A day in the life of…. Louis Wigston, Founder and Co-Owner of Paradise Cycles
Cycling enthusiast and local bicycle workshop co-owner Louis Wigston, gives us an insight into what a day in his life is like; from the five-mile cycle to Roman Road, his lunch place of choice, and the advice he gives to all newbie cyclists.
Paradise Cycles isn’t your average bike repair workshop. Set up over six years ago by two university friends, Louis Wigston and James Johnson, its aim is to make bike maintenance accessible to everyone. The duo have gone from tinkering with bikes in their basement to employing a team of nine and expanding to a second premise.
The friends have always wanted Paradise Cycles to be for the local community; a place where anyone can visit and receive straightforward, friendly advice about what TLC their bike needs, and leave the shop with a love of cycling (and a spruced-up set of wheels). Wigston lived in Bethnal Green for around eleven years, including in a house with Johnson on Paradise Row, which was the inspiration for their shop’s name.
I start my day by…. getting up at around 8am. I’ve started learning Spanish and I’ve made doing some language learning exercises before I leave the house a regular habit.
I have a roughly five-mile cycle commute from Peckham to Roman Road – I know the route like the back of my hand so it takes me about 25 minutes to get from my home to the shop.
It doesn’t matter if it’s windy, tipping down with rain, or snowing; I’ll still make the cycle into work. When I was a kid, I was always out on my mountain bike, so I’ve been cycling pretty much my entire life. The cycle into the shop helps me to clear my head and I genuinely think it’s one of the best ways to start the day.
When I get to the shop… it’s normally around 10am and I start the workday by catching up with the Assistant Manager, Marco Duarte who opens up the shop and greets the first customers. We’ll talk through the orders that have come in and what we have scheduled for the rest of the day.
As a small business, we need to be really organised and make sure we have all the equipment and stock in (at the current count, there’s around 8,000 pieces in the shop) so we can fix any bike that comes in.
The best thing about my job is… getting to do something I genuinely love every day. We have owned the business for years and I still don’t get tired of talking to people about their bikes and fixing them up for them.
I also like that having a stake in my own business means I get to help decide the direction of Paradise Cycles. From small, everyday decisions to the huge, business defining ones, including the initial choice of Roman Road for the shop’s location. We knew and loved the area from living here for years, but Roman Road ticked so many boxes for us.
It’s close to Victoria Park so people can cycle there as soon as their bikes are fixed, it’s where a lot of people live which means they can easily come in on the weekend, and it’s also got a lot of bike ‘foot-fall’. We know this from standing on various street corners when we were deciding where to set up shop and counting the number of cyclists!
An unexpected part of my job is… getting to work on the bikes for two of our customers who are currently trying to break the world record for the fastest couple to cycle around the world on separate bikes – they’re currently in Argentina!
The best things about working on Roman Road are… Quarantacinque Café, which does amazing coffee and VitaPure for grabbing a delicious Göozleme for lunch. I spend a lot of time around Roman Road and love how many independent businesses there are – I’d also recommend visiting the Lamas Pyjamas charity shop for great clothes and getting your hair cut at Jimmy Slicks.
What keeps you up at night? I worry about the climate crisis and think that getting more people cycling is a way that we can help to reduce the impact we have on the environment. If we can use the shop to get more people to think about switching a car for a bike ride then I’d be very happy.
My workday ends at… about 7pm when we close up the shop and take stock at the end of the day. If I go for a drink after work I’ll normally head to Globe Road to either The Camel or The Florist Arms.
My advice for anyone who is nervous about cycling around the city is… to remember that everyone starts somewhere. I speak to people all the time who are anxious about cycling, so I know how common it is to worry about riding a bike around London.
If you enjoyed this article, then read our photo-essay on Victoria Park’s roller-skating revival.
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