Bristol Bicycles design and hand-build bikes aimed squarely at the commuting market. These are the the VW Golf of bikes: not pretending to be a racing bike; not trying to be a mountain bike. These are good, practical, reliable bikes pure and simple.
“I’ve always been a cyclist and I enjoyed messing about on BMXs when I was a kid” says founder Jake Voelcker. “Then I got into mountain biking a bit later as a teenager. I was repairing bikes for friends and I ended up with so many bikes in my bedroom and my shed and my attic that I either had to get rid of them, or find a small workshop.”
Having rented a workshop, very quickly the business grew and within the first year Jake had taken on an employee. That was ten years ago this month, when Bristol Bicycles started off as Jake’s Bikes, a workshop offering servicing and repairs and selling reconditioned used bikes.
“The business has grown every year since, and around five years ago we were having to turn away more people than we could serve with second-hand bikes so we decided to look into selling new bikes as well. We couldn’t find anything on the market that was the right mix of quality and not a ridiculously high price. That’s why we launched Bristol Bicycles: our own brand of bikes which we build here in the UK.”
By taking inspiration from Dutch and German bikes that are very practical and have a comfortable, upright riding position, Jake realised that Bristol Bicycles could offer something similar but lighter, and with more gears to suit hillier British terrain.
“And what is very exciting is the the new electric bikes that we’ve just launched”, Jake continues. “They can reach a much broader range of people – for example people who haven’t quite got the fitness to cycle a normal bike, or people who used to cycle but find it a bit more difficult now, especially the uphills. Electric bikes just completely solve those problems.”
Asked about the future of the business and what he looks forward to most, Jake said “We are hoping to expand the business to reach more people and make a difference in other cites. We’ve got big plans for either licensing or franchising in the future.”
“For me the real standout moments come when someone who wasn’t previously a cyclist or someone who maybe had an injury and thinks they can’t cycle any more actually then has a go on a Bristol Bicycle or maybe an electric bike and thinks ‘I can do this!’. I’m very grateful to be part of empowering that change in their life, it’s very humbling.”
A video version of this interview is available on our Youtube channel