INTERVIEW: Cycle Systems

Spanner savvy: Last month’s Cycle Show was used as a platform to launch what many knew as ‘The Bike Doctor’ into a new era. Now re-branded under the Cycle Systems label, Mark Sutton talks to co-director Sean Lally about its pipeline projects and what has changed...
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Having officially opened its doors with London Mayor Boris Johnson’s seal of approval in July, Cycle Systems, formerly known as the Bike Doctor, has come a long way in an incredibly short space of time.

Last month’s Cycle Show at Earls Court was used as a platform for rebranding, as well as an opportunity for both trade and consumers to familiarise themselves with the now multi-functional business. As two of the three company directors, Sean Lally and his wife Julia front the business, which initially focused on on-site fleet maintenance delivered from a bicycle towing a rather large tool box. It was also these vehicles that delivered the entire 2008 Bike Doctor stand to Earls Court, so it’s safe to assume that where possible this business is as eco-friendly as can be.

From that humble beginning, the firm has rapidly grown to offer cycle freight consultancy, bike builds, maintenance classes and City and Guilds professional training, as well as BikeAbility accredited modules, all delivered at the now well-established Cycle Systems Academy.

Lally told BikeBiz at the Cycle Show: “The Cycle Systems Academy is looking prosperous, with plenty of module expansion in the pipeline. These developments include wheelbuilding at various levels and one-day maintenance sessions.

“At present the London Academy has ten fully equipped tool stations, on which students are gifted the best tools of the trade and a variety of mint condition components and bikes to practice and learn with.”

Launched for the first time live at Earls Court, Cycle-Systems.co.uk was touted as the next generation resource for budding mechanics looking for step-by-step picture-led tutorials to fit in with training.

Lally said of the resource: “The new website took a lot of investment, but I genuinely feel we now have the net’s best answer to comprehensive, technical tutorials. We’ve also befriended several past and present students on our Facebook page. The thinking behind this is so students may be aware of our commitment to finding them work within the trade. The new site will also shortly feature a ‘jobs board’, which I expect to be popular with our students and hopefully the trade.”

Among other opportunities that emerge with enrolment in the Academy, 2pure recently approached Lally, requesting students and graduates to travel with its downhill team. Simply enrolling throws up plenty of potential for students to get their first experience in store too, with internship link-ups becoming more frequent.

“There does seem to be a shortage of qualified, enthusiastic mechanics in the trade still. Having said that, four of our graduates have since gone on to open their own stores, some of which attended Cycle, taking their first steps in the trade. Three more actually took their own stands at the show, having completed courses since our July launch.”

Trade uptake currently only represents around 20 per cent of sign up to the Academy, suggesting a wave of fresh interest from school leavers. Eighty per cent of students pass too, often thanks to the highly skilled teachers employed at the Academy. BikeBiz met one such staffer who has earned his stripes with ten years as a mechanic in store and regularly clocks a three-digit mileage per week aboard a cycle. Modules can, of course, be re-taken, although Lally assured us that “those who properly apply themselves will pass”.

The Academy is currently in discussions with City and Guilds to up its offering too, with a view to securing NVQ qualification contributions. To make the deal sweeter for trade members, work is currently being done to obtain Government funding for student training, something that should come to fruition in 2010.

However, at present, with bookings looking healthy Lally points out: “Despite the fact we’re still working on obtaining Government funding for students, many are choosing our course based on the quality of the Academy. We’ve had a fantastic few months with some top retailers asking to be involved with the courses and our intern programmes.”

Business is so good in fact that students were signing up during the show’s four days at Earls Court. When asked about the future potential of Cycle Systems, Lally didn’t rule out further Academy locations, although BikeBiz will have to bring you news on these as and when they pop up as no extras are currently planned. It’s not just the Academy proving popular though – having just secured another major fleet repair contract in London, Cycle Systems’ client list is ever-growing and contains some of the city’s largest corporate firms, all seeking to get their employee’s bikes serviced.

Lally believes this sudden interest in getting employees aboard bikes could be down to upping punctuality, a problem compounded by tube strikes and late trains.

Having been given a warm welcome by the trade, it’s hardly surprising that Cycle Show organisers Upper Street Events requested that the Cycle Systems stand share its expertise at the show. During the consumer days, Lally’s team held scheduled women specific, hands-on training, as well as sessions tackling a different bike style each day.

If your store is seeking a mechanic, or if you’re looking to enrol a staff member with a view to advancing existing skills or starting with the basics, log on to www.cycle-systems.co.uk, call 02076082577, or email info@cycle-systems.co.uk. The London Academy is located in Islington and a short ride/walk from Old Street tube station.

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