Five businesses you can start with a UK cargo bike

Cargo bikes are a great way to get started in a new business. Having an eye catching branded bicycle to serve as your transport, market stall table, delivery van, and mobile advertising billboard is a super efficient route to getting your new enterprise.

Throw in the fact you don’t need to pay for road tax, insurance, petrol, parking fines, congestion charges, or MOTs, and not only are cargo bikes a great way to kick start a new business, but also a affordable scalable option as your company grows.

Here’s five businesses you can easily start with the help of a branded Porterlight cargo bike.

1 – A commercial cargo bike for courier and delivery work

A great problem facing our towns and cities is the increasing volume of delivery journeys each day. From internet purchases, to on-demand curries, solving the logistics of moving these items on-time and efficiently is a key factor in future-proofing a city in terms of its environment, continued development, and reputation.

Deliveroo bicycle for deliveries by Porterlight Bicycles
A custom Deliveroo delivery bicycle we built using our Bringley cargo bike design.

In the UK cargo bikes are supremely suited to these last mile logistics; the work of getting those physical goods that final stage across town, and into a customer’s hands. Unlike the traditional model of Postman Pat driving around in a van, a cargo bike can take more efficient routes, stop and park wherever they need to, all whilst dodging the traffic jams, meaning that a cargo bike can outperform traditional delivery vehicles, whilst carrying much more cargo than other options such as regular bicycles.

A custom Porterlight Bicycles design for a courier cargo bike
A custom Porterlight Bicycles design for a courier cargo bike

Check out the delivery bicycle we built for Deliveroo, or build your own on our configurator.

2 – UK cargo bikes for food and drink start ups

Grabbing potential customers’ attention is especially important in super competitive markets such as food and drink. With hundreds of start-ups and small businesses producing unique artisan offerings, these companies need to work not only to differentiate themselves but also get a competitive advantage on the raw-juice-company-next-door.

East London Liquor Company custom cargo bike by Porterlight Bicycles
East London Liquor Company custom cargo bike by Porterlight Bicycles

A UK cargo bike helps give food and drink start-ups the boost they need in a couple of ways. Firstly the custom design and branding of a Porterlight bike can instantly create a super visible brand identity. Whether the bike’s being used to haul snack bars to deliver across town, or is getting wheeled inside a corporate HQ for a sampling session, having this fun mobile billboard for your company roaming the streets is a slice of free advertising that you can continue to both have and eat.

Secondly the huge carrying capacity, and nice big flat top on a bike also can turn them into a mobile roadshow, allowing you to pitch up at markets, events, festivals, and street corners, and get trading quickly and easily. For a fraction of the cost of an equivalent van or car, a cargo bike can get your food or drink company on the road fast, and keep those all important overheads low.

Custom designed food and drink delivery cargo bike by Porterlight Bicycles
Custom designed food and drink delivery cargo bike by Porterlight Bicycles

Have a look at the drink delivery bike we built for East London Liquor Company, or design your own on our custom cargo bike builder.

3 – Mobile flower stall cargo bike

Pop-up retail is a great opportunity for new businesses, but the high cost of renting a space without knowing whether it will work for you commercially is a big risk, especially in London. An alternative option created by owning a cargo bike, is that you can create your pop-up shop wherever you need it.

Mobile bicycle based flower stall design by Porterlight Bicycles using our Bringley cargo bike to make a flower delivery bike.
Mobile bicycle based flower stall design by Porterlight Bicycles using our Bringley cargo bike to make a flower delivery bike.

Functioning as both your transport to your pitch in the morning, and an eye-catching way to catch passers-by’s attention, a branded up Porterlight bike can allow a flower business to… well… bloom. There are no overheads to worry about, and you don’t need to pay for and run a separate works van either, just hop on your cargo bike each day and get around town.

