UK's first monthly children's bike subscription service sets up home in Rainham

the Bike Club now operating in Rainham

The UK's first kids bikes subscription service has set up home in Rainham, moving to a 20,000 square ft warehouse last October. - Credit: the Bike Club

Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage for children, as is the act of teaching for parents.

To make this process easier, a husband and wife duo have set up the UK's first monthly children's bike subscription service, changing the way parents buy bikes for their youngsters.

James Symes and Alexandra Rico-Lloyd founded the company in 2016, before setting up home in a 20,000sq ft warehouse in Rainham in October.

With the move to Havering a relatively recent one, James sat down with the Recorder to discuss the origins of, and ambitions for, the Bike Club. 

Rainham bike club recruiting for staff

There are currently 30 staff at the Bike Club warehouse in Rainham, with plans afoot to recruit 30 more to reflect the businesses' growth. - Credit: the Bike Club

During his career as a chartered accountant, cycling enthusiast James developed an interest in "green finance", as both he and Alexandra considered there must be a better way to pay for consumer goods than ownership or traditional retail finance.

The pair, both cycling enthusiasts, decided to make these considerations the cornerstone of their business, and thus the Bike Club was born. 

Aiming to "inspire the next generation of cyclists and send a message on climate change", the subscription service is designed to improve children's accessibility to bikes.

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With a price range of between £5 - £15 a month, the club has 25,000 bikes in circulation, and aspires to grow this to 100,000 by the end of 2022.

Arguing that "parents see teaching their kids to cycle as a priority", James wanted to create a system whereby children could have quality bicycles without parents being "set back" a considerable cost.

Making the distinction between cheaper "bike-shaped products" and bicycles of quality, James believes the Bike Club solves the problem associated with making a big financial outlay on something which will be outgrown in a relatively short period.

There are undeniable "sustainability benefits to what we're doing", said James, with this opinion vindicated by the businesses' impressive growth figures.

Rainham bike club

Husband and wife duo James Symes and Alexandra Rico-Lloyd founded the company in 2016, aiming to inspire the next generation of cyclists with their venture. - Credit: the Bike Club

With a membership growth of around 300 per cent year-on-year since 2017, and a 155pc increase in January 2021 (compared to the same month last year), the merits of this model are obvious.

Thankfully these virtues are also seen by investors, with James pleased to announce that a landmark £5.7million investment has been secured. 

Perceiving this as proof that "we have been able to prove to investors that our product is economically viable”, he confirmed the money is set to go toward achieving that end of 2022 target.

This investment allows for the couple's vision for their new Rainham home to be brought to life. Growing at pace will only be possible with recruitment, and with that considered James wanted to flag 30 available job opportunities.

They have a mixture of mechanics and warehouse operatives, and want to add the right type of person to the 30-strong staff already on site. James said: "We are going to create proper careers for people."

Focusing on finding local talent if possible, James is open to collaborating with training institutions should it help identify the right recruits.

With relatively new roots in Rainham, both he and Alexandra want to continue cultivating what has quickly transpired to be a really positive on-site environment. 

Rainham business owners both cycling enthusiasts

Alexandra and James are both cycling enthusiasts, with this shared passion driving their business idea. - Credit: the Bike Club

The pair want local people to see the Bike Club as a viable career pathway, as opposed to merely a job. Being asked to sign a mortgage reference is one of James' proudest moments, the act signifying the prosperity that comes with working for the Bike Club.

In five years he and Alexandra have taken on more than most. Add to that the stress of two children under two, and James would be forgiven for feeling the pressure. 

Rather than feeling overwhelmed, he waxes lyrical about their shared dynamic: "There are a lot of stressful times in the business, but the benefit of working with your wife is that you have complete trust."

This partnership has no doubt allowed the Bike Club to flourish to its current point, and will take the venture to wherever the pair wish for it to go. 

On the latter point, James said: "The aim is to grow to a brand that is synonymous with family cycling."

To find out more about the Bike Club visit www.thebikeclub.co.uk.




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