, Norwich: "A great social enterprise offering used cycles, friendly affordable repairs, as well as collaborating on a project to help refugees fix and ride bikes to help them assimilate into Norwich life." – Andrea Auburn

Bikes of Inverness, Inverness: "Opened in 1988, it is the longest standing bike shop in Inverness. It's owned and run by three friends who are passionate and extremely knowledgeable about cycling. All the staff are friendly and helpful and have worked closely with some of our more vulnerable WheelNess participants over the last couple of years. The guys in the workshop seem to be able to fix anything and I have seen them customise bikes and trikes for a range of customer requirements. They love a good bit of problem solving!" – Fiona Johnston

The Bike Warehouse, Faversham: "The Bike Warehouse has stores in Faversham, Gillingham, Herne Bay and Sevenoaks and you are always guaranteed a friendly welcome, whether you’re a beginner, a committed road cyclist, a commuter or off-roader. The staff are really helpful and I love the bargain bucket you can sometimes find where I’ve picked up cheap saddles in the past. A wealth of knowledge, selection of bikes, components and accessories. Everything a local bike shop should be." – Adrian Wills

Chevin Cycles, Otley: "Paul is a great bloke! He is well known in the local community, really knows his stuff and is always more than happy to answer all your questions. If you are looking for honesty and an excellent service, I can highly recommend Chevin Cycles." – Zoe Westerman

The Commute Café & Workshop, Ilkley: "Gav and his team are incredibly warm and caring, the shop has a very friendly and non-judgemental atmosphere, with a personal approach and friendly honest advice." – Zoe Westerman

Cyclopaedia, Cardiff: "Not having a car, it’s really important to me that my bike shop is within walking distance for those times when the bike is too broken to ride!  Luckily for me Cyclopedia is that bike shop, they really know their stuff and in ordinary times can turn around servicing and repairs in a day or so.  With Covid-19, as with all bike shops in Cardiff they’ve been extraordinarily busy but have still managed to keep their customers happy." – Gwenda Owen

I Want to Ride My Bike, Cardiff: A former Cycling UK Cyclist Café of the Year, it offers great food and drink and has an increasingly busy workshop too.

Ken Foster's Cycle Logic, Manchester: "This family-run business has spanned three generations and recently celebrated its 65th anniversary. It claims to be ‘A real bike shop run by cyclists for cyclists’ and it's exactly that. They have a real community focus and are always keen to get on board with Cycling UK initiatives such as Big Bike Revival." – Ellen Holmes

Mike's Bikes, Haddington: "Mike gave away a couple of bikes to key-workers through a Facebook competition before we’d got the Cycling UK BBRKW fund up and running. Always going over and above the call of duty to assist folks in and around town." – Angie Kinghorn

Northwest Mountain Bike Centre, Manchester: "A specialist mountain bike and off-road shop based in Cheadle. Experienced and knowledgeable staff are always on hand, and the shop's good reputation brings in mountain bikers from all over Greater Manchester and the North West, meaning it’s always bustling." – Ellen Holmes

OrangeFox Bikes, Muir of Ord: "It is run by Mark Goodwill and he’s ace! A great example of an independent bike shop." – Fiona Johnston

Podium4Sport, Belfast: "Great for catering for the needs of all types of cyclists, and specialising in the Cycle to Work schemes." – Joshua Murray

Velo Times, Sale: "A small local shop offering bike sales, repairs and bike hire. Run by friendly couple Arek and Sarah who both have years of experience in the world of cycling. Did a lot of good work with Cycling UK's BBR for Key Workers programme during lockdown." – Ellen Holmes