The super mobile nature of a cargo bike also means you can take up new opportunities such as residencies in office buildings, or offering flower stall services at indoor events and shows. Being able to turn up to a corporate building and offer a great wellbeing service of free flowers from a beautiful cargo bike is a great way to build your brand, and your business.

Start playing with our custom bike design page, and see what type of flower delivery bike would suit you.

4 – Ice cream cargo bike

Perhaps few products in our lives are more evocative of a happy childhood afternoon spent in a sunny park than an ice-cream. But the days of gaudy ice-cream vans traulling the streets are somewhat done. Instead, an ice cream cargo bike with a battery or propane powered freezer can offer an ultramobile, go-anywhere platform from which to sell ice-cream, making it a very viable affordable alternative.

A mobile ice cream cargo bike design by Porterlight Bicycles
A mobile ice cream cargo bike design by Porterlight Bicycles

Unrestricted by roads, ice-cream bicycles can take their goods direct to the customers at outdoor events, festivals, street markets, and even indoor corporate events. Custom branded for you, an eye-catching Porterlight bike can work double duty as a great advertisement for your lollies, and as your transport home once your freezer is empty!

Have a go at designing your own on our custom cargo bike builder, or get in touch and see what we can do.

5 – Removals and recycling by bicycle

With the weighty issue of environmental sustainability pressing companies and individuals to find new ways to minimize their waste footprints, a cargo bike (or two) offers an excellent way in which to help others become more green.

Mobile recycling and refuse collection bicycle concept by Porterlight Bicycles
Mobile recycling and refuse collection bicycle concept by Porterlight Bicycles

A high capacity bike allows for the collection of recyclable goods, or perhaps items being donated for charity or upcycling, in a way that is itself environmentally friendly. To use large diesel trucks and lorries to collect these goods only answers half the question of how we can make our current practices more sustainable.

By removing the running costs of needing a large refuse vehicle, smaller collection companies become possible, able to cycle around a city picking up recyclable goods and make the most of their recycling value.

Have a go at designing your own on our custom cargo bike builder, or get in touch and see what we can do.

Deliveroo X Porterlight Bicycles – Custom London Cargo Bike

 

Porterlight Bicycles X Deliveroo - Custom London Cargo Bike -

London is a city well suited to the cargo bike. The winding mass of streets and roads are usually choked with traffic from early in the day, till late at night. Through that static bulk of trucks, cars, taxis, and vans, however runs an extensive network of clear, fast, and direct bike lanes. From shared bus routes, to dedicated bike paths through the parks, this network takes many different forms, and may not even be obvious at first glance. But once you’ve got your cycling directions memorized (or my preference, a phone running Google maps shouting turn-by-turn points at you!) crossing London by bike is a straightforward breeze.

It makes sense therefore that when the disruptive takeaway food start-up Deliveroo took a look at London, they realised that bicycles would be the fastest, and most efficient way of connecting their hungry customers with the city’s many restaurants. Deliveroo’s distinctive bicycle pannier boxes have quickly become a standard London sight, strapped on to their riders’ bikes with varying degrees of success. When it came to making large deliveries of food to whole offices, events, and promotional events however, a more efficient cycling solution was needed. Enter the bike lane, Porterlight Bicycles collaboration with Deliveroo to design an ultimate London cargo bike.

Porterlight Bicycles X Deliveroo - Custom London Cargo Bike -

Deliveroo approached us with a brief outlining their cargo capacity needs, a reference for their favourite shade of green, but mostly with an enthusiasm for finding a London built solution to carrying cargo through the city by bike. We set to work designing an eye-catching cargo bike that not only communicates the Deliveroo brand instantly, but one that can also deliver those all important hot-food orders quickly and safely.

Porterlight Bicycles X Deliveroo - Custom London Cargo Bike -

First up was stretching the main cargo deck beyond the normal 60cm long space on our Bringley cargo bike model. An easy adjustment to make in our North London workshop, and one that quickly makes this a super capable cargo bicycle. Next we fabricated a sturdy rear rack for the back, so that Deliveroo can continue to use their standardized equipment for their rear rack boxes on their new cargo bike.

