Situated in the bustling heart of London, in the beautiful area of Bloomsbury in Camden, Cloud 9 Cycles are an independent bicycle shop that pride themselves on building bespoke bikes using the highest quality, best value and most attractive components on the market. We spoke to Cloud 9 Cycles' co-founder, Adam Garrett, to find out how his business plays a crucial role in cultivating that #VillageLondon sense of community.
Tell us a little bit about what you do
We specialise in custom building bikes, whether that means hand-building the frame or taking the frame off the shelf and building the bike on to it. It's a way of getting a bespoke specific to your body and your needs. Some people are looking for comfortable sitting bikes, others are after fast racing bikes. It's like having a tailor made suit, you choose all your components to get the bike of your dreams. There's no compromise; we bespoke fit every part so that it's tailored to your body.
How did it all start?
It started in 2009 when my business partner Kris [Baran] and I couldn't find a decent place to have our bikes serviced. Everywhere we went was either too busy or the quality of service wasn't good enough. The solution was to set-up our own place to provide the service we felt the market was missing. What sets us apart from high street bike shops is the quality of our mechanics; there's nothing they haven't seen and we pride ourselves of having the best parts available to them. A lot of other bike shops will bodge stuff together just so it functions, but we service a part to its optimum. We prefer to diagnose the problem, walk the customer through the issue and let them know exactly what we plan to do and exactly how much it will cost.
What's your process?
In terms of building a bike we always want to talk to the customer first to establish exactly what their needs and wants are. Once we've figured that out we use our experience to design a bike perfect to their requirements. Our mechanics are second to none; we interview ten candidates a month but we've only ever had four employees. We want staff to suit our mentality and although there are a lot of people who know about bikes, there are very few who have the standards we set.
You can see it on the streets everyday in London that cycling is getting more and more popular. The increasing number of people that move to London is putting an undue strain on public transport which makes for a more miserable experience. Combine that with the cost of an Oyster card, roughly £180 a month, and this certainly makes cycling a very affordable and far more appealing mode of transport. It's also the quickest mode of transport through London. Additionally, if you are cycling five or six miles a day you don't need to worry about paying for a gym membership. All of those things combined means that we are always busy yet always make a point of having space for the next customer.
Why Bloomsbury, Camden?
We found a great street in the centre of London in an area where there are a lot of creative people, who tend to be very pro-cycling, which helps. In the last few years cycling has attracted a more affluent audience who understand value. Our bikes might initially be more expensive than one you buy off the shelf but year-on-year they are much better value. What's special about the area, what makes it so distinctive? Camden is a very cycling friendly borough and it encourages people to get on their bikes. The roads around here are lovely and there is loads to see; the British Museum is on our doorstep and I love all the blue heritage plaques that showcase all the wonderful characters that have lived here. Its a safe area too, but more than anything else we are incredibly lucky with our central location. Its about a 25 minute cycle from anywhere in London; if you put a pin in the middle of London you hit Store Street.
Are you hoping to bring a certain sense of your character to the area?
The whole of Store Street is all independent businesses. The Duke Of Bedford, bless him, made a push to bring independent shops back to London so a lot of landlords are not charging the market rate in order to help smaller businesses. They wanted to create an independent street that gave Bloomsbury character, so there are independent hair salons, art galleries, coffee shops, dry cleaners and music shops. As part of the lease you pay a marketing fee which goes to a great team who proactively promote Store Street. They run things like The Store Street Festival every year which brings a real village feel to the area; all the shopkeepers come together to make the street something we can all be proud of. We feel incredibly lucky to be part of The Bedford Estate which assists in giving Bloomsbury a unique sensibility in London.
How do you feel gentrification has impacted the local area?
Around where we are there are almost no residential areas. Less than ten percent of our customers are local residents and we certainly see a lot more office style customers in the shop. Attracting a more affluent demographic is obviously great for business. We are not a discounter and we are not in the market to make tons of money selling cheap items. We sell good quality equipment, which means there is a cost associated with it, but you are getting quality. Our little corner of Bloomsbury attracts a wonderfully diverse crowd though, and we are just happy to play a part in the unique vibe of the area.
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