Occupying a compact retail unit nestled between a cobblers and a second-hand furniture shop, Rollquick bike shop fits neatly into the leafy stretch of Gloucester road connecting Horfield and Bishopston. An elegant racing bike hangs in the window under an equally elegant vinyl sign, attracting the attention of passers-by as they wander up and down the parade of shops and cafes. Those who venture inside will find a festoon of colourful bicycle frames strung from the ceiling, hanging above a fleet of complete and half-built bicycles in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Having spent his teenage years mountain-biking around the hills of South Wales, Dan Bradshaw, now 30, started selling refurbished bikes in Cardiff over six years ago, fixing them up with new parts in a shed in his garden and advertising them on Gumtree. It wasn’t long before he was getting interest from further afield and started making deliveries to buyers in Bristol.
“I could sell as many bikes in Bristol in one day as I could in Cardiff in a whole week,” he remembers with a grin.
The journey from small-time Gumtree sales to fully fledged cycle shop was an incremental one. The first step was an opportunity to sell at a student pop-up shop in Bedminster which confirmed just how bike-hungry Bristolians were. “It was ridiculous, in the four weeks I think it was 40 or 50 bikes I sold,” recalls Dan.
This generated enough cash for a deposit on an industrial unit in Horfield and this in turn enabled the move to the current premises in 2015, all without the need for any loans or outside investment. Dan took on his first employee in 2014 while he was working from his first location in Bristol, and is now training up the fourth member of the Rollquick team.
Dan is sat in what appears to have once been an office, but is now overflowing with bikes and bike parts. Next door his two colleagues are both busy working on bikes in stands. There’s a relaxed vibe with dub quietly humming in the background, but watching the mechanics it’s clear that they’re working very efficiently, producing their own soundtrack of satisfying clicks and clunks with their spanners and hex keys.
Barney has hands inked with both tattoos and bicycle grease. The shop manager moved to the city for the job from Norfolk two years ago. “It was worth the move,” he confirms with a broad grin. “I love Bristol, the music and graffiti scene has sucked me in.” He also enjoys working at Rollquick: “It’s laid back but the mechanical work is to a high standard. I’ve worked at quite corporate places before where you don’t even know who the owner is. You might have a good idea but there’s no-one to voice it to. Here you can get creative and it’s really nice. It’s the quirky, one-off jobs that I love.”
Rollquick’s core ethos is to provide each individual with a bike that suits them. Customers can test ride the selection of ready-built bikes and find one they like, with Dan’s team making adjustments and swapping parts as needed.
Alternatively, buyers can start by choosing a frame from the shop’s extensive collection, which can be professionally repainted, with parts added that meet the meet the individual’s needs. “We can do whatever they want, and do it based on budget,” says Dan, who has seen customer tastes change over the last few years. “When I started it was during the vintage boom. Nowadays we don’t get as many people asking for a fixie or a retro run-around bike, but more people want hybrid bikes with more gears.”
Dan spends a lot of his time sourcing frames and parts, which are carefully screened for quality and to ensure they aren’t stolen. “A lot of our road bikes are ex-hire bikes that have only been used a few times,” he says. This allows him to sell nearly-new bikes at a fraction of their usual retail price.
Although most customers prefer the cost benefit of going secondhand, some do opt for brand-new and Dan says that given a little time to source parts at the right price he can put together a new bike that can compete with those being sold by big online stores. Dan even offers discounts new custom-built bikes through the national Cycle to Work scheme.
What does the future hold for Rollquick? “We’ve got a lot in the pipeline,” says Dan. “We want to be expand to be more than just another bike shop.” He plans to open a second premises in another part of town very soon, possibly in south Bristol or Easton, and is also developing two hire schemes – one to be run from the shop and another to supply local hotels and campsites with their own hire fleets.
Dan is confident that Bristolians are going to remain bike-hungry for the foreseeable future.“If you go anywhere in Bristol by car, it’s quicker to cycle almost every single time,” he says. “I think we’re gonna get busier and busier.”
220 Gloucester Road, Bishopston, Bristol, BS7 8NZ
07784 122 595