Porterlight Bicycles X Deliveroo - Custom London Cargo Bike -

We set up the 160mm Avid BB5 disc brakes back and front that we equip all our cargo bikes with, to provide ample stopping power no matter how wet the capital’s streets get.

Porterlight Bicycles X Deliveroo - Custom London Cargo Bike - Avid Disc Brakes

Leading the way at the front, is a custom laser-cut logo emblem to really show off the Deliveroo brand (in case passers-by miss the other two metres of Deliveroo green bike arriving behind it!).

Porterlight Bicycles X Deliveroo - Custom London Cargo Bike - laser cut logo

A classic centre board mounted in the bike’s frame provides additional branding power, and a hint of retro charm reminiscent of the old butchers’ bikes that also used to ply the same streets.

Porterlight Bicycles X Deliveroo - Custom London Cargo Bike - frame advertising board

We also included our normal Porterlight branding flourishes on the frame.

Porterlight Bicycles X Deliveroo - Custom London Cargo Bike - custom P seat bridge

Whilst some puncture resistant Schwalbe Road Cruiser 20” whitewalls finish the look.

Porterlight Bicycles X Deliveroo - Custom London Cargo Bike - Schwalbe Road Cruiser Tyres

All of which comes together to complete a tasteful, yet brutally efficient way for the company to get hot food around London at high speed.

Porterlight Bicycles X Deliveroo - Custom London Cargo Bike -

We had a lot of fun developing and building up this Deliveroo concept bike, so if you’ve also got a need for an eye-catching, eco-friendly, low-running cost, and smile-to-face-bringing cargo bike for London, the UK, and beyond, drop us a word on our contact page, and we’d love to have a chat about all the possibilities.

Whilst you’re still reading on, why not take a look at another of our recent projects for the East London Liquor Company here, and see how a London built Porterlight cargo bike provided a modern way for the high-end distillery to get around town. Or hop over to our Twitter and Instagram pages, to see what we’ve been up to most recently.

East London Liquor Company – Custom Cargo Bike

Porterlight Bicycles X East London Liquor Company - Custom Delivery Cargo Bike
Porterlight Bicycles X East London Liquor Company – Custom Delivery Cargo Bike

Back in September we were gearing up to open Porterlight’s two week pop-up shop in central London. Wanting to make sure our evening talks about Adventure, Cycling, Technology, and Entrepreneurship go with a swing, we started contacting potential drink and snack sponsors seeing if they wanted to get involved.

Porterlight hosted a cargo bike pop up shop in Covent Garden, London
Porterlight Bicycles hosted a cargo bike pop up shop in Covent Garden, London to showcase our custom cargo bicycles handmade in the city.

Firing off the usual slew of emails that every drinks company has to wade through each day from hopeful event organisers begging for booze, one London distillery replied with an interesting counter offer. They weren’t interested in supplying our pop-up shop with free booze, but were very interested in ordering a cargo bicycle to use as a delivery bike.

As far as exciting orders go, it’s a great brief to receive!

Keen to lower their carbon footprint, East London Liquor Company want to use a cargo bike to deliver their premium London made spirits to bars and shops in East London.

I set to work, designing a bike that would reflect the artisan and handmade nature of East London Liquor Company’s work. The custom cargo bike would cruise London’s streets, and so be a great marketing and advertising bike for the company as they traveled around on their deliveries.

Porterlight Bicycles X East London Liquor Company - Custom company delivery cargo bike - Designed and handmade in London
Porterlight Bicycles X East London Liquor Company – Custom company delivery cargo bike – Designed and handmade in London

I’ve written before on why cargo bicycles in London make so much sense, and being able to customize the utility bike with East London Liquor Company’s own branding means it can blend into a bit of East London cool too.

