Sheffield university friends turn passion into a career

Cyclists Alex Gunn and Jake Gooding have been passionate about all things bicycle since they were children. Now, in their mid-twenties and with the responsibilities of adulthood looming, the two friends have transformed their love for riding into an independent bicycle repair centre in the heart of Sheffield. Bike Rehab is based at Devonshire Business Park on Wellington Street and has been offering services and repairs to Sheffield’s cycling community for the past eighteen months. Owner Alex, 27, studied Geography at Sheffield University and then worked in the bike industry for a few years before deciding that Sheffield commuters and bicycle owners needed an exclusive and focused repair service.

“In commuter cycling you need your bike all the time, you can’t wait for a repair, you need it done that day. Bike shops with a retail element tend to put everything else at the front of the cue. If someone comes in and wants to buy a bike you have to check it over first and this increases the waiting times for repairs and services.”

Alex and Jake at Bike Rehab, photograph by Jeremy Abrahams

Alex and Jake at Bike Rehab, photograph by Jeremy Abrahams

Long, long hours Alex and Jake met at university and bonded over their love for cycling. They both chose to study at Sheffield because of it’s proximity to the Peak District.

“You can ride from the city centre and in twenty minutes be out on the edge of the Peaks and in thirty minutes it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere,” said Alex. “Even within the city centre we’ve got a couple of amazing riding venues. There is Grenoside and Warncliffe woods, which is at the north of the city and renowned throughout the country to have some of the best downhill mountain biking.”

Alex Gunn mountain biking, photograph by Jim Gunn

Alex mountain biking, photograph by Jim Gunn

Since Bike Rehab began Alex and Jake have less time to ride, but they are enjoying the challenges of starting up a new business.

“It involves long, long hours, but it is fun as well. Everyday you get up and you don’t feel like you are going to work. You wake up thinking about the things you have to do that day and you don’t really think of them in a negative sense, you see them as challenges and it is really rewarding.”

Jake, 26, enjoys the freedom of being his own boss.

“It’s nice to be able to decided and dictate how the business runs and the direction you are going in. That’s the big thing, not having to compromise your dreams and what you want to do in the future or the service you want to provide because someone else has an agenda you have to follow.”

Camaraderie between independents Bike Rehab also enjoys being near a hub of other independent businesses along Division street and they have noticed a growth in the independent scene. Jake has enjoyed being a part of this growth.

“We get quite a few independent shop owners coming in to Bike Rehab and it is great to get that camaraderie, because they talk about how business is going and we get to talk to them about how business is going here.”

Bike Hub Facility Alongside their repairs and services Bike Rehab also offers a bike hub facility for commuters in Sheffield.

“We did a bit of market research and we identified that bike thefts are going up and that this can be a deterrent for people wanting to ride in for work. “We have a bit of extra space so we thought about using it as a bike hub. If people have a nice bike and they don’t have anywhere secure at their office to leave it, they can come to  us and even keep their kit in a locker.”

Bike Rehab, photograph by Jeremy Abrahams

Bike Rehab, photograph by Jeremy Abrahams

Work-life balance As a graduate of Sheffield University, Alex received support from the university’s Enterprise Centre. This year Bike Rehab won an award for Sheffield University’s business start up of the year. They are now looking to get a few local apprentices in order to support others in finding a stable career in the bike industry.

“Most bike shop jobs are part time or zero hour contracts, so we want to set up a bit of a programme where we can offer the full qualifications and give someone a jump start in the bike industry.”

Jake also hopes that working with a bigger team will mean that he and Alex will be able to achieve more of a work-life balance so they can get back on their bikes.

Alex mountain biking, photograph by Jim Gunn

Alex mountain biking, photograph by Jim Gunn