Since launching BikeExchange Ireland back in July, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting some amazing bike shop owners who are working closely with their local community to help promote cycling of all sorts in their areas. We are passionate about anyone and anything that encourages people of all ages to get out there and ride their bikes. So we spoke to some terrific local bike stores around Ireland about how they’re playing a role in the local cycling culture and community.
Keeping it in the family - Joe Daly Cycles
Joe Daly Cycles’ David Tansey has always been heavily involved in the Dublin cycling scene. Dave’s father Joe opened the shop 65 years ago in 1951. Dave is proud to continue the tradition with second and third generation customers still coming to him for help and support in starting them on their cycling journey and keeping them on the road. One of the BikeExchangers, Robin, still remembers going down to Joe’s in the ‘80’s to get his first bike, a Raleigh Burner. Another couple of fellas called Stephen and Nicholas Roche got their first bikes there, too!
Joe originally worked in Mellons Garage repairing bikes before taking his mechanical skills with him to open his own shop, which sold and repaired everything from TVs and radios to prams and ketels. It was bicycles and bike repairs that was his passion and the business gradually progressed in that direction. Joe was always involved with the local community being a player with the local football team Carrick Rovers (later Wayside Celtic) and by supporting the nearby Simpsons Hospital, a care home for the elderly.
Dave is a big believer in giving back to the community but does not expect anything in return. He has been a lifelong member of Orwell Wheelers CC and Joe Daly Cycles are a proud sponsor of the club. Dave says, “I grew up with the club. You meet so many friends, including my wife Orla Hendron (World Masters Track Cycling Champion 2014)”.
After his first spin with the club, one of the leaders that day Noel O’ Neill said to him, “give something back” and Dave has always applied this philosophy to his involvement with the club and the local community. He continues to support Simpsons Hospital with the help of his brothers and sisters by running the Joe Daly Memorial Cycle every year. This year the funds raised by the cycle paid for a day trip to Dublin Zoo for the residents.
Learning at The Bike Institute
Just across The River Liffey on Dorset Street in Dublin’s north inner city you will find a great bike shop called The Bike Institute. As the name suggests, this is not your ordinary bike shop but a bike shop that is also a school for bike mechanics. Set up by Sean Papenfuss in 2012, The Bike Institute offers a world-recognised qualification as well as all the usual services that you would expect from a bricks and mortar bike shop. Sean has always been passionate about bikes and cycling and honed his skills while working abroad in Barcelona and Sydney.
Sean identified the need for a relevant qualification for people who might be travelling or even job hunting here in Ireland, and the idea of a school for bike mechanics was born. However, it was bikes and bike repairs that was the mainstay of the business. Together with Little Bikes of Stonebatter, Sean slowly introduced the education side of the business with Irish Cycle Technician Training (ICTT) and nowadays the two sides of the business run in tandem (so to speak!).
The course itself is five weeks long and successful students receive a City and Guilds Vocational Qualification that is recognised the world over. While the course is open to everyone there is a special allowance of €500 for people receiving Social Welfare which can be put towards the cost of the course. There is also a range of shorter courses at various prices.
Sean is a strong supporter of the local community and is heavily involved with Bradóg, the regional youth service in the city centre. By providing group discounts to Bradóg, he motivates their members to get educated by signing up for his courses. He encourages kids involved with Bradóg to come into the shop and learn about becoming a bike mechanic. Sean maintains that there is always at least one local kid in the shop at any time either helping out or just in for a chat. The shop has become a local community hub, which Sean fully supports.
BMX kids love The Boardroom
In the heart of Greystones, County Wicklow just beside the DART station is where you will find the Boardroom. The name comes from the skateboard side of the business, but the other side is all things BMX. At 36 years of age and 6’2, Derek Johnson, the owner of the Boardroom, is not your stereotypical BMX rider. However, Derek still competes and gets out on his BMX whenever possible. He has always been involved in the BMX scene here in Ireland and his name has become synonymous with the sport, especially with the Freestyle side of things.
Derek opened the Boardroom 10 years ago in 2006 and has seen many changes in his sport and the nature of his business over the years. The popularity of Freestyle BMX rose dramatically from about 50-100 competitors nationwide back in 2006 to about 1000 in 2011. Numbers have dropped off slightly since then but Derek believes that it is on the upward slope again. He attributes the peaks and troughs in numbers to trends and fashion. Most of his customers are aged 9-15 and Derek believes that it is vital to encourage these kids in any way he can.
