In the bleak midwinter

List of suggested food bank donations

It feels like – with nowhere else to go – we’ve all been physically present in our communities
more than ever this year, and yet it’s still so easy to miss what’s right on our doorstep. Far
from being the most wonderful time of the year, many people in our community are finding
it hard just to feed themselves or their families, never mind buy Christmas presents or
decorations.

This month, we wanted to help lift up two amazing local charities and bring them to your
attention. Firstly, the wonderful people behind the Tenants and Residents Association of
Nunhead’s Rye Hill Park Estate, who have been running a food bank throughout lockdown.
Demand for it has only increased as the months have passed, and as volunteers they have
struggled to keep up. When we asked how we could best help them, it turned out that they
were in need of somewhere that was open longer hours where people could drop off
donations, as currently they’ve only been able to collect for a few hours a week.

So, starting right away, whenever the shop is open, you can drop donations in with us.
We’ve got a poster on our window showing the kind of things they most need, and you can
get more details on their insta too – @ryehilltra.

But if you find it hard to get here or just want to help in a different way, they also need
financial support. If you’d like to support them in this way you too can do so via their
JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ryehilltra.

We’ll be giving them 5% of all our takings this December.

If neither of these things are within your means, but you’ve got something else to give
(time, skills) and want to help, you can find them online or on socials at @RyeHillTRA.

We’ll also be giving 5% to another local charity; watch this space for more details.

We’re staying open this time round too!

Snapshot of the November 2020 Public Health England legal document

As England enters a second lockdown, we’re very thankful that once again bike shops have been recognised as providing an essential service. We’ve been honoured to keep so many people riding during the summer, and to help get new some new riders up and running too. We love making people’s bikes run as reliably as possible so we’re very happy we can continue to do so.

We’re going to keep our current opening hours for now, although we’d appreciate hearing from you if you’d like us to change. That means we’re open:

  • Monday: 08:00 – 18:00
  • Tuesday: 08:00 – 18:00
  • Wednesday: 10:00 – 18:00
  • Thursday: 08:00 – 18:00
  • Friday: 08:00 – 18:00
  • Saturday: 09:00 – 17:00
  • Sunday: closed

…and we’ll still be encouraging people with small jobs like punctures and replacing brake pads to come down first thing any morning except Wednesday to take advantage of our unbooked walk-in service. It’s first-come first-served so it’s often a good idea to get here as early as you can. We focus on doing the more major pre-booked services later in the day but will still try and fit in small jobs if we can.

And we’re still not allowing customers into the shop, sorry. This is to make sure we can keep you and ourselves safe and maintain social distancing – we’ve got a big awning out the front so you should be able to find shelter if you need to!

We’re really grateful to our customers for their patience and understanding and we hope to keep as many of you running smoothly and enjoyably as we can through the winter!

£50 of free money?

Header image of EST voucher page

On Friday the Government rolled out the “Fix Your Bike Voucher Scheme” and its website promptly crashed several times over the following day(s) under the demand.

Full details are via https://www.gov.uk/guidance/fix-your-bike-voucher-scheme-apply-for-a-voucher and / or https://fixyourbikevoucherscheme.est.org.uk/ but, in short, the scheme is aimed at helping people afford to get a bike back in working order and it grants a voucher worth £50 towards getting this done at a local bike shop.

We’re happy to be part of this scheme, and voucher-based enquiries are coming in thick and fast, so this post aims to answer a few questions:

Vouchers are valid for repairs to get a bike back on the road only. Vouchers can’t be spent upgrading parts that don’t need replacing, and they’re only for jobs involving labour to replace the parts.

Vouchers are valid for adult and children’s bikes; electric-assist bikes are eligible but only if they’re road legal (i.e. not home-built or modified).

Vouchers can’t be claimed on work that’s been carried out in the past.

Vouchers can’t be part-refunded or exchanged if the job costs less than the full amount of the voucher.

Vouchers are valid for 60 days from the date they’re issued.

We can’t give other discounts on jobs with vouchers allocated.

