Finsbury Park bike business inspired by African villagers
PUBLISHED: 09:00 02 May 2015
Friends sell affordable, "beautiful", bikes that help get Ugandan businesses on their feet.
Bicycles have become somewhat of a fashion accessory in London over the last few years, but in the third world they can make a huge difference to someone’s life.
So when newly graduated Tom Davenport saw the “beautiful” bikes used by farmers in Uganda to ferry cattle, he immediately saw the appeal they might have back home.
Four years later the 26-year-old strategy consultant and his school friend Jonny Coppel, 25, are selling their own bicycles based on those in Uganda, as well as giving back to the place where it all started.
“I was just in Uganda for a holiday,” said Tom, of Almington Street, Finsbury Park. “It was there that I saw these amazing bikes.
“Beautiful structure, very classy, elegant and sturdy.
“I would see someone cycling along with a goat on the back, it was amazing.
“I could see how they would be very attractive in London.”
After being convinced by his good friend Jonny, now 25 and just about to qualify as a doctor, the pair set out on providing London with this classic sturdy model at affordable prices, but the plucky bikes that survived the great strain put on them in east Africa couldn’t last the stringent British road tests.
“It took us two years of buying samples and going through the tests,” said Tom.
“We put the first bike in for a month-long trial on a Friday, and on the Monday we got a call saying the bike had been destroyed.
“We went back to the drawing board and the next one lasted two weeks.
“But we wanted to make sure the bike was flawless.”
Finally, in the summer of 2014 the pair had mastered the design and received 200 bicycles – Fred’s Bicycles was born.
The pair have so far sold more than 100 bikes and are now fully qualified bike mechanics, with the bikes scored 20 out of 20 on build quality with magazine Cycling Active as well as 19 out of 20 for comfort.
Their success has seen Tom move the warehouse from his bedroom in Finsbury Park to a hold in Heathrow, which has made for more suitable sleeping arrangements.
“When we first started I had a phone call from Tom saying ‘I’m lying in bed and I’m surrounded by bikes’,” said Jonny.
“But now we’ve out-sourced a lot of the business and we’ve got relationships with local bike shops who get sent the parts and put it together for people to collect.”
But perhaps the proudest point of the business for Tom and Jonny is that five per cent of each bike sale goes to Bicycles Against Poverty, a charity that provides bikes for people in Uganda, making it easier to get to life saving provisions and aid communication.
“It’s lovely to think that when someone over here buys a bike someone in Uganda is also benefiting,” said Tom.
“Whenever we sell a bike I feel like we’re giving someone a really good deal. They’re getting great value and they’re doing a good deed.
“The only negative feedback we’ve had so far was that a couple of people have had their bikes stolen, which in a way we should perhaps be quite proud of.”
Fred’s Bikes sell two bikes, one men’s frame and one for women. Visit fredsbicycles.co.uk for more information.