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Jake's Bikes is featured in Bristol's daily newspaper

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Jake Voelcker has just opened a shop near Broadmead selling restored second-hand bikes to provide affordable, environmentally friendly transport. Suzanne Savill found out more


It is, arguably, the ultimate form of recycling. Jake Voelcker helps the environment by taking old bikes and restoring them, and then selling them at prices aimed at making cycling appealing to even the most reluctant individuals.


"This isn't a bike shop for selling flashy bikes to sporty types and cycling enthusiasts. I'm not too interested in that type of bike," he says.


"The main thing I'm trying to promote is sustainability, by working on old, unwanted bikes, and turning them into affordable, good quality bikes that can encourage people who often aren't already cyclists to lead a greener, healthier lifestyle."


Jake hadn't originally planned to make a career out of restoring bikes.


He explains: "I was a freelance web designer, but I'd also worked at an eco-centre in Wales and I've been aware of environmental issues for quite a long time.


"About four or five years ago I found myself helping friends by doing work on their bikes, and then I started helping their friends.


"It got to the point where I had so many bikes in my shed and house that I decided to rent a little corner in a place where a guy was doing woodwork.


"But then that got busy and after about a year I was working on bikes more or less full time."

Jake decided to set up Jake's Bikes in a workshop at Hamilton House in Stokes Croft, which is home to a number of ethical businesses.


He soon became so busy there that he took on a full-time mechanic, Pete Harding, and has now moved to what was an empty shop unit in the little-used Haymarket Walk pedestrian area, between Bristol's busy St James Barton roundabout and the bus station.


"It's great having a shop as well as a workshop," says Jake.


"When it was just the workshop it was harder for people to come and see us, and we'd end up making appointments for someone to come and look at a bike.


"Now we can get trade from passers-by."


Jake recently took on another employee, Yael Ben-Gigi, who had been working as a volunteer and doing casual work at Jake's Bikes for over a year.


However, although the business has been growing, Jake has decided to run it as a not-for-profit organisation that pays him and his staff wages, but does not exist to make money and has no shareholders or external investors.


In addition to servicing and repairing bikes, Jake's Bikes also runs evening classes on cycle maintenance and repair, and sells a range of second- hand bikes.


Used bikes are always purchased with strict anti-theft precautions - in fact, much of Jake's stock comes from auctions of unclaimed recovered bikes held by police forces.


Not all the cycles on sale at Jake's Bikes are secondhand, though. "The ladies' bikes in the window are new because we struggle to get enough second-hand bikes in for women," says Jake.


"I picked these ones because they are sensible bikes that are puncture resistant with no flashy gizmos.

"But most of the bikes we sell are reconditioned hybrids that are ideal for commuting.


"We make sure that they have new brake blocks and cables and tyres and any other repair work that is necessary - they cost about half the price of a new bike.


"A bike that costs about £210 with us would cost about £400 new. If you've got a budget of about £200, you will get a much better bike if you buy secondhand."


However, Jake insists he is not primarily running a bike retail shop.


"Our emphasis is on repairs and servicing in addition to retail - this is mainly a workshop," he says.

"We actually prefer older and less fashionable bikes, and provide tuition and training to help people maintain their bikes, rather than encouraging them to buy a new one."


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