Porterlight Bicycles X East London Liquor Company - Custom delivery cargo bike branded up with the distillery's distinctive horse shield
Porterlight Bicycles X East London Liquor Company – Custom delivery cargo bike branded up with the distillery’s distinctive horse shield

Up front is a custom laser cut flying logo.

Porterlight Bicycles Custom cargo bike with laser cut branding metalwork
Porterlight Bicycles Custom cargo bike with laser cut branding metalwork

The main deck is occupied by a 148 litre aluminium weatherproof lockable crate.

Porterlight Bicycles Custom Cargo Bike featuring a massive 148 litre lockable weatherproof aluminium delivery crate
Porterlight Bicycles Custom Cargo Bike featuring a massive 148 litre lockable weatherproof aluminium delivery crate

East London Liquor Company wanted a bit of a retro vibe, so I sorted out the classic signboard for the centre of the frame.

East London Liquor Company custom cargo delivery bike out in Victoria Park London
East London Liquor Company custom cargo delivery bike out in Victoria Park London

Outback is a curving tailboard too.

Porterlight Bicycles Bringley Cargo Bike with East London Liquor Company's custom tailboard
Porterlight Bicycles Bringley Cargo Bike with East London Liquor Company’s custom tailboard

Delivery day went smoothly, with the whole East London Liquor Company coming out to welcome their new London made cargo bike to the family.

Custom bar plugs made from East London Liquor Company's own corks
Custom bar plugs made from East London Liquor Company’s own corks

If you’re interested in chatting about the potential for customising your own custom cargo bicycle, get in touch and see what Porterlight can do, or have a play with our custom cargo bike configurator. Getting a cargo bike handmade in the UK means that we can deliver a completely custom bicycle to perfectly suit your branding and delivery bicycle needs.

Thoughts on cycling through Turkey (Black Sea coast)

My ride across Turkey took about three weeks in total. Plenty long enough to find yourself building little habits and routines into your day based on the towns and countryside you’re traveling through. Waking up in the mornings in my tent, I’d listen for the crashing of waves, so certain was I that I had found yet another beautiful cliff top camping spot the night before.

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It was almost ridiculous by the end. If my wild camp site wasn’t next to the sea, with a nice flat grassy floor, and shielded by bushes and trees for privacy, then I wasn’t quite happy! My best find was a perfect little cliff top soft spot, with steps down to the sea to swim, and some suitable bushes to hang my clothes to dry on too. Few campsites I’ve ever stayed at have managed to offer quite such good facilities!

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Turkey also gave me every reason to expect the roads each coming day to be smooth well paved numbers, usually with a pretty fair margin on the right I could cycle in. Tunnels I came to were well lit and wide, and I would always expect to find a fresh water tap placed for public use every few kilometres. It is then a rather fine life cycling across Turkey, with the only spanner thrown in these works being, the hills!

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I knew the hills were going to be there, but even so, as you find yourself grinding up the fifth ascent of the day in your lowest gear, sweating and tired, you long for that crest and the expected downhill the other side. When you then reach the summit and instead find another incline tucked away on the other side, it’s definitely a moment for a square of chocolate or two!

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For all its ups and downs though (!) Turkey was extremely good to me. The people were always friendly, offers of chai plentiful, and ice creams available in every corner shop from one end of the country to the other.

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By the time I found myself camped one evening on a little cliff top look out over the sea as usual, with the Georgian border in sight I was a little relieved if anything. After three weeks cycling along a fairly similar coastline I was excited to get into a new country and turn inland away from the sea and towards (well, around) the Georgian mountains.

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As I sat looking out to sea from my tent, watching the sun go down and eating a hearty cyclist’s dinner of bread, cheese, and water, I was sad to be leaving Turkey but excited for the road ahead.

