Robert Hanks: The Cycling Column

Bike shops need to cycle into the 21st century

Time was, all bike shops were more or less the same - dim places, floors crammed with drop-handlebar bikes, ceilings festooned with wheels and tyres, walls impregnated with a fug of tobacco, ageing rubber and WD40. The more commercially minded might have a couple of ladies' models tucked away in a corner, maybe a kid's bike or two.

They were run by scrotal-faced men who spoke an impenetrable argot, and whose moods swung between boredom and active contempt. Customers would emerge, blinking in the sunlight, with a sense of bruised puzzlement, and occasionally a bike they wanted.

The Darwinian rules of retail have inevitably pushed this species to the brink of extinction. But - physically and psychologically - these shops are recognisably the descendants of the old breed; even now, you get served by somebody whose principal aim is to let you know how much more they know about bikes than you do.

Velorution, in the West End of London, is different. As you walk in, you immediately notice how uncluttered it feels - the walls, instead of displaying panniers, brake-shoes and locks, have an exhibition of photographs of people cycling: nuns, skinheads, schoolgirls, people walking dogs and, in one case, carrying a kitchen table.

They were taken by Laura Domela in Amsterdam, and are part of a series of events taking place at Velorution under the rubric "A, B or C?" The question is, which great European cycling city is the best model for London - Amsterdam, Berlin or Copenhagen?

The next thing that strikes you is how different the bikes are from the usual racing bikes and hybrids. There is a preponderance of Dutch-style bikes, with hefty frames, sit-up-and-beg handlebars, and wide, generously sprung saddles.

This is a shop for the urban cyclist, and according to Andrea Casalotti, who runs it, "The philosophy is basically that the three main things that urban cyclists are looking for are comfort, reliability, and style."

These bikes are designed to be ridden in everyday clothes, and to keep going for months or years with minimal service. They are bikes to do a job: to get you to work, to get your children to school, to move goods.

Some of the machines - mostly imported from northern Europe - are eccentric: the Dutch Bakfiets, with its front wheel three feet in front of the handlebars, moved by an arrangement of rods; or the Danish Pedersen, with its saddle slung, hammock-style, between handlebars and seatpost.

But Casalotti is optimistic: "London has the potential to become a great cycling city... We are convinced that London will have 20 per cent trips made by bike in the next 10 years. There's no reason why it shouldn't happen." Hope he's right: roll on the velorution.

Velorution, 18 Great Titchfield Street, London W1 (020- 7870 9800)

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
The RBS Six Nations trophy at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Ireland vs England
rugby
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
music
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?