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To The Forest Trail: An Interview With Cuckmere Cycle Company Wearing Universal Works

Apr 11, 2023

This Spring we’ve carried on our tradition of connecting with local businesses that inspire us and our customers, and showcase the outstanding natural beauty of the South coast. In this piece, we visited the Cuckmere Cycle Company and its manager Richard Lambert, a cycling enthusiast and proud owner of his own brand, Windover Bikes, while collaborating with contemporary menswear brand Universal Works. 

Universal Works established by David Keyte in 2009  delivers when it comes to everyday pieces that have a utility style, making them versatile and reliable for workwear environments, just like Cycle repair and hire shops.

In particular, the Bakers Jacket and Hi Water Trousers are two stand-out products that we had to talk about from this year’s collection. Durable and hard-wearing, but not forgetting a high level of comfort, thanks to the 100% cotton twill composition of both the garments, there’s also multiple pockets for tools and everyday items.

The full Universal Works collection.

Below is an interview with Richard, where he discusses the start up of his cycle brand, the idea behind Cuckmere Cycle Company, and why it’s so rewarding to cycle in the South East. 

Universal Works x Cuckmere Cycle Company at Urban IndustryTell us about the start of Cuckmere Cycle Company, why here, and what’s the idea around the business?

There was a bike hire place here in the 90's which closed around 2015, the building sat empty for 7 or 8 years, then the opportunity came up to reopen it last year. I grew up riding in the area and had been working in the bike industry most of my life when I heard that someone had bought the building with plans to get it open again, so I got in touch and was offered a job running the business. The location is perfect, out the front you can ride traffic free to the beach and Seven Sisters Cliffs, behind us we have Friston Forest with mountain bike trails leading up onto the South Downs. We started off in 2022 hiring bikes out, mainly to visiting tourists, but have more recently expanded our offering to sell and service some great brands like Marin, Cervelo and Haibike. We're hoping to create a 'hub' for local riders to meet, pick up spares, grab food and drink at Saltmarsh Cafe next door, and work alongside the National Park authorities to help more people enjoy the park and forest by bike! 

Universal Works x Cuckmere Cycle Company at Urban Industry

It’s not just about cycle hire, you also repair and service bikes, tell us more about that?

We have a fully equipped workshop, and offer everything from a simple puncture repair to a complete strip down and rebuild of your bike. We aim to stock all the essentials needed to keep you riding, and are happy to help out with advice and repairs for beginners and experienced riders. In the future we also hope to offer maintenance classes and we're already offering guided rides, it's all about helping people ride whether it's your first time out or a lifelong cyclist.

Universal Works x Cuckmere Cycle Company at Urban Industry

You have your own bike brand, can you talk to us about what that is and why you created it?

I was previously working for another bike brand as a frame designer, but myself and a couple of colleagues wanted to produce bikes more inline with the sort of riding we do, which was mainly off-road focussed. We founded Windover Bikes, named after a local hill, and set up a workshop in Worthing to produce frames. Working at Cuckmere was the perfect opportunity to get the brand off the ground, as it serves as our showroom and test centre. Our bikes are quite specialist, often being used for ultra endurance racing, but are equally suited to more relaxed riding on the terrain we have locally. Our background is in traditional frame building techniques, which we're keen to keep alive as a skill in the UK, we combine this with modern manufacturing equipment and progressive design to offer durable, versatile bikes intended to last a life time. 

Universal Works x Cuckmere Cycle Company at Urban Industry

Where’s your favourite spot to ride?

It's difficult to pick out one spot. We're very lucky to have such good riding on our doorstep, from Eastbourne you can ride 100 miles almost entirely off road to Winchester on the South Downs Way. I have ridden all over the world in some stunning locations but the UK has a lot to offer and there's not much that beats a long rocky descent off the summit of a high mountain in the Lake District. Sometimes though, it's more about timing than the location. Our local trails in Friston Forest get very muddy in winter, but if you get up at 5am on a frosty morning it's a different world. Frozen solid ground with plenty of grip, fast rolling trails and a silent forest all to yourself. It takes some motivation and the right clothing, but when you get it right that can be as good a ride as any. 

Universal Works x Cuckmere Cycle Company at Urban Industry

For someone who doesn’t know bikes very well, what advice would you give about purchasing a new bike, and what’s your go-to everyday ride?

It's easy to do everything online these days but for a beginner I would say the back up of a good local bike shop is a valuable thing. Most shops are run by cyclists who do it because they love the sport and are happy to give honest advice. Find one with enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, they will get you the right products and keep you rolling. 

For a beginner riding locally, we offer mountain bikes from Marin that start at reasonable prices and are versatile for use on mixed terrain. If you have a larger budget, we sell ebikes from Haibike that will make longer and steeper rides more accessible, and more fun! 

I'm fortunate to own many types of bike, but the recent trend for gravel bikes suits our local terrain very well. I tend to ride my Windover Bostal most of the time, it can do a long distance road ride with reasonable efficiency, but also handle most of the off-riding riding we have around here. 

Universal Works x Cuckmere Cycle Company at Urban Industry

Any upcoming events or news that we should look out for?

We're aiming to hold a demo day at the shop in May, where you can come down and try a bike from the brands we sell. It's a good opportunity for someone to test an ebike, which are rapidly growing in popularity. We also offer guided riding, in collaboration with Marmalade MTB, including an intro to mountain biking ride coming up soon, and there will be some social rides from the shop over the summer. 

Article: Urban Industry
Photography: Urban Industry
Thanks to Richard Lambert