Radio 4’s In Business series recently looked at what it called Britain’s ‘two-wheeled revolution’ in an episode called Life Cycle.
The programme asked: “The bicycle is being reinvented and demand is so great that many manufacturers are struggling to keep up … are we witnessing a genuine cultural shift towards two wheels or will this turn out to be just another fad?”
Innovators interviewed by presenter Peter Day included GoCycle inventor Richard Thorpe, Brompton’s Andrew Ritchie and bike designer Mike Burrows. The Guardian’s Matt Seaton also contributed, commenting on the rising profile of cycling in the UK.
The programme also covered online retailers Wiggle and two US businesses, Worksman Cycles – makers of ‘industrial grade’ work bikes – and Brooklyn’s Bamboo Bike Studio who, in just two days, teach people how to build a bamboo bike. These are a ‘lovely, lovely ride’ according to Day, and apparently give a surprisingly smooth ride over cobbles.
You can listen to the programme on BBC iPlayer. Here are some of the choice quotes:
“They never believed that the product could be made for an affordable price because they didn’t buy into the magnesium construction and they always thought it would have to be made out of … carbon fibre … too expensive.” Richard Thorpe on the bike industry’s reaction to his GoCycle design.
“Over half the people that go through the scheme are new to commuting and over a quarter of them are ladies … so we think we’re really making the scheme work.” Richard Grigsby of the Cycle to Work scheme.
“When so much manufacturing has fled Britain it’s heartening that Bromptons are still made here in Brentford in West London, in an impressively laid out little factory which has absorbed £1 million of investment in recent years.” Presenter Peter Day.
“The defining version of [the 21st century bike] would be a moulded frame in a modern composite with all the dirty chainy bits inside the bicycle with integrated electric gearing … we have the technology to do that today… My friends in Taiwan (previous employers Giant) backed off from doing it because it was just a little bit radical.” Mike Burrows, designer of Chris Boardman’s 1992 Olympic gold medal winning bike.