Retail Network Roundup: London Green Cycles
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 repairs, parts, accessories and more! 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 work stands.
Known as the cargo bike specialists, London Green Cycles offers the widest selection of family, box and cargo bikes in the UK. While you might not find their clientell clocking laps around the Outer Circle after a visit to their shop in Chester Court, their passion and knowledge for cargo bikes means they're the perfect place to help you make informed decisions about which bike will best suit your needs.
We were able to catch up with Roman, the founder of London Green Cycles to discuss the changing landscape of cycling in London, tips on getting started in the world of cargo bikes and their recent partnership announcement with TfL to promote the use of e-bikes across the city.
How did London Green Cycles get started?
When we first started in May 2013, our office was in the kitchen and workshop in the yard of Chandra’s house. Both of us were incredibly ambitious and enthusiastic. We really embraced the novelty element that surrounded cargo bikes at the time.
For people who might be a bit nervous about using cargo bikes for transporting goods (or humans) versus using a car, what advice or tips would you give them to get them pedalling?
Test ride a cargo bike. Even if you don’t need one. There is so many reasons why you should. Fun is one of them. If you are looking to buy one and hesitate for whatever reason try to hire one out. One week should be enough to answer most of your questions. We have 10 hire bikes of decent variety available. We encourage people to hire their chosen model for a longer period to try within the context of the intended use.
Cargo bikes are as safe as it can be in the current environment. Could it be safer? Absolutely! Customers can testify however how much space other road users give them because they are unusual, larger, slower and often carry children on board. Drivers respond differently to them. Thumb up or a smile are a common response.
All cargo bikes have seatbelts adapted to the age group of children on board. Cargo bikes are used all over the world by tens of thousands of people and some bikes built 30 years ago are still on the road. It’s a testimony to their build quality. These bikes might be a novelty here in UK but are well tried and tested vehicles elsewhere. We provide training and advice and are always happy to help out however we can.
What's your best customer story or strangest repair question you’ve gotten in the shop?
Not sure which is the best one. I’ve dealt with lots of unusual requests over the years. The least we can do is to make it happen. I’ve built one custom box for a dog that was too overweight to walk. The box had a side opening for easy entry and a hole cut in the lid for its head. The result looked a bit like a toilet seat but looked great with the dog inside. The bike was branded “Slow + Sure”.
How did you get into bikes/cycling?
I replied to a bicycle mechanic job advert in local newspaper back in 1999. Soon after I started my work in 1st and only bike courier company in my city. Riding from early morning and fixing bikes till late in the afternoon. I loved it!
What's your favourite thing about cycling in London?
Freedom and independence. That is a true luxury in London.
What tips would you give to anyone thinking about getting into cycling in London?
Do not hesitate. London is a better city from a bike’s perspective. If it seems too scary, find yourself someone to ride with at first or do an adult bikeability course to boost your confidence initially. Start with a safer route avoiding big junctions and busy roads. You can shorten the route later when you feel more comfortable in the traffic.
How do you feel cycling in London has changed over the last decade?
Ironically I feel that it used to be safer in some ways. Drivers struggle to accept newcomers onto their roads and adjust to changes in the infrastructure. Sadly there is a lot of aggression on both sides at the moment, but I believe this is just a necessary transition period. I am optimistic about cycling in London.
The numbers have obviously increased dramatically which is important step forward. Now we are in the medium stage when there is the demand for cycling infrastructure but it takes time for such change to realise on a full scale. Some amazing good quality infrastructure has been built, a successful bicycle sharing scheme and I think we finally see a bit more diversity in people cycling. More families and women. Lots, lots more to do, though.
You recently announced that you’re working with TfL to promote the use of e-bikes in London. How do you think the future of cycling in London will be impacted by the use of e-bikes?
This is yet another great opportunity for cycling to be more inclusive. We regret that unlike other cities around the world, no incentives (from the government) are being offered to help people with the purchase cost. There is already such a scheme for electric cars but E-bikes are excluded. Given the potential of e-bikes in terms of relieving London’s traffic we don’t understand why they are not included in the whole EV raft of recently announced measures.
However, we shouldn’t forget that the infrastructure is still the key to unlock the full potential of cycling in the city.
Also, I know the scheme is still quite new, but how do you feel the initial response has been?
So far rather quiet, but weather is the best promoter of cycling, so it should improve soon. Hopefully this is just a very humble start as TFL can do so much more.
How important is it for cyclists to support their LBS and how do you think the future will look like in London for independent mechanics/retailers in the cycling industry?
I think it is very important. People sometimes forget that they actually like that bike shop they pass every day. They should pop in more often and recommend the place to their friends if they like the shop. That is the single most effective support other than spending their £.
Two nearby bike shops have closed recently, one of them was there for decades, I find it very sad as I knew owners of both places.
That said I think that there will be plenty of new bike shops opening, hopefully independent and greater variety.
Do you run any workshops or events that our readers should know about?
Of course, usually over the summer months. We focus on cargobike specific repairs and we teach customers how to work on their own bikes. We also hold Show & Share sessions whereby the cargobike community can organise themselves and ask us to come along and we answer all their questions about the cargobike lifestyle and give practical advice.
Everyone loves their LBS, but why do people in Camden love London Green Cycles?
When it comes to our products we genuinely know what we are talking about. We are an eclectic team, and we all bring to the table a wide range of skills. The cycling industry is a tough one to be in, the reason we’re still in the cargobike business is that it’s ever changing.
Our customer base is probably not representative of a regular bicycle shop but we want to make anyone walking through our door feel welcome. Most of our customers come a long way to visit us and keep coming back for as long as they have their bike.
We love cycling and our customers love cycling so all relations start from that point. Everything else is secondary.