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Winter deliveries

Brrr, it’s getting cold out! The Met Office is forecasting a particularly cold winter with plenty of snow. How will this affect your coffee deliveries?

We do deliver throughout winter, however if the weather is particularly bad we will most likely post coffee instead at no extra charge. If we have deliveries scheduled for a particular day but the weather makes it too dangerous to deliver we will contact you to let you know and re-arrange delivery.

Typically we’ll make a call on the day of delivery itself as, especially in the case of snow, weather can change quickly, or sometimes turn out not to be as bad as forecasted. In the case of Coffee Club we will make a call by the Thursday before the scheduled delivery day to give us time to get them in the post in time if we need to.

During winter we might sometimes use a vehicle for deliveries if we have a lot of them and it makes better financial sense than posting them. However we will keep this to a minimum.

However we’ll mostly be cycling as usual throughout winter enjoying the frost glazed scenery as long as the conditions aren’t dangerous and when we do need to make changes we’ll let you know as soon as possible if it affects your order.

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Why we use bikes in our business

Back in September we were invited to talk to Mark Dennison at BBC Radio Nottingham about why we use bikes in our business. The email inviting us to speak on the show included the line “businesses that still use bicycles” which made us laugh at the idea that using bikes as a delivery vehicle is a funny little quirk from the past. Although despite enjoying a giggle at that one line it was actually a really great chat about why we use bikes, what we like (freedom) and dislike (bad infrastructure), and whether we’ll continue to use bikes as we grow. I thought it was about time I got some of our thoughts on all of this down in writing on our website.

For us, using bicycles for deliveries is very much the future, and we’re not alone in thinking this. Even supermarket behemoth Sainsbury’s is trialing bicycle deliveries while Deliveroo are popping up in more and more cities following huge funding rounds to expand their restaurant bicycle delivery service.

In many European cities, cargo bikes do many of the inner city deliveries that we in the UK still use vans for. We believe it is the van model that is outdated as more and more people order goods online while space does not expand and city traffic is grinding to a halt. By using bicycles we rarely get stuck in traffic and can take many off-road scenic routes that those delivering in motor vehicles cannot.

We also have a commitment to keeping our environmental footprint to a minumum, something that delivering on bikes helps us to achieve. Last year we kept 1 tonne of CO2 out of the air by delivering by bike instead of in a small petrol vehicle. And of course using bikes is great for well-being. Before starting this business I was a desk-bound tech worker battling anxiety. Being out on the bike in the fresh air and getting regular exercise is the best medicine I could ever take.

We will continue to use bikes for deliveries. If we grow to the level where our own two sets of legs are no longer enough then our plan is to add more people on bikes to the team rather than a van. Of course on occasion we do use a vehicle, usually in bad weather or at times of illness. However we keep these to a minimum, and almost always end up staring out of the window watching a cyclist cruising by us as we sit in traffic regretting our choice.

For urban and suburban businesses with deliveries to make, we truly believe that bikes are the future. If you have a small business and would like to talk to us for advice or sharing resources, feel free to get in touch via coffee@roasting.house

 

Thanks to Mark Dennison for having us on the show.

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Meet the new member of our family: an e-bike!

e-bike

I’m not normally one for quoting (or probably mis-quoting) biblical phrases, but I’d like to start this post by saying judge not lest ye be judged. You see amongst cyclists e-bike is a dirty word and we’ve just bought one…

As The Roasting House grows, we need new tools and new logistic challenges present themselves. We planned to grow, we are growing but there are certain core principles we will always keep. One of those is sustainability.

Our Coffee Club is our most popular product and for £4.75 a delivery in Nottingham it’s obvious why. It takes us a few miles north of our base in Arnold, NG5 and as far south as Ruddington and Long Eaton. It’s a 50 mile round trip and a long day out. Split between two of us it’s slightly easier but we are human and look for the easiest method so a couple of times, mainly due to weather, we have hired a car – it’s not ideal and our total mileage for using bikes or walking our deliveries stays the same but it’s not an option we’re too happy about using even when the circumstance does warrant it.

So we bought an e-bike. It has an electric assist of speeds up to 15.5mph which won’t break any speed records but does make the hills of Nottingham a lot easier. Its range is ‘up to’ 50 miles on eco and 20 miles on climbing at full charge. The guide says it will cost about 1p per mile when assisting, and since we expect to do about 2000 miles a year on it, this will cost us about £20 – assuming we use the assist all the time. Basically it has negligible running costs.

An electric bike wasn’t really on our radar until we were working out logistics of what to do while the Coffee Club route is taking place on days of mid-twenties degrees temperature and 90%+ humidity which we have had a few times in these mid-summer months. Our first thought was the tram. With phase two near completion the furthest points the tram touches put us within 10 minutes cycling distance of our furthest customers. Mass-public-transport is green because of the amount of people it carries (even if the electric it runs on may be from dirty fuel), the amount of people within a designated space it can get from point to point is higher than other modes of transport other than walking. But walking our deliveries is impractical and the bike is such a wonderful machine not much bigger a human and designed with a human in mind it’s up there with humankind’s greatest inventions.

