On the 10th November The Bicycle Academy went into liquidation, after over 10 years in operation. Read on for a farewell note from Andrew Denham…
Going into 2020 the business was in great shape, we had a full order book, good stock levels, and a healthy amount of cash in the bank. Then COVID hit, and everything got turned upside down. Ultimately, the various lock-downs and unplanned relocation of the workshop meant we couldn’t teach courses for nearly 18 months. Unsurprisingly this severely weakened the business to the point where we had almost no reserves.
By the time we opened again in 2021 a significant number of the courses being taught each month were bookings from 2020 or before, and there wasn’t enough new money coming in to make ends meet. The combined impact of Brexit, ongoing supply chain shortages and delays, commodities prices, energy prices, cost of living increases and inflation meant that everything was more expensive and harder to get, and most people had less money to spend. In 10 years of running the business we had never experienced the impact of even one of those economic shifts, let alone all of them at once. It was a perfect storm. Having dedicated years of our lives to creating The Bicycle Academy, we were determined to secure its future, however in the end we couldn’t make it add up.
Over the years we helped people to make their own bikes, taught people who wanted to learn to make more, and coached people who wanted to further develop their skills. We worked with kids, adults and massive organisations and developed a range of jigs fixtures that serve 100s and 100s of pro and hobbyist builders all over the world. Helping out wherever we could, and supporting aspiring builders who were trying to make it, whatever that meant to them. We’re so grateful for the trust that people placed in our ability to help them learn, and the belief of all those who use the things that we created. We always tried to get involved in the community beyond delivering a syllabus, consulting, or selling a thing. TBA made fun things happen like the ‘Cobble Wobble,’ ‘Hack Bike Derby’ and ‘Old Skool x New School’. Fun for the sake of fun. I think that life is too short not to do things like that.
From the very beginning, I wanted to make frame building more accessible. It’s not easy to build bicycles, but with the right information, education and support, doing it to a high standard is absolutely achievable. Good needs to actually be good, but for that to be possible people need help to know how to make that distinction, and how to work towards it whilst being respectful of their responsibilities as the maker. That’s the really important bit. It’s the core of what TBA always tried to do, and I hope it’s the thing we’ve done that has made the biggest impact.
Fundamentally TBA was about people; Every single person who worked at TBA over the years made it what it was, helping it grow into and far beyond the organisation I’d hoped it would become. I can’t thank you enough. To the people that backed the crowdfunding campaign that got it all started, thank you for believing in the idea, and taking a chance. TBA wouldn’t exist at all if it wasn’t for you. To the 150 people who made bikes to donate to others, every one of which is being used every day by Namibian school children, teachers and medical workers who need them, thank you for your kindness and generosity. And to Tom, John and Jack (photo above taken on our last day together in the workshop), the core team who fought until the last, your dedication has been beyond anything I could ever have hoped for. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s been gut wrenching watching the thing we all built together fall apart over the past 2 1/2 years, but remember; you made something good happen that will continue to benefit people for years to come.
I’m starting a new business in a tiny workshop, where I’ll be teaching frame building skills and full courses on a 1:1 basis. The business is called ‘One Tube At A Time’ and is centred around the use of hand tools only. I believe that one of the very best ways to make anything easier to start is by reducing the number of things, space and money needed to get stuck in. So it’s hand files all the way! In the same vein, I’m also starting a little business called ‘Things To Make Things’ that will be producing a selection of the Academy Tools range of products. Well made things to make things well. Function before form. I’ll be doing these things on my own, on a small scale. I won’t be able to serve as many people in as many ways as TBA once did, but fundamentally I will be doing what I do for the same reasons. I hope to be up and running in the new year.
The TBA workshop has closed its doors for the last time, and we’re all moving on. Things will never be the same, but TBA will always have been what it was. I’m really proud of that.
Create space in your life to do good things that matter to you. It’s not always easy, but it’s where the magic happens and memories are made.
You can get in touch with me here: firstname.lastname@example.org
*The attached cover photo is from our last day together (taken by Adam Gasson).