When we take the bike in, we need to see:

– a valid voucher code

– a photo ID: driving licence, passport or residence permit

– a recent (last months) proof of address: utility or council tax bill, mortgage statement, benefit book or council / housing association rent card

The voucher is valid for a specific bike; we have to submit a photo to prove that’s the bike we’ve worked on when we redeem the voucher.

Only one voucher per job.

Only a maximum of two vouchers per household.

We need to collect, and keep, details of the customer’s name, phone number, email address and address. The customer needs to approve this, because GDPR.

The first wave of vouchers have all been granted, so if you already have a voucher you’ve got 60 days from the date of voucher issue to book a bike in. As I type, our workshop diary’s pretty much full up to the second week in September, but that still gives plenty of time to book in. Or, of course, we’ll accept vouchers if you’re using our walk-in service first thing in the morning for smaller jobs (a new pair of tyres can easily cost over £50!).

Keep an eye out on the website(s) at the top of this post for announcements about further waves of vouchers being released if you were unlucky this time.

Time for a meeting

These are exciting and busy times at Rat Race Cycles – we’re doing all we can to keep as many people rolling as possible, and it’s been great to see so many new cyclists as well as many familiar faces.

We’ve taken on a couple of new team members – hi Alex and Joe! – in the last month too, and as our team grows it’s getting all the more important to make sure we’re working well together and keeping the shop standards high.

Busy workshops get grubbier and more disorganised quicker, and we all need some time to learn and to make sure we keep improving. So we’re going to be changing our opening hours again: we’ll open at 10am on Wednesdays instead of the current 8, to give us time to have a team meeting, to do some training and also to have a bit of a deeper clean.

We’ll be in the shop, but we’ll be closed, so we won’t be running the walk-in service on Wednesday mornings. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this causes – we chose Wednesday because it’s been our quietest day on average for walk-ins so we hope this will affect the fewest people.

For people who have bikes booked in on Wednesdays we’ll be encouraging them to drop bikes off the night before or after 10am; we’ll try and notify everyone who’s already booked in over the next few weeks and make things work for them.

One of the things we’ve been discussing is extending our opening hours, now we have more staff to cover this, so watch this space for a further update! Thanks for your understanding.

Stocktaking

We’re going to be closed on Thursday 11th June, for a much-needed (and slightly overdue) stock take. This means we won’t be able to answer any enquiries at the door or on the phone, though you can still email us with enquiries or to book bikes in.

Sorry for any inconvenience this causes! Business will continue as normal from 8am on Friday 12th.

Time out

What a weekend for a bank holiday. Especially one on lockdown. On any normal May Day bank holiday weekend with weather like this, we’d be planning rides, adventures, social events or visits to family. There’d be group rides, races, audaxes and sportives to join, and parks and pubs would be full of families and friends meeting up.

But not this year. We’re still in lockdown, still required to keep our distance from each other and still being asked to do whatever we can to minimise transmission of the coronavirus.

So many of us have been finding these last few weeks tough. And we’re no exception.

It’s been unbelievably busy at the shop. It’s a lovely problem to have – we’re proud of keeping so many returning, new and regular cyclists rolling – and first and foremost we want to thank you all for your continued support and understanding as we try to make things as safe as we can for ourselves and for you all. But, if we’re honest, it has been pretty full-on juggling the increased demand with the new ways of working.

So, this weekend, we’re closing the shop. The team have also been incredibly supportive of Rat Race these last few weeks, working hard and long hours, (and we’ve all managed most of it in brilliant good humour, amazingly!) and frankly we all need some time out.

So, we’ll be closed on Friday 08, and Saturday 09 May.

Thanks again to all of you. We’ll see you bright and early on Monday. With our brand new opening hours… (watch this space for details of those coming right up!)

And remember – even if you haven’t got a turbo, you are still allowed to ride. We’re going to be trying to get out into the real world, for sure – just look at this weather! Please remember, though, if you do decide to head out, make sure you go solo and follow British Cycling’s guidance for riding during lockdown: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/about/article/20200319-about-bc-news-Coronavirus-Covid-19-FAQs-0

Stay safe.

The beauty of hand built

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:

Changing gear at Rat Race Cycles

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.

Small Business Saturday

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.