The tram however, wasn’t to be. Over a year ago we contacted NETTram to ask if they would consider allowing bikes on their trams during off-peak hours like they do on the Overground in London and other European countries.They said the bylaws didn’t allow them and they had no plan to change them. We asked again when Edinburgh trialled allowing bikes on their tram and they seemed open to considering it. Once Edinburgh declared the trial a success we asked again but the response was the trams are too short and they can’t make the special adaptations like Edinburgh can (although Nottingham use the exact same trams as some European cities that do allow bikes on, but anyway).

That left us considering the electric assist bike and we couldn’t be happier. Hills that had us gasping or daunting days in the saddle are no longer. Using discounts we spent £800 on our ebike to buy from new (tram fares would have been about that for the year). The battery has a two year warranty and the frame has five years.

Is it cheating? No. If we used a car for our deliveries then I doubt anyone would say we are cheating. I have never heard anyone say the package they had delivered to them got there by cheating because the vehicle used had a combustion engine run on the remains of dinosaurs dug out of the ground. Our coffee club deliveries are utility cycling rather than sport or fitness cycling (although it does keep us fit) and using the e-bike means we can now get up early, start roasting at 7am, do our deliveries, and then come back to finish the rest of the day’s work without feeling completely exhausted. It also means we can enjoy proper cycling for fun again as we still have legs left at the end of the day!

Our world is built around cars so it’s the automatic choice when choosing a vehicle but we love bikes because they are so versatile, they get to places, get through gaps and park in places no other vehicle can and with electric assist for up to 50 miles it covers more than what most cars do a in a day. If you get chance to ride one, do it; it’s an instant smile on your face. Will people care that you have an electric assist? Maybe. Will they notice? Probably not. Should you care? No.

Since getting the bike we have noticed more electric bikes on the road and we don’t think that is because in the last week lots of people have bought one. It’s because we simply didn’t notice before but now are a little more tuned to notice them. It’s a great leveller in abilities, you can keep up with traffic and other bikes on the road, you don’t arrive at your destination sweaty and you’re using a cheaper vehicle that has negligible running costs and is much healthier. If your reasons for not cycling are lack of fitness, reduced mobility, or not wanting to get to your destination hot and sweaty, an e-bike is the answer.

Without Nottingham Trams refusal to consider a change in the bylaws they wrote then we might never have been introduced to the fun of electric assist and it would have cost us more money. So thank you NETTrams. The first article we read that led us to seriously consider electric assist was this one by Richard Branson. So thank you Richard. The discounts we used to get the bike are the ones detailed here on HotUKDeals. So thank you HUKD. The bike itself is UCR 30 by Ebco. So thank you Ebco.

Right I’m off to whizz up the hill to Sherwood now 😉

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Why we deliver locally by bicycle

We make all of our coffee deliveries in and around Nottingham by bicycle, going as far as Hucknall in the north and Long Eaton in the south. Here’s why:

1) Speed. We can roast your coffee and deliver it to you by bike on the same day, within 24 hours of you ordering

2) Cost. A regular sized bag of coffee costs £1.26 to post but only a couple of biscuits in fuel to deliver by bike. This saving is passed on to you

3) Good for the environment. Coffee travels thousands of miles to get here, giving it a hefty carbon footprint. By delivering by bike, we can at least keep the footprint at our end to a minimum. We also keep kilos of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by not using a motor vehicle to deliver

4) Good for us. Cycling is good for our mental and physical well-being. Coffee roasters who are happy make better coffee

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On speaking out on cycling issues and road danger

I’ve just read an article by Sophie Heawood in The Guardian and it echoed something I’ve been thinking for a while. In her piece, Sophie says “We’ve become used to living in a world where BBC broadcasters can’t say what their politics are; where religious leaders get into trouble for having thoughts on how we lead and look after each other (a recent poll found that, actually, 44% of us want our religious leaders to speak out). But it sometimes feels as if even the politicians don’t want to talk about politics either; or about, you know, what they actually think.”

She’s talking about how bland politics has become, with politicians too scared to say that they are passionate for something, that they stand for something in case it offends some imaginary group devised in their focus groups.

I often find myself pondering something similar when it comes to our stance on cycling issues and road violence. If we criticise people who drive cars, we lose social media followers. This sometimes makes me think that we should avoid it, and only tweet positive things about coffee. Of course sometimes anger gets the better of us both and we take to Twitter to have a rant. But this is something that we feel passionately about and which we think that we should speak out about. We’re out there cycling every day just trying to run a business and deliver coffee and every single journey we come home talking of close passes and bullying. Some journeys, we come home dripping blood and bruised. We do a lot of miles so statistically we’re going to have more problems than your average cyclist. It is incredibly important to us that the roads are safer and that there is good cycling infrastructure – we couldn’t run this business without it. We also have friends and family out there riding bikes and we want them to return home safely too.

So we will continue to speak out on this matter, and it may occasionally lose us some followers, but cycling has also helped us to find ‘our people’ – we’ve made good friends and many of our customers also cite the fact that we deliver by coffee and speak about cycling issues as reasons for choosing us.

The internet and the world in general would be a worse place if we were all silent on things we truly care about for fear of offending some unknown person. We perhaps have some work to do when it comes to finding the right balance, but we will continue to speak out about bad infrastructure and dangerous driving. And we’ll continue to share envy-inducing shots of drinking coffee by the river too. We hope you’ll stick around.