Illustration by Tasha Whittle.
The darker mornings and wetter evenings have already started driving the fair-weather riders away from the cycle lanes, but those of us who keep chugging on have our reasons to persevere in spite of the weather. After all, just because it’s getting colder it doesn’t mean the thought of getting on the tube every morning is any more tempting, is it? Tom Morris and Sian Emmison, the owners of eclectic Islington cycling outlet Bobbin Bicycles, certainly don’t think so. Saturday 16th October saw the opening of their brand new bicycle workshop, just around the corner of the shop claiming to be ‘The most beautiful bicycle shop in Britain’. Like the shop itself, the workshop specialises in upright town bikes, vintage rides and bicycles with hub gears and back-pedal brakes – all of which can be difficult to get serviced in a standard bike shop.
Illustration by Carla Bromhead.
‘Now, anyone with a Dutch, Pashley or vintage bike can come to us to get repairs done, be it changing a wheel, a handlebar or something more oily,’ a very busy Tom Morris told me on Saturday afternoon. Cosmetic touches, along with a few practical ones, were still missing from the space as Tom welcomed the first customers on Saturday, but that didn’t stop him from getting his hands dirty as one customer after another came knocking. Parked up the road was my own bike, fresh from its annual check-up, a service also offered at the Bobbin workshop. While it costs money, it’s worth doing as it prevents problems in the long run – for example my chain needed changing, the mechanic pointed out, saving me from a snapped chain in the road in a month or two.
Servicing an upright bike is no more expensive nor complicated than a hybrid or a road bike, assured Tom, but it requires certain skills and tools. His employees Alexis and Laura are both trained bike mechanics, having been asked personally by Tom and Sian to come work at Bobbin. Laura has just finished a bike mechanics course where she took a specific interest in town bikes, while Alexis has five years of experience fixing bikes in Oxford and Amsterdam. ‘You keep learning new things. It’s enjoyable work, and there is obviously increasing demand,’ said Alexis, as he checked in a black Pashley with a flat tyre and broken gear shifter.
Illustration by Genie Espinosa.
The workshop will also be selling kit for what Tom calls ‘bike pimping’: cosmetic changes such as a new saddle, cream tyres, a carrying basket or colourful bike components. But the Bobbin workshop isn’t just for town bikes and other old-school models; ‘We will offer the same friendly service to any cyclist who comes our way,’ assures Tom. Once the workshop is properly up and running, Tom plans to hold classes in bike maintenance, ‘hopefully before Christmas’. I might sign up to one of these myself, as next time I get a flat tyre I’d like to be able to deal with it. Nothing knocks the feeling of independence out of cycling quite like hearing that thud-thud-thud of a flat, but I think mastering a tyre lever might go a long way to remedy this.
In the meantime I have my winter cycling gear ready. Rule number one is the mud guards, closely followed by lights with fresh batteries. A pocket-size rain cover now has a permanent place in my bag, and I have also splurged on a pair of padded, waterproof gloves. A proper pair of winter gloves are pricey, but vital to any semblance of comfort in the cold. Last winter a week of sleet forced the purchase of a cheap pair of waterproof trousers, which look ridiculous but are a life-saver when it’s pouring down and I have to cycle home from work. Lastly, a reflective vest undeniably makes you look like a geek, but you may want to consider one you commute in traffic. So as the fair-weather cyclists hang up their helmets in favour of the buses and trains, the cycle lanes are left to the hard-cores, or should I say freaks, determined to stick to two wheels through the winter. The tube might be warm, but we get to arrive at work bright-eyed and bushy-tailed from full exposure to the elements of the crisp London winter.
- An interview with Bobbin Bicycles.
- Two wheels good: London’s Borisbike cycle hire scheme proves its worth
- Boris Turning Back Time Through Pedal Power
- London Fashion Week: Wheels & Heels
- I want to ride my bicycle