Simon Chippindale, Mallorca's "bicycle doctor"

Simon Chippindale at his workshop.

12-06-2021Humphrey Carter

Simon Chippindale is originally from Bingley in West Yorkshire, but in his mid-twenties he got tired of being cold all the time so he decided to get on his bike and head for sunnier climes and his adventure began in Gran Canaria in 1987. However, the money started to run low and he managed to hitch a lift on a yacht to Gibraltar where he found work and then returned to the Canaries where he continued working on the yachts and went on to travel the world on private yachts of various sizes.

Simon’s new journey in life took him as far north as Skagway, Alaska, across to the Caribbean, which involved five crossings of the Atlantic on board sailing yachts and schooners ranging from 45 to 96 feet in length, the Baltic and finally the Mediterranean, which is where he finally decided to “come ashore” - here in Palma.

“I continued working freelance on the yachts for a while but more on the refit and repair side, and during that time I got to know Palma, fell in love with the island and the lifestyle and decided to stay. The only problem was that I couldn’t find anywhere to repair my bicycle and that set me thinking.”

So, he decided to set up his own bicycle repair business some seven years ago in Calle Sant Feliu in the very heart of the city centre and coincidentally in the little lane where the Bulletin’s first offices and print press were. He now operates out of one of the lockups the newspaper used to store the print paper.

And then, Simon came up with a cunning business plan. As a result of his experience in the yachting industry he realised that there was a huge demand for bicycles but on a short-term basis.

“Down in the shipyards, you’ve got crews and mechanics on refit and repair jobs for say 12 weeks and during that time they need some form of transport which is cheap and easy - bicycles. So I started offering a sell and buy back service. Quite simply, I began offering the crews and mechanics the opportunity to buy a bicycle at a reasonable rate and then, once they had finished with it, buy it back.

“Obviously, if you need a bike for a short period of time, you don’t want to splash out on an expensive new one, especially if you’re going to be setting sail again. So that has become the main spoke of my business and it is working very well.

“I also specialise in secondhand bikes. Through social media, I get a lot of people coming forward who have had bikes locked away in their garages for years and no longer need them or they’ve got bored or want to get a new bike. So I travel the island buying and collecting unwanted secondhand bikes which, if needed, I repair at my workshop and then have available for anyone who needs a bicycle for an interim period. I am here most afternoons from 4.30pm until 6.30pm, so anyone needing a bike repaired can come down, while I am always contactable by phone.

“But I strongly believe in the personal approach, so I’m quite often down the docks when the yachts come in handing out my cards and explaining what I do; it’s very much appreciated by crew members.

“As Palma has become more cycle-friendly with more cycle lanes and a greater emphasis on people getting out of their cars and onto their bikes, business has picked up, especially as we’ve come out of the pandemic. I think people have not only realised that it’s a cheaper and easier mode of transport, with the wonderful climate we have on the island, it lends itself to a much healthier lifestyle.

“Plus, we’ve got the emergence of the electric bikes, which I think for slightly older people is a great alternative, although I do think we need tougher regulations on electric scooters. They are a great idea but they need to be better controlled because they can do a lot of damage if they hit someone or a dog, for example. This was the case with a friend of mine, and the guy didn’t even stop. The dog was seriously injured.

“But sadly, cars are still kings of the road and that has to change. I know the government is working on trying to ease traffic congestion and the island’s carbon footprint, but there a number of schemes I would like to see, such as properly organised vehicle-sharing services and, from a professional point of view, easier, faster and cheaper ways of being able to hire a van for a few hours as opposed to using rental firms.

“Not only do I only need a van for a morning at times, I’ve then got the problem of parking in Palma which is a nightmare for everyone who owns a car, and in my opinion far too many people do on the island and many don’t really need one.

“But I think we’re on the right track.”
Facebook info: On your bike Chips palma

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