A volcano expert who caught the biking bug in Japan has followed his dream by opening a cycling shop in the heart of Denbighshire’s cycling country.
James Ashworth has put a career as a volcanologist on hold to open Kazoku – Japanese for family – Cycles on Denbigh’s Bridge Street and is getting ready for an explosion of interest in the sport.
He puts much of this down to the success of Wales’s first ever Tour De France winner, Geraint Thomas, who clinched cycling’s blue riband event in Paris in July to inspire a new generation of cyclists.
James, a former King’s School, Chester, pupil from Holywell chose Denbigh after checking a popular cycling website and finding that the Vale of Clwyd town was at the heart of many popular road and mountain biking routes.
They include the Road To Hell which starts in Denbigh and climbs a thousand feet to Llyn Brenig and it’s also close to centres of excellence for mountain, trail, BMX and dirt jump biking.
Kazoku Cycles combines repairs and equipment sales with being a coffee shop and an informal hub for cyclists of all kinds and is the kind of unique shop that Denbighshire County Council’s #lovelivelocal campaign promotes as part of the diverse and vibrant shopping experience available on the county’s high streets.
The project is centred on the busy run-up to Christmas and sees James and other retailers across the county featured on a series of videos on social media to praise the quality and variety of shops in Denbighshire.
As part of the #LoveLiveLocal campaign shoppers can support local independent businesses by using the hashtag on Twitter and Facebook to share good experiences they’ve had as well as promote products and services locally they have ‘loved’.
The videos are appearing on social media throughout the run-up to Christmas to help promote shopping locally.
The town’s retail offer appealed to James when he opened this summer and he said: “Denbigh is such a busy town and it has a great variety of shops here and of course it’s at the epicentre of a booming cycling area.
“I didn’t get seriously into cycling until I went to Japan to study volcanology – I had already been to Iceland and was there when there was a major eruption in 2010 which disrupted air travel across Europe.
“Cycling is really popular in Japan. Pretty much everyone has a bike, there are great facilities and the countryside is fantastic.
“But because of the difficulties with the language it’s better – and safer – to ride with people whose language you can understand.
“Many Japanese take their cycling very seriously. It’s all about racing and not very relaxing.
“I helped form a cycling club for foreign nationals, Cycling Kyoto, and it’s still going and has hundreds of members and it was also because of the language barrier that I learned to repair and build bikes.
“It was quicker to learn than to try to explain to a Japanese bike mechanic what was wrong with my machine and I ended up repairing the bikes of friends and fellow club members.”
It’s a skill that’s standing him in good stead and he said: “At this stage the business is more about repairs but I do sell a couple of different makes of bikes as well and I can put new bikes together so they’re ready to ride for Christmas.
“I also wanted to create the same sort of club atmosphere I’d enjoyed in Japan so I combine the work on the bikes with a café where people can call in and enjoy some quality coffee and cakes and have a chat.
“A lot of those who do are cyclists so it’s a good place to find out what the latest trends are and what people are looking for and it keeps me in touch with the cycling scene.
“I hit upon Denbigh after studying the Strava website which shows the best cycle routes and Denbigh is at the heart of many of them, both the enjoyable relaxing rides and the tough and arduous ones as well so it seemed like a good place to start a bike shop and it’s going really well.
“There are great trails for mountain bikers in the Clwydians, at Llandegla, in Clocaenog Forest and Llangollen and there is Marsh Tracks at Rhyl for BMX riders as well as other styles.
“The local Foel Gasnach Downhill Riders club is also doing a lot for thedownhill mountain bike scene in the area.
“You learn as you go along of course and there have been no shortage of teething problems but nothing we can’t handle!
“The business is just myself and my girlfriend (when she is around to help out!) for the moment and it’s really all about getting established and getting known but I do want to try and cultivate that club atmosphere.
“That’s what makes Kazoku Cycles unique, the fact that it is a place for cyclists to gather and chat over a coffee and if they ask me to repair something or sell them something, I have that available too.
“We’re not just a bike shop – we’re a community too! Our aim is to get people together, and get them out having good times on their bikes.”
Denbighshire County Council’s #LoveLiveLocal 2018 campaign to promote the county’s retail attractions uses the hashtag #LoveLiveLocal across all social networking platforms to encourage shoppers to visit its towns.
For more on #lovelivelocal go to https://www.denbighshire.gov.uk/en/business/business-support-and-advice/love-live-local-caru-busnesau-lleol.aspx as well as on Facebook and Twitter.