London Bike Kitchen is London’s newest social cycling enterprise

London Bike Kitchen menu

We all have those moments where we dream “Wouldn’t it be great to have a place nearby, where I could work on my bike and get some advice on how to maintain it”.

Throw in a little bit of creativity, a loan from the London Cycling Campaign, a hint of luck and a credit card and those dreams can come true.

This is exactly what Californian turned Londoner Jenni Gwiazdowski did. Around 12 months ago she spotted an empty unit in a street not far from Old Street tube station. When she heard about the London Cycling Campaign’s Community Cycling Fund, Jenni started making enquiries.

It turned out the unit had been empty for 10 years. They were desperate for someone to take on the challenge an turn it in to something.

London bike kitchen

After clearing away 10 years of dust and neglect, the London Bike Kitchen started to take shape. With a little help from Adam Walker of Magnificent Revolution on the wall illustrations.

London bike kitchen bike illustration

Within days of making the initial announcements and talking to local businesses, Jenni had a team of 7 enthusiastic mechanics. All of which will be responsible for teaching separate courses and providing maintenance advice. From bicycle maintenance to everything you need to do to prepare for a long distance tour, the courses will cater to many different needs. The cost of the courses is £60 which includes a year’s membership to the London Bike Kitchen.

Aside from the courses, the London Bike Kitchen is an open DIY workshop where you can use a fully equipped professional tool library and bike stand. There’s everything you could possibly need to keep your bike clean, well oiled and well maintained. More importantly, there’s unlimited tea and coffee.

Member 20 of the London Bike KitchenBecoming a member also gives you access to members only events such as movie nights and barbeques. The newest event is a W.a.G night. This will teach bicycle maintenance to those who traditionally wouldn’t maintain their bike themselves and instead leave it up the men.

The London Bike Kitchen has already had a great response from the local community, with plenty of people popping their heads in to see what the workshop is about.

When you are next in the area, I strongly recommend a visit. Until Jenni is able to dedicate more of her time, the opening hours will be Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 7pm. Though occasionally there are courses taking place on Sunday mornings until 2pm.

Jenni has a great energy and enthusiasm about her with plenty of great ideas on which direction to take the London Bike Kitchen in. I’m excited to watch it evolve and really hope it will be very successful.

You can find out more on the London Bike Kitchen website where there’s also an email list and Facebook page to stay ahead of the latest courses on offer.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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10 Responses to London Bike Kitchen is London’s newest social cycling enterprise

  1. Rob 30/03/2012 at 11:08 am #

    Bike Kitchen looks great; with that and with “Look Mum No Hands”, Old Street is becoming an oasis for cyclists. Let’s hope that something can be done about the high incidence of bike thefts there (I lost three bikes in the space of about 3 months when working there a few years back!)

    • Andreas 03/04/2012 at 12:16 pm #

      Oh dear – after the second bike theft I’d start locking my bike with 4 locks if I was leaving it in the same area!

  2. Judd 30/03/2012 at 1:48 pm #

    I’m not from London. Is Old Street easy to find? I would like to visit on my next trip to your City. Great idea!

    • Andreas 03/04/2012 at 12:13 pm #

      Yep – old St is easy to find. Just be careful that you only visit during the opening hours as this is a new project which isn’t yet open during the week.

  3. GrumpyYoungMan 03/04/2012 at 10:49 am #

    I mean, some people live in a far more privileged parallel economy, society and culture, which is probably nice, but a bit… poncy and anti-social to act like everyone’s got the money just because you and your trendy mates manage to blag it… that’s the impression I get around that geographical area, and with that price.

    Note the emphasis on ‘FREE’ and ‘COMMUNITY’ in the article linked below:
    Why does London always have to be about making money, even for the ‘good guys’? Why can’t people who come here bring a fresh perspective?

    People still “need money to eat” in those other places, as well, that’s no excuse just because this is London. In fact, the more we barter, lend and borrow, the less we need to earn, the less we need to charge, the less excessive rents will be tolerated, the less excessive rents will be able to be charged, the less the cost of living will be.

    Who’s going to lead this if not us? But keep running your profit-orientated business under a veneer of making a difference… it won’t change anything,

    Also – don’t blame the cost of the location – weren’t the owners ‘desperate’ for someone to use it after 10 years, so hardly likely to dictate prohibitive terms, are they?

    • Andreas 03/04/2012 at 12:16 pm #

      There’s rent, purchase of tools, paying for mechanics, council rates – all this stuff costs money so I imagine it would be very very difficult to make this work without a charge for using the equipment.

  4. GrumpyYoungMan 03/04/2012 at 1:03 pm #

    @ Andreas – how can other places do it for free, then? I already covered the costs aspect in my original post (“people need money to eat in other places too”, do you think after writing that piece above that I’d ignore the genuine costs in starting up? Why not get a grant? No grants? Why not get a charity-level loan? Not a charity? Why not? Ah, profit is an objective? Well admit it then, and stop the marketing spin. Why can’t mechanics work for free – other people all around give their time to charity, why not those who ought to be at the forefront of helping people to cycle? Like I say, they of course have their own living expenses, but those living expenses would be less if people bartered and volunteered more, do you not get that? Maybe my grasp of economics is poor, I admit, but people are VERY selfish in London and it’s not the way forward – someone has to lead us out of that.