Cycling along Turkey’s Black Sea coast – Straight out of Istanbul

There’s a dread that fills my heart a little whenever I know I’m going to be entering or leaving a big city by bicycle. At their core these cities are usually pretty good, with pedestrianised streets and even the occasional bike lane. One ring further out, the suburbs also provide sometimes quiet streets and residential shortcuts. The real problem is the final layer, the mesh of highways, industrial zones, flyovers, and airports that snarl around these cities. They orchestrate thousands of cars and trucks on their intertwined journeys, but for all the vastness of their footprint, leave little room for a bicycle.

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Pushing off in (the already hectic) centre of Istanbul then certainly reminded me of these concerns! I’d be crossing from the European to Asian continent and heading up to the follow the relatively less hilly north sea coast east. Once I’d cleared the maelstrom of traffic and noise.

I already knew that you weren’t allowed to cycle across the bridges over the Bosporus and that most attempts are met by a police car. Instead I headed to the ferry dock to take a small boat across the water, and in a sneaky tactical move, north along the Asian coast to just outside of the hectic city itself. This was my master plan to avoid repeating my grueling ride into the city, and so it will surely not surprise you at all to hear that, it didn’t work!

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A bike ferry of sorts

Three boats trips back and forth confirmed that no boat was going to take me north, so after eating a sustaining snack muffin or two, I pulled my socks up and cycled off into the traffic on this eastern side.

After a few hours the city started to subside, much faster than on the west. The hills began to roll, and the roads twist, and fold over them. The skyscrapers gave way to mansions, then houses, and farms, then forest. Perhaps the easiest departure from a big city I’d ever had!

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Time passed, kilometres fell, and snacks were eaten. Eventually I started glancing around searching for somewhere to set my tent. The search was short and resulted as it so often does in a spectacular camp site. This one perched on a cliff overlooking the woods.

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So began the Black Sea coast run. For the next few days I’d wake at dawn with the sunrise working it’s way into the tent, breakfast, ride, snack, ride, lunch, and ride onwards to the goal of Samsun.

The coast itself was at times disappointing, no beach, just sea defences (a theme that would continue for all of Turkey). But the real joy was the routine of cycling till I was tired, then resting, and repeating. The real joy of bicycle touring!

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Constanta to Istanbul

Setting off on a 6500km journey on a bike that’s barely been ridden around the block yet, and especially one that you’ve just built yourself from a pile of tubes, is definitely asking for trouble.

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So as I pushed away from the train station in Constanta, Romania where I’d just spent a diligent thirty minutes reassembling my bike from its airplane proof cocoon, it’s fair to say my nerves were running pretty high. This bike is the culmination of years of dreaming about making my own bicycle, and the outcome of months of sweating away with metal saws and welding torches.

With a wobble left, and oversteer right, a swerve left, and a hurried glance over my shoulder at the Romanian city traffic pounding past. I kicked it down a few gears and started accelerating up to speed. The wobbles reduce into a shimmy, down to a mild oscillation, before finally I’m cruising steadily along the hot tarmac with just a gentle meander left and right as I get to grips with having my front wheel a good metre in front of me.

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Any sense of relief or exhilaration would come much later though. For now all that I could think about was analysing every sensation coming off the bike, every sound and every bump. This would be my default state for the next couple of days as I cycled down the Romanian coast and into Bulgaria.

I pedalled through the town taking the main road to the beach, the same road my friends and I had cycled several years ago making this same pilgrimage to the sea. It’s a leafy, tree lined boulevard, that winds along to that keyhole moment where between two buildings the void of the sky beyond suddenly appears. A blue square cut out from the wall of buildings. As you approach the view gets wider, showing you also the sea, the sand, a few wheeling birds, and finally as you pass through the gap itself, the whole view stitches together.

I only paused looking out over the water for a few minutes, again the worries of setting off on this trip making me want to cycle off and see whether this bike was about to fold in half or not! So I swung a leg over the saddle and pedalled back through town taking the road south along the coast towards the Bulgarian border.

