Updated: Jan 22
Handlebars is a brand new start-up in the bicycle industry which has kickstarted life in the heart of London. We are a small team made up of keen cyclists, mechanics and environmentalists who want to play a part in the shift towards more sustainable travel. We’re doing this by taking under-used urban space and transforming it into convenient places for bicycle repair.
Who is Handlebars for?
We see the Handlebars mission as enormously valuable on many fronts...
For cyclists, we’re providing convenience. ‘Customers want convenience’ is a mantra we’re drilling into ourselves and it’s something we’re building in to every part of our customer journey - starting from choosing locations where cyclists need repairs the most, all the way through to giving Brompton loan bikes so people can get on with their day, providing same-day services & offering a simple online booking experience.
For landowners, we’re helping to create value from space that is either empty or under-used and providing a differentiating service for existing tenants. This idea of making use of ‘meanwhile space’ is one which is catching on with property developers, helped by some successful examples abroad like Les Grands Voisins in Paris which took a former hospital site and transformed it into a makeshift football pitch, boules court, housing allotments, a hostel providing 600 beds for the homeless, artisan studios, pop-up shops and startups. Whilst we are much smaller than that - we’re still excited to be able to demonstrate to landowners that the space they thought would sit empty or too costly to redevelop can be repurposed into something useful.
This also explains why we see our efforts as extremely important for cities. In one study, it was found that 24,400 commercial properties in London are currently empty, with around half having been unused for more than two years! We love the idea that whilst that space is in between its next use, it can be repurposed to support cycling and sustainable travel.
So - we’ve started unlocking all kinds of different spaces. Take a peak at what we’ve done at our first two sites…
The Bank Vault
We have inhabited an unbeknownst secret spot close to one of the most densely populated areas of workers - Monument station. Our workshop is tucked away in an old bank vault where we’re perfectly placed for anyone working nearby. From the landowner’s perspective this transformation is great as the space was sitting vacant and it’s a unique service to be able to offer city workers. For cyclists, it’s incredibly handy - with the only other bicycle repair shops nearby being large chains with long wait times!
The Parking Space Filler
Our second site is one we’re particularly excited about and is going live on Wednesday 27th November! We spent a long time thinking about how much parking there is across the UK & wondering how that land could be used to support other modes of travel (like cycling). Eventually we settled on the idea that we could transform a single parking space into an entire bicycle workshop. We visited ProBikeService & met founder Lawrence Mohammed who had a tonne of advice to offer on this - having setup his own bicycle-repair social enterprise which runs entirely out of a shipping container in Stratford.
We found a talented fit-out company, Out of Order Design, who loved the vision of a mobile workshop and started designing it straight away. Our first ‘pod’ is now in situ - in the grounds of a forward-thinking Church in Shoreditch who offer space to start-ups as a way of generating money to support the community & church.
As part of embedding the new Handlebars location into the area, we’re also now running a graphic design competition for the front of our pod. We want to extend this offer out to all local artists, students & residents as we’d love for our little pod to be something the community is proud to have in its midst. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org for details on how to enter!
Come say hello!
We’d love to see your faces (and bicycles!) at one of the Handlebars workshops. If you need some repair work, just head over to our website to book yourself in. Use the code BLOG25 to get 25% off!
We’re also planning some exclusive events so we can start to get to know our local cyclists, show them our workshop & introduce them to our talented mechanics - watch this space for more details!