Worker co-op plans rebirth for Birmingham bicycle industry

Birmingham Bike Foundry is teaming up with Vulcan Bicycle Works on the bespoke manufacturing venture

A Birmingham worker co-op is looking to revive bicycle manufacturing in the city – which was once a global hub for the industry.

The venture by the Birmingham Bike Foundry comes amid a boom in the cycling industry due to the lockdown and changes in people’s transportation habits.

It builds on ten years for work by Birmingham Bike Foundry providing repairs, refurbished bikes and training to the city. Now it is teaming up with Vulcan Bicycle Works to bring back bicycle production to the city – sourcing tubing from Reynolds and saddles from Brooks; two historic Birmingham brands. Other materials will also come from UK-based manufacturers.

Co-owner Matthew Cox said: “As a worker co-op, we believe in good value, high quality work that shows the power of co-operation and democratic management.

“We’re excited to be branching out and doing what feels natural for us now, producing our own handmade bikes.”

The co-op says the project is well timed – citing figures from the Department for Transport which show that the number of people using a bicycle for work or leisure in England has rocketed since the lockdown began on 23 March.

Daily bicycle use rose by an average of 50% on working days during lockdown, while the number of weekend and bank holiday cyclists shot up by over 136% over the same period.

“This has led to a shortage of new bicycles from overseas producers something which inspired us to restart production here in Birmingham,” it said.

“The city was for many years the centre of the world’s bicycle manufacturing industry. With Vulcan Bicycle Works, we are bringing back local production with a modern twist.”

The co-op says every bike is designed from scratch around the individual rider.

“Materials, fit and handling characteristics are carefully selected to enable adventures, whether that’s daily use, weekend trips or non-stop races across continents.

“The process begins with a thorough fit session on our state of the art £3,000 bike fit system at Birmingham Bike Foundry.

“Our framebuilder Ben has been building frames since 2015. As an experienced endurance cyclist he recently competed in a thousand mile mountain bike race in Kyrgyzstan, all this means he has an in-depth knowledge of how to design and build a bike to survive years of punishing riding.”

The frames for the bikes are individually designed and handmade in Birmingham, using a traditional fillet brazing process to create a smooth and strong bond between tubes.

After the frame is completed, lightweight and high-tech components are chosen from a carefully selected range of products, and the bike is fitted with handbuilt wheels. Assembly is done in-house by the co-op’s Cytech-trained mechanics.

A small number of orders will be accepted from late 2020, with delivery in the first quarter of 2021. The bikes start at £3,500 including the fit session. The full range, which will include bikes for ultradistance racers, commuters and the adventurous traveller, will be revealed soon.

More details at the co-op’s website.