If you want to see unlikely retail couplings, head to London’s East End

Perhaps, being a cyclist, it’s possible that your correspondent pays rather more attention than might be due to new arrivals on the bike store scene. But even allowing for this prejudice, there does seem to be a rash of innovative store designs and new formats being unveiled to titillate London’s pedal powered population at the moment.

And it is a measure of how strong the trend is towards matters two-wheeled that when fashion meets cycle clothing brand Rapha staged a sample sale on Friday at its pop-up store, the Rapha Cycle Club, there were queues around the EC1 block. It’s closed now and the pop-up cycle shop-cum-gallery-cum-café mantel has been scooped up by TokyoBike, over in nearby Spitalfields, which closes next weekend.

There is something quite appealing about the evanescent quality of all of this and most of these temporary retail outlets seem to have little trouble in attracting large numbers of enthusiastic customers.

It should perhaps be said at this point that London is something of a one-off in the UK in terms of its ability to continue adding cycle stores, seemingly ad nauseam, without any discernible impact on the existing players. And for those in search of something a little less here today gone tomorrow, there’s always Look Mum No Hands, a newly opened bicycle workshop that has a café with free wi-fi and, er, “nude women” - or at least that’s what it says on the A-stand outside it - although there were none visible on the day of visiting.

The point about all of this is not that cycling is a good thing, although it is, but that if you want to see retail novelty and imagination when it comes to combining unlikely bedfellows, then look no further. And the equally odd thing is that this somewhat counter-culture retail sub-sector has not really made it to the mainstream.

There have been several attempts, but the idea of being able to sit out in the sun, enjoy a cappuccino while somebody fixes your bike and you surf the net (for nothing) is a stretch for even the most generous of mainstream retailers. All of them could do worse however than to take a stroll around London’s East End where most of these things see to be happening at the moment - if only to catch sight of what is possible.

London is far from being a bike-friendly environment, so this particular phenomenon is taking place in spite of the odds being stacked strongly against it.

 

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