06 Jul 2022

Greysteel man helping to bring bikes back to life

Greysteel man helping to bring bikes back to life

Pictured left to right, staff at The Bike General, Ben Crooks, Ciaran O’Hara, Ethan McKinney and Chris Cairns with Marco the dog.

While living and working in London, Ciaran O'Hara, a keen cyclist, always stumbled across the same problem when he needed repairs carried out on his bike.

“Every time I went into the shop with the same issue, they kept messing it up,” said the Greysteel man.

“In the end I just took the stance of 'I can fix it myself', and I did.”

Initially Ciaran, a civil engineer by trade, started carrying out repairs on his own bike at home, however, word soon got around and friends also began bringing their bikes to him to get fixed too.

Having started his repairs in his garden shed, Ciaran found he soon needed to move to a garage and then bigger premises again.

In a matter of months, Ciaran had opened his own shop in London.

After five years of busy city life, Ciaran began to explore the possibility of moving back home with the view to opening a shop there.

“I moved home two and a half years ago and did the market research to see if I could start a business here,” explained Ciaran.
Unfortunately, it wasn't the right timing and Ciaran decided to go back to engineering for a while.

2020 saw Covid-19 hit and Ciaran decided to take a gamble and start his new business, The Bike General on Greysteel's Clooney Road in November that year.

Luckily for Ciaran, that gamble paid off and he saw an increase in bike sales and demand for repairs in a short space of time.
Ciaran believes his service is unique in that he will attempt to repair everything that comes through his door.

“If you can get it through our front door, we'll fix it. We get a lot of smaller stuff in that other shops maybe wouldn't entertain or look at. If we can help and we can fix it, we will,” he said.

The Bike General has also partnered up with Zero Waste North West, a charity and social enterprise, in an effort to bring life back into old bicycles.

“They basically bring the bikes out of the skip or take donations and then as amateurs repair the bikes and I as a professional come and look over the bike before they are passed onto the public. They go back out to people who simply cannot afford a brand new bike,” explained Ciaran.

“It works twofold for me. It might get someone cycling again and then maybe two years down the line, that person might say 'I like this, I'll go and buy a new bike.'

“For me at the minute, we try and put a big push on minimising our waste in the shop and further afield.

“All of our in-house non-bike related stuff - bags, belts and jumpers are all eco friendly recycled. Our bags are made of old tubes and recycled materials, the same with our belts and our tops are all recycled cotton.

"We try and minimise all our waste, making sure all our cardboard and tyres is recycled and our tubes go out to make handbags and wallets. It isn't that hard to do.

"There's someone out there who would do something with these materials if you just look for them.

“It's the same with bikes - a bike is never ever dead, there's always something you can either pull off it or get it moving again or do something with it.”

Ciaran, who regularly takes on challenges to raise funds for the Foyle Hospice, has also recently taken on two part-time apprentices and a full-time member of staff.

“The young lads are so useful,” continued Ciaran.

“I always had summer jobs when I was a young lad but it's not that easy now any more to get wee jobs like that and it gives them a chance.”

Having seen the demand for good quality bikes that last, Ciaran also has his sights set on opening another shop and forming a cycling hub in the city.

“I can definitely see a big upturn in cycling and even if 40 per cent of people that picked it up during lockdown stick at it then that's going to be enough for us to keep ticking over,” he continued.

“For Derry, a city of 100,000 people, the fact that they don't have a good central cycling hub is just a shambles.”

He concluded: I'm trying to get something set up – a wee pop-up for cyclists to meet, to fix punctures, have a coffee or group up. That's my next step.”

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