Cycling Sparks: making the switch from four wheels to two

Cycling Sparks: making the switch from four wheels to two

We talk to Aaron Fleming-Saheed, to find out more about his decision to use two wheels instead of four and how this helped inspire the launch of his electrical business – Cycling Sparks.

All photos copyright Andy Matthews

Q. Tell us more about your background and motivation behind the decision to launch your company, Cycling Sparks?

As far as my professional electrical career is concerned, I’ve had a varied experience so far. I’ve worked for a big national, moving on to a small local firm using vans after that. I was then employed on large sites for a few years before eventually going out on my own.

At one point I was working for a firm on a big site in SW London that was particularly difficult to get to from the south east. I’d recently been diagnosed with a heart condition and a friend suggested getting a bike to do the commute.

I was 34 at the time and hadn’t ridden a bike since I was a kid. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous at the start but after a day of riding, that was it! I carried on cycling to work with my tools on my back and came up with the name of the business during one of my commutes.

With London’s roads becoming more congested and polluted, it was a no-brainer for me to continue cycling to work when I decided to go it alone and start my own company.

Q. How have you found the work-related practicalities (such as transporting materials to/from locations) of making the switch from your previous method of work transportation?

When I started out on my own in 2017 ownership and use of the eCargo bike wasn’t massive and it was (and still is) a very expensive purchase, so that wasn’t an option at the time.

My original bike was nothing fancy (I still have it) so I had to make things work. How to cope with a bit of 2 meter trunking? Use bungee cord at the back and front. How about a drum of cable? Stick it in a pannier bag along with accessories. All the while my key tools and drills were transported in my trusty backpack.

Clearly each daily job now required more thinking and planning in terms of the materials that were actually needed, and this was a real change from most companies I’d worked for previously.

The main question we often get asked is how we transport ladders and heavier items. We’re lucky to have use of some great cycle logistics firms in London who will deliver ladders and any items 3 meters and above, as and when I need them. There is a premium for this service but it closes the loop and means we’re not tied to vans or adding to pollution levels where we live and operate.

By 2019, I’d eventually got enough funding together to purchase an eCargo bike that would fit in the storage area in the flats where I live. That investment opened up so many more doors for me. I could now go further to jobs and carry more than before, which meant I could offer more services.

Q. How have things been going for the business in general?

Good! It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve done everything incrementally over the past five years and it’s taken a lot of trial and error to see what works well and what doesn’t.

By September 2021 I’d decided there was enough demand and wanted to push things further with the business so I ordered five large eCargo bikes which we received earlier this year. As a result, we’ve been able to broaden our scope of activities even further and I’ve started taking people on.


Q. What have been the most significant challenges (business or otherwise) you’ve faced since launching Cycling Sparks?

I guess the biggest challenge has been changing peoples’ mindsets of what you can do by bike. I got a few laughs on-site when I first started but I’ve just persevered with the idea and with the recent events over the past few years the business has naturally come into its own.

Q. What benefits can fellow electricians experience by making a similar switch from four wheels to two?

The sheer simplicity in using a bike makes it quite a robust choice. There’s a long list of additional benefits, but I’ll begin with the one that will probably be at the top of most readers’ minds currently:

Fuel. We don’t pay for it. We’re not queuing up for hours fighting to get some and we’re not beholden to the ludicrous price hikes. It means our business is a bit more stable than running a fleet of vans and the costs of servicing and ownership that also come as part of that.

Parking. It’s a nightmare in London at the best of times. We can pretty much go to a job anywhere we want without having to worry about finding a spot or paying for it.

Time. I used to spend hours in traffic when I had a vehicle. I hated it. Now I just set off when I want without having to factor in hold-ups such as school runs or roadworks.

Health. When I was on a regular bike I lost a lot of weight pretty quickly. My commute wasn’t massive, I think it was 13 miles both ways. Admittedly since using eCargo bikes some of the weight has come back on but you still get a decent work out.

The environment. I hope the recent heatwave has made it clear just how important climate change is. Using bikes minimises your carbon footprint drastically. You also have to ask how sustainable is it going to be to continue to use a van in built-up areas if things keep going the way they are? Sparks are a pretty bright bunch (well, some anyway) and we should be leading the way in how we’re going to deal with climate change in the trades.

Q. What do you hope to achieve through Cycling Sparks in the future?

Personally, I hope to take my business as far as I possibly can by continuing to grow it by moving into other sectors. But on a larger scale, as we take new recruits on and our opportunities expand further, I hope to effect change in the way things are done in metropolitan cities and to make things better for the environment.

To find out more about Cycling Sparks, click here

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