It’s not easy to start something new. Particularly something that doesn’t come naturally to you. It takes discipline. Courage. Determination. Commitment.
And, if you happen to co-own a bike shop, and the new thing you’re starting is cycling regularly, it takes a good dollop of humble pie, too. Because who ever heard of a bike shop owner that didn’t ride a bike?
Some months ago, Pete did a talk on bike safety and maintenance at our local WI. Now, before you start picturing a load of silver haired ladies staring blankly at the nice young man showing them how to change a tyre, let me point out that the demographic of the Nunhead WI isn’t quite that traditional. Much of the Nunhead branch, from what I understand, is made up of 25-40 year old professionals/mothers/creatives, or any combination thereof. Women like me.
It was after this talk that Pete received the shop feedback of which I am most proud. I paraphrase, but a member told him that she loved Rat Race because she never felt patronised or embarrassed there. That she was treated no differently to any other customer, and was never sneered at or assumed to be stupid.
One important thing we do at Rat Race Cycles is hand-build wheels. In fact, we’re about to launch a specialised wheel building service – Owen Wheels – at this year’s BESPOKED – The UK Handmade Bicycle Show.
There’s no dark art to wheel building, but to consistently build strong, durable wheels requires knowledge, skill and practice. There are many reasons to choose hand-built wheels over branded wheels like Mavic, Shimano or Fulcrum. I’ll try and outline the key ones:
If you’ve been in the Nunhead area over the Christmas break, you’ll have noticed that we’ve been making a few changes to the shop. Sure, we’ve reorganised things a bit, added in some more lights and had a tidy up and given the walls a lick of paint, but none of those is the big change. The major change is that we have stopped selling bikes.
That’s right – we are now a bike shop that doesn’t sell bikes.
Sounds crazy, right? Well, yes and no.
Think of a massive online retailer and chances are you think of a logo; a letter, a colour scheme, a design.
Think of a small shop on your high street and you probably think of a face. The owner. The person who took a deep breath, stepped out and turned their passion – their dream – into their life’s work.
Every year, more stories surface about huge multinationals exploiting yet another loophole to skip out on tax in the UK. And yet, every year, (often despite our best intentions) we throw our hard earned money at them as Christmas descends, resorting to the easiest, the cheapest, the most obvious, over-advertised option. And every year we wonder why shops are closing on the high street, why people are going out of business, why our towns and villages are becoming soulless miniature carbon copies of huge, out-of-town shopping malls.
Well, here’s a chance to shop a bit differently. This Saturday 5 December is Small Business Saturday, and a chance to get down to your local high street and support those people trying to make their dreams pay their bills.