Coffee, bicycles, books, and interesting conversations with cycling enthusiasts from around the city – Bhubaneswar has a unique shop that not only gives buyers a wide range of cycles to choose from but also promotes a culture of cycling in the city.
“Bhubaneswar is my hometown. It is a tier-2 city and the healthy culture of cycling has not developed here yet. For me, cycling has been a passion since childhood. I was in UAE for two years and even while working, I never gave up on my passion. I purchased a unicycle there and learned how to ride it. But when I returned to Bhubaneswar with the vision of starting a business and settling down here, I noticed this gap in the market. There was no culture of spreading information about cycles, or no place where unique and interesting bicycles were being sold. So I decided to convert my passion into a business,” says Ajay Nanda, the man behind 22 Bikes.
Ajay refers to 22 Bikes as a community-based cycle shop that aims to develop the cycling community in the city. His is not just another shop where the cycle that is purchased is simply packed and sent on its way.
The establishment has a sitting area, a small library with 50% books devoted to cycling, and a dedicated repairing area. The idea is to encourage cyclists to come to the shop, sit around, chat, discuss, exchange expert tips, and plan cycling related activities. Ajay himself conducts several interesting events to engage cyclists and those who are interested in cycling to come together. He and a group of other cycling enthusiasts ride to different spots in the city on Sundays and also go for inter-state rides a few times every year. On August 15 this year, a team of 20 people rode from Bhubaneswar to Visakhapatnam – a 440 km long ride for which all the arrangements were made by 22 Bikes.
In May this year, the company started an ongoing campaign called Recycle your Cycle. “Many customers want to dispose of their old bikes. We fix a price for the old bike and deduct that amount from the new one. Then we recycle and repair the old bikes if needed and donate to children in an orphanage and a slum here,” says Ajay. When people want to just donate old bikes and not buy new ones, 22 Bikes repairs them for free before giving them away. Ajay and his team have given away 15 bikes until now.
“Earlier, the kids living in slums used to walk to schools for about 2-4 km. But now, many of them reach sooner and even save time for studies. The orphanage manager is also happy that the children there are not as tired as they used to be earlier,” says Ajay.
Additionally, Ajay and his team crowdfunded money from 22 Bikes’ core group of cyclists and donated a new cycle worth Rs. 45,000 to a boy residing in the slum. “We noticed that he was very passionate about cycling and had even won a few medals in local cycling events with just his simple cycle,” says Ajay.
22 Bikes has a team of four people. Ajay, who worked in the retail sector for seven years before opening the shop, used his savings and took loans from friends to start up. He still continues to go for rides with customers and even teaches them the technicalities for a smooth ride.
22 Bikes also organises workshops in schools in and around Bhubaneswar where they talk about the basics of cycling like safety measures, what shoes to wear, what areas to ride in, etc. The company has visited about 20 schools up until now.