Why Dalston pioneer Mosquito moved upscale to Islington but failed to ride the London cycle boom

Mosquito Bikes 123 Essex Road N1 2SN, closed April 2016 270716 © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com

THIS MONTH or early the next the last signs of a business that blazed a trail in Dalston will be thrown into a recycler.

“M squito” will be replaced by “Velorution Islington” as a small but thrusting team of hard-headed business professionals takes over the Essex Road store.

Mosquito Bikes started as a co-operative bicycle workshop in Bradbury Street, 100m north of Dalston Kingsland station, in the early 1980s. It was welcomed by Hackney cyclists, at a time when cyclists were in a minority in London, and by Hackney council, which saw Mosquito as key to its attempt to re-let the mostly empty shops it owned in the once-thriving street.

With its near monopoly the co-op did well enough to be able to quit Bradbury Street and open at 123 Essex Road N1 2SN.

The new store’s glossy contrast with Dalston’s grime made it clear Mosquito was moving upmarket, perhaps even that it would take the route of other shops, such as FW Evans and Cycle Surgery and become a chain catering to an affluent market.

Mosquito opened also in Finsbury Park but the site was badly chosen and the branch did not last long.

The Essex Road store continued, winning a reputation for high-quality and exclusive bicycles, parts and clothing, with online praise such as “staff there really know their bikes”.

But it was paying too little attention to those who saw a bicycle as a means of commuting rather than an object of desire.

“Outrageous customer service…  sloppy… arrogant… overcharging” were some of the complaints.

The public had plenty of choice and stock started to linger in the store. By the time debts were running in six figures, Mosquito had to call in a liquidator.

Bikeracks: Kingsland High Street Dalston London E8 290414 © david.altheer@gmail.com
Racked up: today cycle provision is common in Dalston, Islington and elsewhere thanks to the bike’s popularity

The winning bidder of the subsequent auction was Velorution, which has a big store at 75 Great Portland Street, in the West End and is owned by retailer Jonathan Cole. He says in a press release: “As part of our expansion plans we are about to Velorutionize [groan] Islington with our acquisition of the assets of Mosquito Bikes, a 30-year-old iconic bike store.

“The blend of Velorution’s urban lifestyle with Mosquito’s famed bespoke bike-building and fitting skills will make a compelling offering to our customers as we expand our stores around the capital.”

Fashionista and former footballer David Beckham has said he “approves” of Velorution.

Now that’s the kind of marketing coup that Mosquito in its E8 days could never have achieved.

David Altheer 010816

* Backstory: Dalston’s other bike pioneerLondon Fields road-closure row; Hip-hipster-hooray for Bradbury Street

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