    Plenty of people have a spare property, that they could use free (or even get squatted!), this one’s been empty for TEN YEARS, rent should be free until it can be afforded!
    Social enterprises get discounts, right?
    This isn’t the “Old Street” area for ****, either, it’s no closer to Old St than ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL is, and you never confuse the two of THOSE, do you?

    More marketing spin. This doesn’t change reality, and changing reality is what will make a better future, not putting a grin on your face that comes off real quick when you have to get your wallet out for the umpteenth unnecessary time that day. Get a clue what’s up, people, even if it’s not what I’m saying and even if you don’t agree. Critical Analysis, learn how to use it.

    Then come join us on Critical Mass to see something truly free and genuinely down-to-earth.

    • Andreas 05/04/2012 at 2:41 pm #

      Whilst I agree with you that it would be wonderful to be free and there are other places in London that manage to offer something very similar for free I don’t understand the reasoning why you would have anything against somewhere offering a good service that many people will appreciate? My definition of a social enterprise is one that helps the local community. London Bike Kitchen repairs local kids bikes for free giving them advice on bike maintenance and is looking to offer work to unemployed people in the local area. Finally, they are adding some life to a local area. That has received a very positive response from people who’ve been in to the shop. You may also find the article here on the London Bike Kitchen of interest:

      You are welcome to continue the discussion here but please refrain from any bad language as I want to keep this blog accessible to all ages.

  5. GrumpyYoungMan 06/04/2012 at 1:05 am #

    My definition of ANY business is one that helps the local community. It ought to make a profit whilst doing so, if it’s a profit-making business, but it shouldn’t be doing anything BUT help the local community, who ought to provide its market and/or workforce. I guess we’ve all got it twisted about what businesses should be when there’s that many out there not doing a thing to help their local community, (e.g. employing only immigrants with no permanent connection with said community and lying about this fact when challenged, whilst providing a service to people outside the local community only and taking up land-space in that community that would be better used). Yes, leaving their local area lifeless after 5pm, at best.

    Just because a business stands out as more ‘social’ in the UK 2012 business culture, doesn’t mean it’s truly progressive. I think this one is more like neutral, whereas the genuinely-free ones are progressive. I KNOW they’re hard to maintain, but then ask yourself why that would be… pressures from within or without?

    Right, money is the issue: So, did you know all the countries in Bush’s ‘Axis Of Evil (still being targeted, e.g. Iran) are ones without Rothschild banks? Which are especially interested in large wealth, e.g. OIL revenue? We cycle, so as to reduce dependence on oil, as one good reason, but what’s the point in that, when it’s not OIL that’s the biggest problem, but the whole money system driving things, including but far from limited to: oil exploitation and wars to further it?

    So how is participating in the money system, that is so sewn-up and corrupt, when there’s proven other methods of running a tool library and Bike Kitchen – how is that anything to be appreciated?
    I’m a negative individual, I admit, but I also, for my part on this planet, love to appreciate the good when I see it. The problem in London is that money and profit is driving everything, and so this being linked-into the corruption at the top of the system, is impossible to see as good!
    Just because people are too ignorant to see what everything around them means, and how the strings are connected, does not mean that I need to go around joining them with a big fake grin on my face about how good things are. Especially when people PRETEND to be doing something good, in ignorance, or tokenism.
    Let’s genuinely move things forward, and if my negativity is deluded and your positivity the genuine reality – you’ll only be even MORE positive when things get better, right? Win/win. Right now we get at best win/lose (in this case, the ‘win’ being the cycling support the ‘lose’ being the money aspect).
    Sorry if that’s too profound for you, but that’s the nature of reality. I’m also missing part of the economics argument for sure, like people in this corrupt system would be relied-upon to donate stuff to fund any free tools library, and how does that wealth even get there in the first place? But if we don’t try, we’ll never get, and there’s far greater inroads to be made against the perversions in the present system if we try.
    Whilst spouting-off on here, I will also admit that I’m an ignorant savage on the scale of where I need to be in educational terms to understand the whole thing, but anti-money [in the current corrupt money system] is pro-human, and pro-freedom, that’s something definitely to be considering, especially in a city like London, where the profit, work harder, ever faster, ever quicker and more flexible mentality is what drives those ‘must overtake cyclist’ bad drivers out there – think about that, as one simple fact.
    I think many cyclists share those ideals of people before profit and de-stressing. At some point this requires considering the money system. I guess it depends how deeply-entrenched one is in it, as to whether one can face the reality easily, or not…

  6. Jenni 06/04/2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Hi Grumpy,

    Thanks for your insight – it’s always interesting to see different opinions and outlooks on life. While I agree with you on a personal level and believe that the abuse of money and greed is a problem, I don’t believe that paying for a service that you appreciate is a wrong thing.

    One thing I will not actively seek out is grant funding. Where do you think that money comes from? I do not want to be beholden to a certain organisation; I do not want to have to continually be applying for funding every quarter. Grant applications are time consuming and draining, and can have ridiculous monitoring requirements. We just want to get on with it.

    While we are all volunteering at the moment in order to get things started, the mechanics are going to get paid for the service that they provide – why not get paid to do something you Love to do? Why should one have to work a pub job, or a charity job (as I do) in order to make ends meet, when we could be paid helping people learn something new, making our community a better place?

    We are planning on creating a work/trade programme for people who would like to donate their time rather than money to use the shop, as well as a ‘Locals Only’ day, where we will be open to the local community for free.

    All the best,

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