GENERATION AGELESS: JOHN NELSON

John Nelson, 65, from Hutton Rudby, is very much riding the new business journey. He’s the brains behind The Rusty Bike, a cool cycle cafe at the foot of the North York Moors. Elysia Agnew checks in for a catch up over coffee…
GENERATION AGELESS: JOHN NELSON

We’re talking to people who have made interesting life/work changes and have a positive attitude to mid-life, doing things differently, changing their pace of life, their priorities, reflecting in what’s gone before and the new opportunities and challenges to come.

Inspired by the sustainable surf cafes of Cali and Canada, John Nelson and his two grown-up kids, Jen and Rob, have worked as a team to grow the business from a garage to a country gem.

An engineer in the motor trade for much of his life, John found his beloved bike rusting away in the garage. So what did he do? Put his wheels in motion, found a derelict garage in nearby Swainby, and opened a quirky countryside cycle cafe. With his outdoorsy spirit, a can-do attitude and a way with DIY, a beauty of a business was born.

I used to do this…

For the last 35 years I worked in the motor trade, servicing and repairing cars for a very loyal customer base. I like to think my car repair business was as much about the cars as it was about looking after the customers.

Now life is about…

New challenges, adventures – and great coffee and cake!

WHY/HOW I MADE A CHANGE…

I was on holiday in Canada visiting my son Rob – who was working there at the time. We spent every day mountain biking in the Rockies, and at the end of the day we would roll back into Whistler, where we would relax in some very quirky coffee shops with cycling-related activities. We sat there, took it all in and were inspired by the lifestyle that together, cycling and cafes created.

So as the scary thought of a bus pass lingered, which was definitely not for me, creating a new business which could include my cycling interests seemed to be the way forward.

By good fortune, or good luck, the old garage in Swainby was for sale, and its location on the edge of the stunning North York Moors was perfect. So we set off on our journey to convert the building into The Rusty Bike.

At first, the plan was to just open weekends, hiring and servicing bikes – and serving coffee while people waited.

But it soon became a seven-day-a-week operation. The cycle hire side of the business attracts people visiting from as far away as Australia and Canada, while our coffee shop and gallery has become a hub for local people. It’s a great mix.

I’m lucky I can…

Run a business I’m extremely passionate about, thanks to the help and support from friends and family. A very good friend of mine, Jane Kitching, made a huge input into the creation of the cafe and gave us the inspiration for the look and feel of the place. Jane’s artwork, which is displayed in the galley, is now part of the fabric of The Rusty Bike.

Day in the life of me…

Every day is different. Some days start by making the famous Rusty Bike soup, chatting to customers about cycling and introducing them to the world of electric bikes. When time allows, you’ll find me out riding my bikes to prepare for cycle events and mountain bike races. Some days are spent maintaining and repairing various interesting classic cars and motorbikes for friends. When the sun is shining, I will be on my mountain bike, getting lost in the glorious North York Moors. My cycling friends and customers have further supported the business by wearing Rusty Bike cycle tops on their journeys across the globe, giving me my new name ‘Mr Rusty’.

The people who are important…

My children Jen and Rob. I am also fortunate to have some great friends who have helped and supported me over the years, and I have enjoyed many adventures with all of them.

Work/life balance?

Working for yourself in a business where you meet new and interesting people every day, work quickly becomes an enjoyable part of daily life.

I thrive on…

The need to be doing something creative or constructive and not wasting time – trying to get as much as I can from life.

What makes me tick most is getting to grips with new projects, like finally having the time to renovate my house, the buzz when the cafe is busy, and taking time out to listen to customers’ stories and adventures.

I’ve got time for…

Now I’m not working in the garage, I have more time for cycling again – plus working on and riding my vintage motorbikes. My bike is no longer ‘rusty’ and I’m back to it, planning new adventures every day.

Things are different because…

In my previous business my work pattern was pretty structured. But now, I have so many projects linked to The Rusty Bike on the horizon: such as leading educational cycle tours, both at home in North Yorkshire and overseas in places I’ve been lucky enough to explore.

Mid life means to me…

60 is the new 40, so I haven’t arrived at my mid-life just yet! I’m very much looking forward to a new lifestyle based around cycling and The Rusty Bike.


facebook.com/therustybikenorthyorkshire | yorkshirebikehire.co.uk

Seaham Hall

Related Stories