There’s been a bike shop on the corner of New Cavendish and Hanson Street, in central London, for more than 20 years. Fitzrovia Bicycles is the archetypal LBS: an independent, friendly shop whose stock in trade is offering what locals need to get them to the office as well as a few eclectic delicacies for those after something special.
Bobbins and Bromptons sit cheek by jowl with bikes from Van Nicholas and De Rosa, and as BikeRadar turned up a courier was having a mechanical seen to before his next job, while co-owner Tom Hipwell was flat out with the post-work crowd coming in to pick up repair jobs.
We stood by and admired the eclectic collection of hardware, from the finely detailed steel Woodrup frames the shop has had specially made to the rare and outrageous Dave Lloyd Softride on display.
Finally, as the rush ebbed back into London, Hipwell, with oil-stained hands from a day mucking in, was free for a moment.
“We took over coming up for two-and-a-half years ago now, after having worked together somewhere else,” he said, explaining how three owners came to manage the shop. “It’s a nice bunch of people around here and customers are quite loyal to local businesses.”
Hipwell at Fitzrovia Bicycles, London
As is the case in bike shops all over the UK capital, the fixed wave finally appears to have broken and rolled back. Hipwell reports that custom building is where it’s at now, and people are after gears as well as individual style. Recent highlights include respraying a vintage Mercian frame in shop colours and building it up with Shimano Dura-Ace.
“Yeah, we’re not doing so much fixie stuff any more,” Hipwell said. “It tends to be a lot more people getting into road bikes and that kind of thing, so the builds we do at the moment are a bit higher end – titanium stuff or vintage frames fitted with new parts or people getting themselves an 80s style road bike a lot of people seem to like at the moment.”
That would explain the stock of new and used frames that regularly gets posted on the Fitzrovia Bicycles blog – expect to find the elegantly slim, steel tubes of a replica Raleigh Ti frame, secondhand Eddy Merckx or Gazelle alongside modern, perennially popular Van Nicholas Chinook frames.
Fitzrovia Bicycles’ signature emblem
“I think people realise after a while that, if you want to do any decent riding, you’re going to need some gears,” said Hipwell. “And rather than having hosts of bikes for different occasions, just trade it in for something that gives you the best of both worlds.”
It’s a no-nonsense suggestion from the co-owner of a down-to-earth, hardworking bike shop with plenty of gems. And for this week’s Three for Thursday, BikeRadar asked Hipwell three simple questions.
1. What’s the coolest thing in your shop right now?
Probably our Woodrup frames. We had a couple of these [audax and track frames] made by Woodrup of Leeds, with custom bilaminate lugs so you’ve got the Fitzrovia Bicycles FB in them. They’re pretty swanky.
Then, if you want something a bit ridiculous, we’ve got a silly Dave Lloyd Softride in at the moment, which we’re selling on behalf of a customer. There’s been a lot of interest, but not in terms of buying it. It’s more of a curiosity than anything else.
2. What product are you lusting after at the moment?
I suppose the next thing I would want would be something like a nice full-carbon De Rosa, or something like that; something super fast and super light for the summer.
3. What’s your current bestseller?
Bromptons are very popular, as they always have been. We’ve been doing a lot of those. And the Bobbins are also very good. We’re doing lots of these affordable, vintage style sit-up-and-beg steel bikes.