The crossing of that border actually came very quickly though, less than 24 hours after landing in Romania, the rolling fields and isolated farm houses were interrupted by the stark authoritarian archway that let’s you know you’ve reached a border. Passport please. No photos. OK you go.

With that I had entered Bulgaria having covered only 60km of road so far. Everything felt like it had slotted into place though, the familiar feeling of being a cyclist on tour. Pedaling through little villages and hamlets, pausing for sips of water and puzzling over my map. A strange sense of excitement seeing a Lidl to pop into for some groceries and a rummage through their cycling accessories (picking up some needed cycling gloves).

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My first night in Bulgaria was spent tucked behind a hedge in my bivvy bag, looking out at the sunset over a field of wheat. The coming nights wouldn’t be so pastoral however, starting soaked with rain and generally being continued in a hotel room. The rain lasted a good 36 hours, leaving no choice but for me and George a Czech cyclist I had already bumped into on the road, to push on through the rain up the hills and towards the Turkish border.

We entered Turkey in thick fog giving the border post a very surreal feeling. Much to our disappointment the long slog up hill top the border didn’t translate into a blasting downhill, but the beginning of the infamous rolling Turkish hills that would continue all the way to Istanbul and beyond. Long grinds uphill followed by a few minutes of glorious speed and flying downhill. And repeat.

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Three more overnight stops in the tent brought Istanbul onto the day’s itinerary and with it a sense of the dread of trying to cycle into a mega city. I cannot blame them for the fact that no city planner had ever planned for the arrival of cycle tourists. The day was spent dodging a thousand gravel trucks building the world’s future largest airport outside town, crawling along the hard shoulder of a surprisingly motorway like B road. Eventually the flyovers became traffic lights and the trees to skyscrapers. Eight days after setting off, I’d arrived once more in Istanbul.

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Setting off, first steps, first pedal

The days leading up to my departure were as hectic as they come. No matter how many trips I go on, I don’t seem to be able to escape the near panicked last minute packing and remembering of important things. It’s reassuring though when you reach a point where the last minute things you start remembering are tiny things like ‘needle and thread’ as you know things like that are easily sorted once you’re there.

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By the time you’re at the airport then you know it’s going to be OK, because short of you not bringing your passport, you’re going, and will just have to deal with it on the road.

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So began this trip, a dragging of bags to the tube station and a furtive push of the bike through the barrier, then a long ride to the airport. The mundane tube turned into a transport of adventure!

My arrival into Bucharest was unspectacular, and after a night slept in the airport, it was a taxi to the station, then a train to Constanta. This is the Black Sea resort town where my Eurovelo 6 bicycle trip had finished with two wheels in the Black Sea itself. Building a strange cargo bike on the platform of a Romanian train station is definitely not recommended for the shy of dispositions though, so after the assembled crowd had parted, it was a relief to pedal away from the station and towards the view point from which our victory photo had been taken last time.

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Surreal to be back there again, this time without five other cyclists though, and with a lot of unanswered questions about if the bike I was riding, and if I myself, was up to this 6500km journey.

With a wobble and the odd foot down on the road though I was off. Quickly leaving Constanta behind me and into the Romanian countryside once more, south this time, with Istanbul the twinkle in my eye.

You are never really ready for adventure

It’s three week until I board a plane bound for Romania to begin my bicycle journey to China, and one thing I know for sure, is that I’m not ready. There are in-fact many ways in which I’m not ready. The visas I need for the trip are still not processed, the equipment I need for the trip has not all been purchased, and perhaps most crucially, I still haven’t finished building the bicycle that I’m going to be riding there. What’s perhaps surprising about all of this though, is that accepting that you are not being ready is not a bad thing.

