Q&A: Rhythm & Bikes

Jez and Bruno are the humans behind Brighton’s Rhythm & Bikes – a repair- and restoration-focussed bike shop just up the road from Morvélo HQ. Whether the latest in off-road tech or the rarest of vintage ‘Nagos, they’ve always got something interesting in the stand. And, as the name might suggest, they also share a love of spinning a few discs now and again.

Let’s roll the clock right back, way before R&B: what was it that first got you guys into cycling?

Jez: I can remember the day I learnt to ride a bike, in a car park behind a church, aged about 4, and immediately falling in love with the sensation of flying along with the wind in my hair and the sheer joy of leaning into corners. Then aged about 9, setting off to ride to the next village and getting my first taste of freedom and independence – my world expanded at that moment.

Bruno: it all started when I was 3 when my mum bought me a Western Flyer, I was addicted from then on. It was the most fun thing I do and still is. I had a brief hiatus during which time I convinced myself I was going to be a superstar DJ which never really happened. The flame for riding was reignited about 10 years ago when one of my wife’s mates gave me an old Giant MTB and my life hasn’t been the same since. I love everything about it, the challenge, the camaraderie, the sense of community, the freedom and most of all the sheer fun that’s to be had on every ride.

Who were your heroes?

Jez: Darren Berrecloth and Matt Hunter

Bruno: Miguel Indurain

What led you to set-up your own bike shop? 

Jez: I had been working in the industry for a while, with a long stint at Evans plus a few years at various independents. I met Bruno while working for a community bike hub on the site we’re in now. We started hanging out and riding together, and one day talk turned to how we would do things if we had our own shop. That conversation progressed to writing numbers on a bit of paper, and then the charity behind the bike hub went bust and the premises became available. Having worked here for a couple of years we knew it was a good location, on one of the main thoroughfares into the city, so we went for it. As two bike mechanics with very little capital behind us, we knew we couldn’t try to compete with the giants of internet retail, so right from the start we decided not to sell bikes but instead offer what you can’t buy online – service and expertise. We stock all the parts we regularly need for servicing and repairs and get next day delivery from our suppliers for any other parts we might need. We work on any bike and take on any job, from puncture repairs to full restorations.

Bruno: I started volunteering at a local bike charity and it all took off from there. I loved working on bikes so much that I got my Cytech qualification with the intention of one day becoming a mechanic. I then applied for the manager’s position for the same charity and got the job. The opportunity to take over our current premises came up and the rest, as Jez has explained, is history.

What changes have you seen since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Jez: A massive surge in the number of people wanting to get out on a bike! Bike shops were designated an essential business, so we were able to stay open, and right from the first day of lockdown we have been mobbed – we are literally twice as busy as we’ve ever been. There have been, and continue to be, issues with the supply chain for certain parts, as factories in the Far East were closed down early on because of the pandemic, so this has presented some challenges, but overall it has been great for our business and we feel very lucky to be one of the (tiny) good news stories of this global disaster.

Longer-term I imagine we’ll see things settle, but I’m sure there’s still more change on the way too. Are you guys feeling pretty positive about the future?

Bruno: A wise man once said, “The bicycle is a simple solution to some of the world’s most complicated problems”. In the face of the environmental emergency and the Covid pandemic this is perhaps truer than ever, and we really hope the surge in interest in cycling in this country continues as the lockdown eases and life gets back to “normal”.

Why Brighton?

Bruno: Where else?! There’s no other city like it. Initially drawn by the liberal outlook, creative vibe and vibrant nightlife. Stayed to be by the sea yet within a half-hour bike ride of the Downs. With the mountain bike nirvana that is the Surrey Hills just across the Weald, we have it pretty good. The only thing we’re missing are some mountains.

What famous actors would play you if Rhythm & Bikes became a buddy film?

Jez: Sacha Baron Cohen and Woody Harrelson 🙂

You’re both pretty into your music – what’s you’re go-to, and what have you had on the playlist lately?

Jez: Soul, jazz, reggae, hip-hop, house, breaks, techno, drum & bass…. the music’s usually on in the morning before the lights and the kettle! Things we’ve listened to this week include Ray Charles, Miguel Migs, Groove Armada, Burning Spear, Metro Area, People Under The Stairs, Illinois Jacquet and Mr Scruff

How do you spend your time when not fixing, riding or thinking about bikes?

Bruno: Sorry, what?


For more from Rhythm & Bikes, follow the shop on Instagram. Bruno has a dog, so you know it’s good.

Writer and expert