East Sussex businesses enjoy a nationwide cycling surge
Journalist Holly Tuppen explores how East Sussex-based cycling businesses have been enjoying the fruits of a nationwide surge of two-wheeled fun.
People haven’t been able to go abroad and are looking for new ways to explore the local area
East Sussex Cycling Haven
In 2020, UK bike sales reached over 3 million units — a 22 per cent rise from 2019, sending retailer Halford’s share price soaring.
According to Grant Shapps, cycling increased as much as 200% during the Covid-19 lockdown, and the UK government pledged £2bn of investment to double journeys taken by bicycle by 2025. Thanks to less traffic on the roads and the rise of e-bikes, cycling has become more accessible, too. Last year, electric bikes joined the cycle to work scheme, and e-bike sales in the UK grew by 24%.
Thankfully, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to cycling in East Sussex, whether road biking, bike packing, mountain biking, or e-biking. If anyone perfectly encapsulates the joy of pedalling along Sussex’s weaving coastal roads, storied promenades, and chalky downs, it’s St. Leonards-on-Sea based photographer Roff Smith.
In a New York Times article earlier in 2021, Smith shared his Sussex rides with a global audience, explaining,
“It’s brought home the truth that you don’t need to board a plane and jet off to the far side of the world to experience a sense of travel or the romance of difference. It lies waiting on your doorstep — if you look.”
The rise in cycling across East Sussex will hopefully continue thanks to the East Sussex Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, which was under consultation in 2020 and is now under review. The plan includes an improved ‘active transport’ network with potential routes and maps in Newhaven, Lewes, Hailsham, Bexhill and Hastings. Recommendations include a 5.5 km cycle route along the A259 South Coast Road from Brighton to Peacehaven.
With East Sussex quickly becoming a hot spot for a wider variety of two-wheeled travel, it’s no surprise that there’s been a recent influx of cycling and cycling-related businesses.
Recognising a gap in the market, Hastings Cargo Co supplies electric cargo bikes for local deliveries. Founder Tim Godwin (also Maker at Ariel Bikes) tells us,
“Covid-19 has seen an increase in delivery vehicles, so we wanted to provide a more environmentally friendly solution. The majority of air pollution and carbon emissions locally come from road transport. We saw a way we could do something practical to try and help change this and which would provide work for local people.”
Also in Hastings, Bells’ classically inspired bikes are available to hire or purchase, giving people the chance to try before buying. The business won the bike hire award at the 2020 UK Transport Awards, which recognised their proximity to traffic-free options like the Sustrans’ route along the Hastings and Bexhill Waterfront.
Head over to the Cuckmere Valley, and new business, Cadence Cycle Hub, is also supporting the rise in cycling in the region. Two local cycling enthusiasts, Roger Myall and Matthew Jackson opened the venture on the back of a cycling boom, as reported by Sport England towards the end of 2020. The café, cycling hub, and service centre has been designed with the environment in mind — reclaimed, recyclable and compostable products are used throughout. To get more people out onto the trails, bike rental and local area tours are also available.
Opening in 2021, Cycleshack Eastbourne is another business hoping to create an accessible space for people to get advice, purchase and service everything from mountain bikes to e-bikes. Matt Roberts, a mechanic, based in Cycleshack Lewes, tells us,
“Demand is exceeding supply at the moment, so there’s a surge of interest. People haven’t been able to go abroad and are looking for new ways to explore the local area. E-bikes have also shifted the demographic, opening cycling up to greater numbers of people.”
Cycleshack will soon open a bike hire hub in Stanmer Park, Brighton, to cater to demand to try out new bikes.
Several bike builders and bike component makers in the county are also benefitting from the surge. PEMBREE, a mountain bike component maker with some of the strongest environmental credentials in the industry, was due to launch in April 2020 but held on until August 2020. Although launching during a global pandemic is far from ideal, it’s also worked in PEMBREE’s favour.
Founder Phil Law comments,
"The pandemic has impacted things dramatically from what would be considered a normal year in the industry and what we expected to happen. There has been a global surge in demand for all things bike related. Coupled with factories that have had to reduce capacity or close due to restrictions in the Far East, demand significantly outstrips supply. At PEMBREE, however, everything is either made in house in Horam or within 30 miles of our factory. This has resulted in a lot of interest in PEMBREE supplying distributors globally as our lead times are significantly lower than others."
He continues, “All of our suppliers are local, where possible. This has been a very deliberate approach that has enabled us to build very close relationships with our supplying partners. It has allowed us to be a lot more agile and to react to market changes. Still, more importantly, we are supporting local businesses that have local employees and local families. It all works together to build a better future.”
Some of the thriving Cycle based businesses in the county:
A series of hubs providing bike hire and sales of mountain, gravel, and road bikes, as well as tours and repairs alongside some delicious cafe facilities.
Independent Mountain bike manufacturer
Enigma Bikes, Hailsham
High-quality handcrafted frame manufacturer, as well as a full bike building and fitting service, wheel building, refurbishing and frame repairs.
ATB Sales/Whyte Bikes, St Leonards on Sea An independent bike distributor with its own UK based R&D facility developing and patenting new cycling technology.
Oset Bikes, St Leonards on Sea OSET are world leaders in electric trials, off road and motocross motorcycles for children from the age of 3 to adults.
Hastings Cargo, Hastings
Hastings Cargo Co deliver goods in Hastings & St Leonards by electric cargo bike.
Quench Cycles, Bedgebury
An award-winning cycle shop, bike servicing, repair & bike hire centre.
Cycleshack, Eastbourne and Lewes
Bike dealership and Cycle Hub, bringing together cycling enthusiasts.
Bell's Bicycles, Hastings
An award winning independent bike shop and online retailer which contains an ever-changing collection of bicycles and innovative accessories.
Author: Holly Tuppen.