The primary concern in my mind at the moment is getting my bicycle finished, as without that the whole ‘bicycle trip to China’ aspect is going to be a lot harder. This is quite a big challenge as not only am I building a prototype of a new design of bicycle, it’s also the first bicycle I’ve ever built. Things are ticking over on this, and the pile of cut, bent, and mitred tubing on my workbench is reaching a satisfying height and lining up neatly with the drawings and plans. The ultimate welding together of it all will only take a day, so unfortunately until that point I’ve got to accept it’s going to keep looking like a big pile of tubes.

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The route I’m taking is also becoming ever more fine tuned, with distances and number-of-days per leg getting mapped out. This isn’t even something I want to worry about, but the spectre of the stack of visas I’m going to need to cross nine international borders requires quite a bit of thought and paperwork. Uzbekistan and Iran are currently topping my list of difficult places to get a visa from, as I’ve found I’ve been delayed by the Iranian new year in my process for an application number. Once I get this, it still won’t be until I arrive in Istanbul that I can finally get the stamp that will allow me to cross into Iran.

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What’s fortunate about this process, is that I know this is fine. That’s not to say that I’m sure I’ll get all the visa stamps in time, or that the bicycle construction will continue rolling on smoothly. What it means is that in order for me to have this adventure, there will be these unknown factors in there. You could try to plan a trip like this, for months or even years, but you would still reach a point where something happens unexpectedly and you must simply deal with it. The more you begin your journey with that attitude, the less stressful it will be when the time comes to do some problem solving.

Now I’m not saying that you could do a trip like this without planning it. The intricacies of the visa timings have needed some careful calculation and endless reference to other bicycle touring blogs about their experiences. Collecting those shared stories is very helpful, as it’s referencing similar situations that makes handling the unexpected more manageable. For example having completed several cycling tours already, the challenges of distance, finding food, finding shelter, and getting lost, also worry me less. Now having read the tales of people who have cycled similar journeys equally Iran has turned from bogeyman to an expected land of helpful hospitality.
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With a journey like this, you’re always stepping into the unknown. If you weren’t, then your journey would be more a package holiday, carefully curated and guided, not necessarily worse, just absolutely different. We live in an age where we now have access to enough information about the world to pre-plan and research nearly every aspect of expeditions and journeys, but if you over-indulge in your research you not only kill the spontaneity and unexpected pleasures of your trip, you also harden yourself against being flexible and accommodating enough that when things don’t go to plan, you can change what you’re doing and roll with the punches.

Research and planning is great, but you must just accept that you’re never really, absolutely, completely ready for adventure.

 

Quitting the day job to chase dreams, explore world.

Today was the first Thursday in a pretty long time where I’ve woken up without being buzzed by an alarm and then without a single look at my phone, rolled over to the cold side of the pillow and gone back to sleep. Today I had remembered, was not a day for going to the office.

It’s an obviously strange experience when for the last few years Monday to Friday mornings have been an orchestrated daily performance of hastily finished cups of coffee, smoothing down of crumpled shirts, and flitted checks of the clock making sure you’ll reach your desk in time for emails, calendar invites, and your second cup of coffee.

Watch check and coffee

The key to my new found restfulness it turns out had been an almost disappointingly short email I had sent a few days previously; ‘…I Lawrence Brand would like to give notice that I will be leaving this role…’. After a long time in a job, it feels strange that all those daily interactions with your office friends, those plans made, goals set, and meetings held, feel so easily dismissed. I wanted it to be more dramatic, and to feel more hard-won. In reality though I, just like so many others before me, had quit their job to explore the world and in the context of a steady 9-5 that feels less about succeeding and lot more like dropping out.

The company had been good to me, once I’d explained that I was leaving to build a bicycle in the corner of my apartment and then ride it from Romania to China, and once they had smiled and nodded their heads sympathetically, I’d been allowed to not work my notice. So I now had a month free to feverishly finalize my project, but what I was immediately haunted by was a sensation of how quickly the meaning and importance of that office work you’d been frowning over last week seemed to have evaporated, or that perhaps you’d deceived yourself into ever assigning it too great a value.

