Retail Network Roundup: London Bike Kitchen

Whether you’re a newcomer, commuter or a seasoned roadie, one thing every cyclist needs is a good LBS, or local bike shop. LCCs Retail Network brings together the best bike shops across London to give our members exclusive access to get great discounts on things like repairs, parts, and accessories. With over 120 shops to choose from, our Retail Network Roundup series was started as a way to help you find your favourite LBS and get to know some of the faces behind the workstands. 

London Bike Kitchen (LBK) is best described as a open DIY workshop/Do-It-Together education space. Their main aim is to empower anyone riding a bike to understand their steed, from brakes to ball bearings, and gain the skills and confidence needed to conduct repairs themselves rather than giving it to someone else. Specialising in bike education, classes, Drop in Do-it-together workshops, Women and Gender-variant  (WAG) nights, repairs and servicing (if getting greasy isn't your thing), they've quickly become a staple in the London cycling community.

We were very excited to welcome LBK to our Retail Network, and even more chuffed to get the opportunity to speak with Director and brain child of LBK, Jenni Gwiazdowski about the shops humble beginnings, what's coming up in 2018 and Jenni's top tip for those thinking of building their own bike.

How did London Bike Kitchen (LBK) get started? 

I had bought a 1960’s Claud Butler at a bike jumble in 2009 and wanted to build it up, but I had no idea how or where to do it. My new year’s resolution of 2011 was to build it up somehow. I started asking around and my flatmate asked me if we had a bike kitchen here. I was like, “WTF is a bike kitchen???” After researching and discovering that it was a DIY workshop, I was like, I want to set one up here in London, even though I could barely fix a puncture. It was a grant from TfL via LCC for £5k for tools that kickstarted everything. I then found a shopfront and the landlord liked the idea so much they gave us our first year’s rent for free. Without those two things, we would’ve never gotten started. 

BYOB (Build your own bike) with London Bike Kitchen!

We heard the bad news that LBK will have to find a new home soon. What’s the best way for people to get involved and show their support while you guys look for a new space? 

If you like what we do and want us to keep existing, USE US! Take a class, come to our drop-in Do-it-Together workshop, buy membership. We also sell merch: t-shirts, caps, and patches. Our pick-n-mix tool kits are on their way too! 

You also recently published your first book, How to Build a Bike. Firstly, congratulations! Secondly, what would you say is the biggest takeaway from the book for people thinking of or trying to build up their own bike? 

Ha! I’d say my number 1 tip is make peace with things going wrong. Building a second hand bike from scratch rarely goes right the first - or third - or even tenth - time around. 

Being a workshop, we imagine you get a whole host of questions on a daily basis. What's your best customer story or strangest repair question you’ve gotten in the shop? 

Hmm, I had to think about this one. The one that comes to mind is a woman came by the drop in workshop to see what we were all about. She had no idea that you could come in and work on your bike, get access to all our professional tools, enzymatic parts washer, and our brains. She was like “This is great, who started it?” I said I did. She looked confused and then said “But you’re a girl!” I was shocked - this was coming from another woman. We have a long way to go…

What's your favourite thing about cycling in London? 

Riding a bike makes the city a bit smaller. Everything is closer and you can see more. I do enjoy riding over bridges as well, and London’s got a fair few of those. 

How did you get into bikes/cycling? 

I mean, as a kid, it’s just what you did. I think we were on those little Hot Wheels plastic tricycles first, and then graduated to a Barbie bike with solid plastic tyres when I was 6 or 7. But I stopped when I got into middle school - it just wasn’t cool anymore. I got a bike at uni but it didn’t take hold. It wasn’t until I lived in Japan that I came back to the bike and it was a revelation. A 20 minute walk becomes a 5 minute bike ride, all on my own terms? Heck yeah! 

What tips would you give to anyone thinking about getting into cycling in London? 

Ride with a friend, make sure you get a decent set of lights, keep your tyres pumped, and make peace with getting wet. 

How do you feel cycling in London has changed in the last decade? 

The segregated lanes has made cycling around a lot more pleasurable. But I don’t think the attitude of drivers has changed much. 

You guys run a whole host of workshops and classes from Intro to Maintenance to Wheel Building to your bi-monthly Women and Gender-Variant (WAG) Nights. Is there anything coming up in the New Year that cycling folks should know about? 

We’re going to be doing more classes! Morning classes, 1:1 bespoke classes, hydraulic disc brakes, and advanced wheel building classes are all on the cards. WAGfest will return in the fall, our annual festival of bike culture, hosted by our Women and Gender-variant night

LBK's bi-monthly Women and Gender-Variant (WAG) night 

Where do you see LBK growing towards in the future? 

Well, hopefully we’ll find a new home in the next year. I’d like us to become an education hub. Internally I’d like us to move towards a worker co-operative structure. 

Everyone loves their LBS, but why do people in Hackney love London Bike Kitchen? 

We genuinely believe that the more you know about your bike, the more likely you are to ride it. We listen to you and your concerns, and then teach you how it all works! We provide a really cozy, personal experience. There’s nothing to hide here, we want you to love your bike as much as we do. 

 

Visit London Bike Kitchen

 

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