Friday, 9 May 2014

Do The Saxby's Bike Shops of This World Still Exist?

A couple of weeks ago I visited the new Velo Cafe and bike shop in Tunbridge Wells.  It was quite an impressive place and the cappuccino was fine. What surprised me about the place is that the cafe is the main part of the premises being on the ground floor and is therefore the entrance to the bike shop which is upstairs.  

This is very different to Saxby Cycles which was the bike shop in the Old Kent Road in South London where we spent quite a lot of time on  Saturday afternoons back in the 1950's. To start with the shop was operated by one man, the legendary Labour Councillor Ron Cheesewright (although it was rumoured that a sprayer worked in a shed out the back of the shop - but he was never seen.)  The tea which was always available was made by Ron himself (complete with black greasy hands for added flavour) and if he was engaged on this chore any customers that came into the shop would be completely ignored until in desperation they would leave.

The shop was tiny but was an Aladdin's cave of bike parts, which could be purchased at not much more than cost price.

On an average Saturday there would be about 6 to 8 members of the Eltham Paragon and Sydenham Wheelers enjoying Ron's free tea and biscuits. Conversation, in the main, was rubbish but usually entertaining. It was truly a great place to be.

Another bonus was that if you wanted your frame re-enamelled, provided you wanted Post Office Red it would be done for a pittance. This was because Ron's main source of income was a contract to maintain all the postmen's bikes in the South London area. I will add here that my bike was always red.
Racing through Green Street Green roundabout on my Saxby Cycle before it was sprayed red

Whilst accepting that the Tunbridge Wells business is of its time I sincerely hope that the Saxbys of this world still exist and are alive and well in the land of real cycling.