There is no club associated with the shop as Freestyle BMX is more of a lifestyle choice. That said over the years it has become a meeting place and unofficial clubhouse for BMX events and a social centre for kids who are interested in the sport. The Boardroom sponsors Freestyle BMX events from May to September and has become “THE shop for BMX in Ireland”. Derek himself has become the “Go-to” man for all things BMX. He says that there are always local kids in chatting about BMX and he does his best to pass on his knowledge of the sport to them. While he strongly believes the shop is an important part of the community, he recognises the importance of having a strong online presence and has always tried to stay ahead of the curve in this respect.
Hangin’ out at The Hub - Bike For Life
For the final two legs of our little journey around some of the great bike shops of Ireland, we head to the South West. First stop is Limerick City, where we meet Alan Ryan and Hugh Morrissey, the owners of The Hub. The shop is brand new and only opened in August 2015 but already the guys are heavily involved with the local community and see this as key to the future of cycling in the area. The lads both managed previous businesses in the area and are very well known as a result. They built up a strong customer base in the years that led up to the opening of Hub Bike and many of these customers continued to support Alan and Hugh in their new business venture. Hugh says, “we believe in looking after people and by getting people into cycling with good advice and service, it’s a win-win situation”.
The Hub has its own cycling club as part of their overall philosophy, which is pretty unique in Irish cycling, but the shop is used by many other clubs including Women On Wheels (WOW), as a meeting point or a coffee stop indeed. WOW is, as the name suggests, a cycling club for ladies only. It is also a feeder club for Hub Cycling Club. Hugh has seen a big upturn in women’s cycling in recent years and reckons that the customer split is 2-1, Women-Men and generally 30+ years of age.
The Hub Cafe is very busy at the weekends with lots of clubs meeting for their weekend spin at the shop or just stopping for that all important caffeine hit! Hugh and Alan believe that cycling is a lifestyle, “a group of like minded individuals getting together”, and try to encourage a “warm family culture”. They have a big screen for the Tour de France and all the other main events, and even show old footage from races in the ‘80’s! There’s a sign-in book and the lads help with everything down to the filling out of application forms for Cycling Ireland Membership. We know where we’ll be going for coffee next time we’re in Limerick!
Evolution Bikes - The Evolution of Ladies’ and Juniors’ Cycling
Not a million miles away in the Banner County, we find Evolution Bikes in the town of Ennis. Set up by owners Gary McDonald and Alan Quigley only one year ago, Evolution Bikes is already part of the local cycling community. When asked why he was so involved with all things local, Gary replied, “it’s hard not to be involved”, and he wouldn’t have it any other way! Evolution is a proud sponsor of Burren Cycling Club and Clare Ladies Cycling Club (CLCC), and Gary has seen a huge upsurge in the popularity of cycling for women and youths. He is a keen racer himself but is as happy nowadays to take a back seat and watch other people racing, including his teenage son who is giving the senior racers a run for their money.
The lads run turbo training classes in the shop and these are 100% full with the girls from Clare Ladies CC. Gary says that the girls are “mad to learn” and often come in with the impression that you have to practically kill yourself to get results! They try to impress on them that results can be achieved by working hard and regularly without overdoing it. Gary says that when the ladies first start the classes, “their legs are green” but that quickly changes. The lads also try to pass on their knowledge of cycling etiquette in general. CLCC started off with 10-12 members and now has 105, making it one of the biggest women’s only cycling clubs in the country. Evolution also supports the annual Clare Ladies Charity Cycle.
Gary recognises that the future of cycling lies with the youth in the community and he provides support to up and coming triathletes Ella Doherty and Cahal Brown. His own son has given up GAA so that he can concentrate on his cycling and this shows how cycling is gaining popularity with the youths of the County Clare, traditionally a GAA stronghold. Evolution tries to support as many events around the county as possible and whatever else they can do to help develop the sport they love so dear.
The future is certainly bright for cycling in Ireland with great shops like these five and many many more around the country supporting their local communities. Keep an eye out for more great articles on BikeExchange.ie.