We've decided to get to know some of our local business partners a bit better - and today we speak to Mark Hedger from Brighton Beach Bikes...

Photo of Mark cycling on the undercliff path, Brighton

  • Tell us about yourself and how you started your business

My name is Mark, I was born and raised along the coast in Shoreham-by-Sea. In the mid 90’s I started work as a beach lifeguard and then progressed to other roles and jobs on the beach. When the time came to looking to do something a little more permanent, I searched around for ideas that would enable me to ideally remain on the beach. This started with sports events under the Brighton Sports Co banner and then realising that there may be an opportunity to start a bike hire service back in 2011. I have always ridden bikes for fitness, fun and commuting, so the chance to do something with bikes and on the beach at the same time was perfect for me. I started out of a shipping container on Madeira Drive for three summers before moving to my permanent base in the arches on Albion Beach, next to Brighton Pier in 2014. Coincidentally the arch I moved into is the old swimming club arch, this was also how I got my first introduction to the beaches when, as a young triathlete in 1990 I used to meet a group to go sea swimming between the piers from the swimming club. From there I got involved in lifeguarding and the rest is history.

  • What do you love most about what you do?

I love the fact that I get to come to the beach every day to work. Having worked on the beaches for so long I have a lot of friends in the other businesses, so it is great to be able to hang out with them. I cycle in from Hove every day and in the summer months have a swim round the buoys with friends before opening the shop. I absolutely love being my own boss as well, there is no need to hang around if it’s raining, I’m off.

  • What’s the best thing about your work?

The best thing, other than coming to the beach every day is getting to meet people from all over the UK and the world. Generally, when people come to hire a bike they are in a good mood and looking to have some fun, so it’s a great environment to be in. Hopefully, I can help them get even more enjoyment from their visit and discover things that they didn’t know they were going to find.

  • What’s your average day like, or is it ever average?

An average day involves starting with a workout, either an extended cycle along the coast or a swim around the buoys. The shop is usually open from 10am, providing it is not raining that is. It normally takes half an hour to set up fully, flags on the beach, signs out, bike display on the beach. Customer arrival times are completely random, they never seem to come in spaced apart, always in bunches.

From there it’s a case of staying on top of bookings, making sure the bikes are clean and working smoothly and just generally serving customers as they come in. We also stock beachwear and accessories, so it’s not just bike hire customers coming into store. There will often be a visit from a friend popping in to leave their stuff to go for a swim and then a cup of tea.

  • What is the biggest challenge or opportunity currently for you at the moment?

Naturally, the biggest challenge has been Covid and not being able to open. Before that the introduction of the bike share scheme. With Covid, luckily, I work alone so there is no staff to look after. It now also presents an opportunity though as more people are looking to do activities outside and with the cycling boom that happened last summer, it is now very much a thing to do for people, whether they are at home or on holiday. On the beach we are missing our foreign visitors, but hopefully the shortfall is made up with more British people holidaying at home.

With the bike share scheme, it was pretty tough for the first few months, so I had to work out how I could differentiate myself from it and improve my offering. I have always been about exceptional customer service, reflected in my Trip Advisor reviews and about the experiences I was able to offer instore. With over 20 years’ experience of working on the beaches of Brighton & Hove I can tailor everybody’s ride to suit their needs on a lightweight, comfortable bike with a colour of choice. We also have hybrid bikes and tandems for something different which is a great advantage. Lots of local families want to cycle with the little ones but don’t have the space to store a trailer or child bike, this is where we come in as we have child seats, trailers, tag alongs and children’s bikes. A visit to the shop and you will get the complete customer experience, great service, great bikes and a chance to discover things that you might not have thought about beforehand. We are now at the point alongside the bike share scheme where we offer a service to almost different markets, which is great.

  • It’s exciting times for businesses being able to reopen, what have you been doing to plan for this?

Luckily, being an outdoor activity I’ve been open for a few weeks now. We are fully stocked and ready to go and now the hotels and B&B’s are reopening as well we are hoping for a bumper few months.

  • Have you got anything new planned for the coming year?

I’m always working on new ideas, the next step is to create a tour option that works for all people. I’ve dipped my toe into the tour guiding water before, some things have worked, some haven’t. The new venture being trialed at the moment is my own version of treasure type hunts around the beach and the city. They are a chance for people to have some fun searching for answers to questions that will lead them on a tour of the city’s best parts. I am doing this alongside the Living Coast Biosphere project.

Photo of people doing a Brighton beach bike tour

Related

Brighton Beach Bikes
Sightseeing
Cyclist on top of cliff with Brighton Marina in background

Brighton Beach Bikes is the only bike hire located right on Brighton Beach. Hiring a bike from us means you can ride the coastal cycle path for miles in either direction without crossing any roads, perfect for all the family. We are next to the Brighton Pier at beach level, so very easy to find, just look for the orange and yellow flags.

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