Tucked away a stone’s throw from the Regent’s Canal, London inside a polished new building, all exposed metal and glass, is hidden one of the most interesting cycle businesses to launch in recent years.
Cycle Systems Academy is the brainchild of Sean and Julia Lally, who in 2007 realised there was an opportunity for a mobile cycle mechanic outfit to service the needs of large organisations. It quickly became popular. The original trailer, buckling under the strain of carting so many tools around the Capital, was soon replaced by a fleet of branded freight bikes, and now many of London’s Borough Councils employ their speedy on-site services. They’re also responsible for maintaining the City Police, London Ambulance Service and St John’s Ambulance bicycle fleets.
From humble beginnings the business continues to grow, and in the past year the company has spawned a purpose built cycle maintenance training facility. We’re greeted by Sean. He’s tall, skinny and very enthusiastic. He’s keen to show us around, and what we see is nothing short of impressive.
Housed on the lower ground level of a glass-fronted office building is a gleaming modern fitted 2000 square foot state-of-the-art training centre packed to the ceilings with a complete collection of bicycle tools. There are 10 workbenches, the surfaces of which are immaculately clean. There are bicycles everywhere, ranging from mountain bikes and road bikes to folding bikes and BMX’s.
On our visit the place is bustling with students halfway through Cycle Systems’ 10-day intensive training course, some busy attending to bicycles, others truing wheels; a headset is being serviced in the far corner. There’s a relaxed and enthusiastic atmosphere, with everyone highly motivated.
They’re all here for one thing though: to learn the craft of bicycle maintenance. Sean takes us through the various steps of the 10-day course, and we don’t fail to be impressed with just how comprehensive it is. Everything from the very basic maintenance issues to the far more complex are covered in immense detail, and to ensure the students get a solid grounding in the fundamentals of repairing and maintaining bicycles of all shapes and sizes, they learn such things as how to service geared hubs.
We leave with an impression of a highly professional service. It’s not hard to see how this course is proving so popular with people from a diverse array of backgrounds. There’s a shared positive attitude, a sense of enthusiasm that, armed with these new skills, they can carve a new career for themselves. One student tells us how he plans to move to Cambridge and set up his own cycle maintenance business, while another plans to put his skills to use on an epic four-year round the world cycle trip. There’s no end to the students’ imaginations. It’s inspiring stuff.
Don’t think you need to be in the cycle trade to participate in a course; you don’t. It’s open to anybody who either wants to simply know better how to maintain their bike or for those seeking to step into the growing bicycle maintenance sector. There are different courses on offer, to suit different requirements. From a one-day basic maintenance course via a two-day wheel building course to the full-blown 10-day intensive course. It’s impressive stuff, and not hard to see why it’s proving so popular. I’m even tempted to get myself signed up to sharpen up my skills!