Don’t get me wrong though, I do feel lucky, not only that I now have the luxury of this free time to build my bicycle, but also that I had a clear, strong, and encompassing plan to fill my world up again with. Making bicycles had been my long term goal for years by this point, and I’d been only vaguely successful in trying to squeeze it into weekends and after dinner time since I had moved to London in 2012. So to wake up today with the immediacy that I must work on this now is a fantastically energizing feeling.

Roller bender for bicycle tubing

Feeling that empty space where the office job used to be is actually something positive then, because I know that building this bicycle and riding it 6000km across 10 countries is going to be more than enough to fill it.

There’s also no sense in which I am as ready as I ever thought I’d need to be, I don’t have my visas organized, I don’t have a finalized route, I haven’t even made a bicycle yet. I’d previously imagined I’d slip away from the office to a beautiful and neatly arranged Porterlight bicycle workshop where my touring prepared cargo bike would await, but we all know life is far more scrappy than that. What I have instead is a near joyful feeling of under-preparedness.

What I’ve done then is make the plunge. I’ve jumped in at the deep end, and am now planning to flail my arms and legs until I learn enough about swimming to keep my head above water. In a reassuring way the metaphorical life jacket I’m wearing is this: I know I’ve made the right decision. Having dreamed about this for so long, to find myself sitting here at home on a grey Thursday morning, with bikes parts strewn around me and maps pinned to the wall, without a completely solid plan, and with a hundred tasks and thousands of questions left to answer, I am truly happy.

If you’re reading this then I presume you’re also teetering on the brink of your day job. My only advice can be this: chase your dreams, take the plunge.

Lawrence Brand Porterlight Bicycles

Lawrence

History Lesson

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I’ll accept that ‘manufacturing a bicycle in the corner of my apartment in London then riding it from Romania to China’ isn’t the most obvious thing to do. It probably doesn’t feature on the top-ten-things-to-do lists of many people, it didn’t even feature on mine until a couple of months before my departure date for that exact trip.

However a few similar things had been swirling through that great big list of ‘things to do’ for years though; that big list that you rack and assemble on idle bus journeys and in the minutes between the first alarm clock call and the impending snoozed reminder. There was ‘make my own bicycle’ for a start.

The entire idea had been born working on-and-off as a bicycle mechanic. I’d started on teenage Saturdays in a physical bike shop, tinkering, repairing, and inspiring me to learn ever-more. Eventually going it alone as an on-demand bicycle repairs guy in Sweden, I lived some kind-of student dream, fixing rusty broken bikes for beer money and snacks.

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All forms of payment were accepted
All forms of payment were accepted

Knowing how the bits go together still isn’t quite the same as building your own bike though, so back in Britain I took on a course in welding, and started to cover my apartment in metal filings and dust. Not great for being a popular housemate, but all good for making a bicycle.

But years then went by, without a deadline, and with some typical distractions, I started new jobs, quit jobs, went travelling, moved country, moved back, cycled across Europe, started living in a warehouse in London, basically everything foot-loose and care-free that being young allows but perhaps isn’t great for getting on with bicycle manufacture.

Arriving into Romania on a 2011 bicycle trip across Europe
Arriving into Romania on a 2011 bicycle trip across Europe following Eurovelo route 6

As 2014 arrives, it was something of a now-or-never moment. Until then those international bike trips had been purely fun  journeys of adventure and exploration, but now I wanted to combine another leg of that big round-the-world-bit-by-bit cycling project I had started with the cycle trip across Europe with the beginnings of making bicycles professionally and living the metaphorical ‘ride off into the sunset’ dream.

So that brings you up to date with the trip. I gave in my notice at work, stopped putting off working on the bike, realized I basically had 8 weeks to finish it, and started to knuckle down for real. I was going to finally make my own bicycle, and then take it on an epic test ride. 6000km from Romania to China.

I honestly cannot wait!

Lawrence