New normal: an open letter from our owner…

Dear All,

It’s an unusual step for a bike shop owner to write an open letter, but I couldn’t think of a better way to connect with you all.

Like yourselves we have been locked down, separated from friends, families and work colleagues, but trying to keep life meaningful. Like you we have queued at supermarkets, avoided close contact with other people, whilst also enjoying a quieter version of the world. And like you, we are emerging today into a world that we don’t yet fully recognise.

So we all know that times are changing in ways none of us could have predicted. And bike shops have had a particular role in these unprecedented times. When the lockdown was announced it was made clear by government that amongst a few other essential services, bicycle shops would be exempt from the widescale business closure programme. They recognised that cycling is part of our essential travel to work infrastructure (just look at all the staff bikes outside the QE hospital in Birmingham), but also that it helps keep people well in both mind and body. So, throughout the last months we have remained open.

At Red Kite Cycles, we took this as a challenge – we set ourselves a few key goals for 3 months of lockdown:

  • Free servicing to NHS and key workers, with a free accessory pack of helmet, lights and commuter jacket. Thanks to our supplier Madison in supporting our efforts in this.
  • Keep ourselves well and virus free, and not be a danger to our customers. We have achieved this through strict measures and a few annoying queues for customers.
  • Keep offering basic service and support to our existing customers that need to cycle for their own wellbeing and journeys to work.
  • Finally, help new people into cycling to combat the isolation of the lockdown – either through repairs or supplying new entry-level bikes.

With that episode of our journey behind us, today we face a new set of challenges. How will we, along with so many other workplaces and businesses, normalise our new environment? This is a question that has occupied us a lot over the last weeks; what are our challenges?

Social distancing of course is top of the operational list, as is looking after my colleagues and keeping them well and their families safe. But equally the sudden growth in cycling has really tested our supply chains and made our normal standards of delivery much more difficult to achieve. You might have noticed from the news and the press that the world has run out of new bikes – not helpful at a time like this. This is frustrating but we are not alone in our challenges, so we need to roll up our sleeves, oil the chain (so to speak), pump up our tyres, and try and make our shop run as well as possible. It is with this in mind that we start next week on a new footing for the next episode of this real-life drama.

Our key aims and measures for this summer:

  • Help you cycle: so be open and accessible to our customers again.
  • Be more available and get back to 8-hour days. We will now be open from Tuesday to Saturday – hours can be found here.
  • Strict social distancing in-store and hand hygiene for all. Goes without saying.
  • Queuing at the busiest times to ensure social distance in-store. Sorry in advance.
  • Establishing a pre-order system for new bikes from the end of June.

To close, on a more personal note, I can speak for my colleagues and myself and honestly say that we have found the last months testing. Some favourite customers have been really ill, I have lost a neighbour younger than myself to this virus, and I have spent time worrying about family and friends in their isolation. But bicycles and cycling are part of the solution as more people have enjoyed the fun of two wheels, and the health benefits of regular outdoors exercise. My bike has helped me out, and I hope you have had the chance to enjoy yours too.

Commute, fun or sport – whatever your pedalling, we wish you all the very best in your search for a new normal.

Looking forward to seeing you again soon

Adrian Passmore