Brixton Cycles are one of Brixton’s longest running and most loved businesses, and a recent, much-appreciated addition to B£ pay-by-text businesses! We used to only be able to pay with paper notes there, but now the entire B£ team is bound to spend their salaries there… It started as a workers’ co-operative in 1983 on Coldharbour Lane, moved to a space in Stockwell in 2001, and just this week opened up their latest premises at 296-298 Brixton Road, by Loughborough Road. They also teamed up with Look Mum No Hands! to run a cafe, so even if you don’t have a bike to fix, pop in for a coffee!
During their immensely successful crowdfunding campaign which made staying in Brixton possible, B£ had a chat with Lincoln, the longest serving member of Brixton Cycles, to find out a bit more about him and the business and what’s going on there at the moment.
“26 years ago, by complete chance, I walked past one of the original Brixton Cycles members. I had met him before at the London to Brighton bike ride doing a repair spot. Unbeknown to me, they were looking for someone for the repair shop at Brixton Cycles. So it was only afterwards I found out that they had been talking about me being someone they should approach.”
“At the time I was a courier and I was getting a little bit burnt out. Back then, in the 80s, being a courier was really tough and stressful. I was getting a bit racked off with it and this seemed like a bit of an easier job, and also it was indoors. There’s nothing like being outdoors when it’s cold and raining. You can do one, but when it’s both, it’s just miserable. You couldn’t get any of that highly technical clothing you can now. It was all about having plastic bags inside of my shoes and so-called “waterproof” covers and jackets that didn’t actually work.”
“So here I am today, 26 years on, and it’s very different. In the sense that the people are different, the bikes are different, the cycling attitudes are different. It’s good seeing a complete change in that respect. But I also see people who I used to serve as kids – now coming to the shop all grown up, with their own kids, to get bikes!”
“Brixton itself has changed a lot as well. Back then Brixton always had this reputation of being a very dodgy area. People in the area thought: what are you talking about, it’s fine! But I guess from the outside it was a completely different view – which has now completely changed. It’s now very much “the place to be”, and it makes it harder for old businesses who have been here through all the hard times to survive, because the rents are so high. It’s scary. I keep hearing about old businesses that are getting a rent review coming up – and the biggest thing they fear is a rent review.”
“So we have to move, and the rent reality for us is that we are going to have to pay three times what we are paying now. And everything is taking so long! We are ready to take the next step in our story, but we just keep on getting held back by bureaucracy, that moving business, building, lawyer, paperwork, bureaucracy. It’s taking too long and it’s sucking the energy out of you – because we really want to put all of our drive and energy into a new space but every day is like another set back.” [Fortunately Brixton Cycles have finally re-opened in their new location as of beginning of March! – B£]
“I’m not against change or things getting revamped, but not to the extent where you get rid of things that made the area what it is. Bringing in people that just don’t get it. They come to an area that has a certain vibe, but what they don’t realize is that vibe is getting taken away and you are just left with nothing, which then becomes the norm. You need to integrate with what was there before, bring something to the table, rather than thinking, I’m too cool and I don’t have to be involved.”
“Eating in Brixton I’m a bit overwhelmed actually, because you just don’t know where to go – there is obviously quite a lot. I go into Brixton market and I feel like a stranger – and that’s odd, considering I lived here for most of my life, that it’s the same market I grew up in. I check it on the Friday or Saturday and I’m like, wow! I don’t even know 80% of the people here because of how popular it has got, and how the dynamics have changed. All these food places that are available now are quite interesting, but I do feel that I am just walking around looking at things and places I have never seen before.”
“I still cycle as much as I can as it’s a nice outlet. I go out on Sundays with the Brixton Cycles Club. What we try to instill there is to be courteous to other road users. You don’t want to be that club that is a bunch of dicks riding around with really inconsiderate cycling, particularly if it brings the whole of Brixton into disrepute. You will be cycling in Kent, Surrey, Sussex and the south coast, and you’ll have Brixton on your chest. The first thing you hear is “you cycled all the way from Brixton!” Some people will have a perception of where they think cyclists should cycle up to, they can’t comprehend you would cycle 50 miles. It’s actually an easy thing – not that I’m bragging.”
“I used to do a lot of music, I started off with vinyl, then I moved onto CDs, and recently I started using a controller and Serato. The very first record I bought was in Brixton around 1978, I was 11 or 12. There used to be a small record shop in the Reliance Arcade. Music is an important part of my life, but it’s not something I have to do all the time. Now I have two girls, and they can be quite testing, so it’s not about me all the time. It used be a lot more about cycling and records – now it’s a lot less music, but still the cycling.”
Brixton Cycles are open from Monday – Saturday every week in their new location on 296-298 Brixton Road, SW9 6AG. Get down to check out their new place, have a cuppa, and for any maintenance or cycling equipment that you need!
This post was researched and written by B£ volunteer Fabien Piesakowski-O’Neill.