I walked into Torque Bikes and felt immediately as though I’d been transported to a bike boutique in London. The feel was simultaneously professional and relaxed. My attention was first grabbed by the sexy Factor bikes displayed beautifully on the shop floor. However, it did quickly get diverted to the coffee machine. Leighton, owner of Torque bikes, made me a delicious coffee. I then sat up to the lovely wooden coffee bar to listen to Leighton tell me the story of Torque Bikes.
On this cool April morning Leighton was joined in his shop by his employees Paul and Adam. They are all friendly and welcoming. The three men were all diligently working while also having a continuous friendly banter.
“We used to tuck the bikes in for the night.”
Leighton smiled as he began to tell me about the beginnings of the shop. Years ago there had been a small independent bike shop in Sudbury which closed down. Leighton began to look into starting his own business, and after six months no other bike shop opened up. There was an opportunity for him to pursue his passion, and he took it.
Torque Bikes began in May 2012 on premises which looked very different to where we sat on this particular morning. The original shop was located on an industrial estate on the edge of town. It was a small room which filled up quite quickly with the parts needed for bike repairs and a small amount of stock. As the business grew Leighton was able to purchase bikes to keep in stock. Even though the business was growing the premises remained, of course, the same size. When they arrived in the mornings they would have to take out all the bikes and display them in front of the shop so they would have room to make bike repairs.
They would bring in the bikes and cover them each carefully with blankets so they wouldn’t get damaged. The maximum the shop could store was fifteen bikes. At this point there was a particular Tetris like manner the bikes had to be placed in the shop or they would not fit. Paul laughed as he remembered putting all the bikes in only to realise at the end he couldn’t close the door so he had to take them all out and start again.
When Leighton first opened the shop he was apprehensive and a little worried about how people would find the business. How would he get known and build a brand? He remembers taking out a small ad in the local paper, but really his business grew through word of mouth. He provided a quality service and knowledgeable staff, this was apparent to anyone who went into the shop and it was apparent to me that this was still true today.
Initially the difficulties were not just with the size of the premises but also with bike distributers and suppliers. It is difficult for a small independent business to get their foot in the door. But Leighton was hardworking and persistent. Over the years he was able to break into the industry and now he finds the distributers are continuously pestering him to check out their newest bikes. It is wonderful to see the tables successfully turned.
“Definitely the coffee machine!”
In November 2013 Leighton found bigger premises on Cross Street to accommodate his growing business. I asked what their current favourite products are and Paul immediately jumped in with ‘Definitely the coffee machine!’ Leighton couldn’t seem to decide as he looked around the shop like a proud poppa. Although he pointed out the Factor bikes, the new electric bikes Orbea, and Café Du Cycliste line they carry, he clearly loves all the products he stocks.
As the business has grown Leighton has increased the amount of time he works on the admin side of the business. Although his favourite thing to do still remains getting his hands dirty fixing a bike. He loves to take an old bike which has gone into disrepair and turn it into something great, something which makes another person happy. The passion for bikes is from the joy of riding them. Leighton, Paul and Adam all cycle regularly and lead local bike rides three days a week. These rides are open and free for any level of cyclist to join.
What gave Leighton the courage to develop his daydream of working with bikes into a reality? What gave him the courage? ‘My passion for riding just kept growing. I’ve always enjoyed working with and talking to people. I didn’t want to be 50 or 60 years old and have regrets. It all added up and I just took the plunge!’ So what does Leighton recommend to someone considering turning their daydream into a reality? ‘Do your research, know the type of business you want to get into, look at the numbers and just go for it!’
If you are looking for bikes, bike rides, bike repairs, or any information about bikes check out the Torque Bikes website.
If you've set out on your own and have a passion to share, please contact us to be featured in this project.