When thinking about typical cyclists, we think of people such as the death-defying cycle couriers “speeding through the night” on their heavily-customised racing bikes and urban-guerrilla-cyclist outfits or maybe, more recently, the fixie-riding Shoreditch kid. If you’re not sure what a ‘fixie’ is; it’s a type of bicycle with no gears and often no brakes where the pedals are ‘fixed’ and move round as soon as the bicycle is moving without being able to ‘freewheel’ – a terrifying experience going reasonably fast around a corner, I can assure you! We also think about the day-glo cyclists riding robust mountain bikes, seemingly more suited to downhill cycling in the Alps than waiting at traffic lights on Camden High street.
Although cycling a lot as a child, I’d not really considered using a bicycle in London, preferring to get the Tube and reading a good book while ignoring my fellow sub-terrainian travelers. While the tube is a good way to travel, it often means you know a few areas really well, with huge blank spaces between as you travel from one to another. You are also subject to the vagaries of the TfL system, often cramped, delayed and frustrated. Walking is another option but London is best explored in small chunks if you wish to take a more pedestrian approach. There’s also not much like rushing to a meeting in inappropriate shoes to get you flustered and hot by the time you collapse through the door, panting like a 100 meter finalist.
Often my experiences of bicycle shops have been your traditional local stores stocking racing bikes, hybrid bikes, some modern shopper types, mountain bikes, kids bikes etc along with a plethora of bright yellow outfits (vaguely reminiscent of a miner’s outfit), a full super-club worth of flashing LED lights and more ‘vented sports helmets’ than you could shake a bicycle pump at! When initially shopping for a bicycle, I guess I fell into the category of most of us where questions such as; what composite tyres I wanted, if I wanted hub-brakes or derailleur gears, if I wanted kevlar mudguards etc. Most of these questions left me a little dumbfounded and I have to admit I felt a bit like an idiot. Not to mention that my friends will attest that I really don’t do lycra! Well, not out on the roads anyway, maybe in a club in the 80’s.
This was when I started shopping for a ‘vintage’ bicycle. Swayed by programmes such as The Edible Garden, I had an image of myself in a flowing, printed dress cycling down the side of the canals of North London to my organic veg seller’s allotment and cycling back with a basket full of hand-picked fruit and veg, and maybe a copy of the Sunday papers too. I found a local store, found the bike I liked and ordered it. Simple! Except that six months later and more strange excuses than I’ve ever heard, my bicycle was still not here. Each week the same; going to the local bicycle shop filled with guys with dirty messenger bags and retro cycle racing t-shirts, feeling a bit stupid as I stood there waiting until they’d finished their conversation about paint-jobs and handlebars, then being disappointed all over again.
This was when I discovered Bobbin Bicycles. Last Tuesday I finally snapped and had enough. I cancelled my order with the previous company, and not about time, and went over to Bobbin’s boutique in Islington. Walking in, I noticed it didn’t smell of dirt and grease! Instead of the posters of men winning cycling races, there was gorgeous hand-stencilled walls, rococo mirrors, beautiful panniers and a whole host of lovely accessories – and I do love my accessories! Not to mention the selection of absolutely stunning bicycles! Within moments a friendly member of staff had come over and talked me through the various bikes and was looking after my bag as I pedaled around the nearby square on a bicycle that, quite frankly, put a huge smile on my face. It was just what I was looking for; vintage style, rear carrier, very substantial mudguards, vintage-style handlebars, big fitted lights and the most stunning deep metallic gold/brown paint! It was truly love at first sight! I told them I’d think about it, and left the shop as it already was 7pm; their closing time. Within seconds I’d walked back around the corner, rang the doorbell and told them I’d take it!
The next day came, and I excitedly went to the shop to select my horseriding-style helmet and basket and told that it’d be ready for me that afternoon. My cycle home that evening was one of the most pleasant trips I’ve ever done through London and each time I ride my ‘sit-up-and-beg’ Royal Dutch Gazelle Tour Populaire, I smile! It is truly a lovely experience and I’ve never felt more wide-awake, refreshed and relaxed as I arrive at the office with a feeling of self-sufficiency and freedom. Admittedly, my commute is along a canal and through a park, but as soon as you ride a vintage bicycle, you seem to look for ‘long-cuts’ and pick the pretty route, rather than the busy, fast route.
Bobbin Bicycles were set up in 2007 by directors Sian Emmison and Tom Morris and soon were doing such a roaring trade that they moved into their shop in Islington, “Britain’s first cycling boutique” As soon as I walked through the door, I knew it was my kind of place. Friendly staff, gorgeous bicycles and every cycling accessory to make your cycling experience just as glamourous and pleasant as I’d daydreamed. From waxed cotton capes, allowing you to wear your regular clothes while cycling in London’s occasional inclement weather to ‘bowler hat’ and ‘deer stalker’ helmets, reflective pom-poms to gorgeous cycling capes, baskets, helmets, reflective sashes, and even decorative plastic flowers; you can get everything you need to turn your drudging commute into a cycle-chic pleasure.
This post was written by a RWL Guest Blogger – Today’s post was written by Beth Anderson. The photos accompanying this post are by lipsticklori. For much prettier bikes, you can find Bobbin’s Bicycles online at www.bobbinsbicycles.co.uk or in their boutique at 397 St John Street, London, EC1V 4LD or give them a call on 020 7837 3370.