We meet on a cold February morning in De Beauvioir Rose Garden, Dalston to discuss Maggie's bike. The birds are just starting to reappear from their annual migration, singing on their return and a few of the early blooms are starting to pop up through the cold, hard earth. Spring is on the way, but it's freezing.
Yet I feel warmth as I am greeted by Margerita, who is friendly, outgoing and fun and is quick to establish the informality of the occasion.
She's agreed to talk to me about her bike, the story of how she acquired it and to describe some of the journeys they've been on together. If you've been following this section then you'll know that its purpose is to shed a little light on what happens to our bikes after the mechanics have built them and checked them, over, and after that final parting moment, often so charmingly captured on the shop Instagram
and the customer rides them away. Maggie's has had quite the journey.
My 20 minutes or so with her are eventful, we are interrupted on more than one occasion by keen admirers of her bicycle and by friends and acquaintances. She bought her bike from The Hackney Peddler about 6 years ago when we were based at our old site in Hackney Downs Studios.
"This was my first bike as an adult I'd say! I was recommended you guys by a friend, it was sort of a birthday present. I came to you not really knowing about bikes. But I knew the sort of thing I wanted." Visiting our shop with a rough idea of what one wants is always helpful, but sometimes just knowing what you don't want can be equally as useful.
"I knew I didn't want a racing style bike, I wanted a ladies frame, but not a dutch bike and I wanted something light." We found Margerita this 1986 Raleigh step through in her size and the whole custom process, to create exactly what she wanted, started from there.
"This was all at your old shop in Hackney Downs. It took me about 3 separate visits to the shop to decide on and choose the colour!" Our shop is now located at 89 Stoke Newington Road, N16 8AA, we'll paint your frame
whatever colour you should desire, or you could choose from a selection of already restored frames
. After Maggie had decided on her smart looking navy blue finish, it would follow our tried and tested process. We send our frames to be sandblasted and powder coated by our long running and trusted associate, Steve at Aurum Finishing.
"I literally have no idea about bikes so I was way more focussed on the aesthetic side of things. So yeah, you found me all the parts and components in silver, which I love... and I absolutely love the handlebars!"
The front rack, basket and frame mounted lock are a much later addition. Although these 'Dutch style' fittings are as authentic as they come.
"So yeah I used her here in London for a couple of years, then when I moved to Amsterdam I brought her with me. I work in advertising and was working for an agency out there. I had some modifications done by a bike shop in Amsterdam to suit my Dutch lifestyle. Like this... Thing. "
She points at the front rack and basket combo with an expression of disdain. I reassure her that it all serves a purpose and she agrees that function over form is probably the sensible option.
"It all serves a purpose, for sure. She's been great. I don't think I could live without her!"
It is at this point that we are interrupted by a passer-by, she asks if Maggie would be willing to sell her bike. The interruption ends up serving as an advertisement for our shop, Maggie the instigator, of course.
"He does sell bikes!" she says "his shop built me this very one! Go to The Hackney Peddler, they have great bikes!" Our interrupter expresses her need for a big basket, as she loves them; "Me too!" exclaims Maggie "What you just described was pretty much my exact brief to the guys at The Hackney Peddler. I wanted something light, it had to be light and in a ladies step-through style that will fit a basket and/or a rack."
Similar scenarios continue to occur during our interview and she assures me that this is normal; "Well there you go you see. I actually get comments about my bike from strangers, very often. There's been some kickback from it."
I wanted to hear a little bit about how she'd been using it over the last year or so, with the emergence of our 'new normal' and at the beginning of an era of lockdowns and social restrictions, bike owners found themselves at an advantage.
We don't get very far before two of her friends, who live locally, have recognised her from across the park. "Yes queens!" she greets them and they catch up, one of those friends had been working very hard as a freelance in media that had culminated in landing some work for Radio 1. We congratulated them.
2020 has been bereft of the social contact we all crave, but for those fortunate enough to have remained in work it has presented an opportunity to focus on development. Maggie and her friends are no exception and seem to have been pulling out all the stops in what has been a very work-centric year. Maggie had ducked out between meetings and we were running short on time.
"Yeah my bike served me well during Lockdown 1 and beyond. I've become a real tourist on her. I liked going to see friends for a walk in west London when it was allowed or riding through central when it was really dead. The City was pretty strange back then, not a car on the street. Me and a friend like to ride the back streets and there's loads of little churches and it's like you're on a proper adventure."
"It has been wicked, there's just something about the freedom it's given. I couldn't have done lockdowns without it. It is good infrastructure to have all the rentable ones out there and stuff but there's nothing quite like having your own bike."
Maggie draws on an important point at the end of our conversation. We've all missed the ability to travel, some yearn for it more than others. Cheap flights have made holidays abroad viable for many, but we have so often neglected to find mini adventures on our doorstep. With international travel still on the distant horizon, something so simple as owning a bicycle can facilitate that release from the mundane. You need it.