Bike Week is a long-running annual fixture in the industry’s calendar, first taking place decades ago when the trade was much younger. The seven-day-long celebration of cycling is well established, and opportunities for the trade to get more involved are many.
Cycling England chairman Phillip Darnton tells BikeBiz: “Bike Week is probably the biggest celebration of bicycling in the year.
“BikeWeek thrives by being a grass roots series of events, rather than a top-down, centrally organised event. It’s really about thousands and thousands of people getting excited about cycling.”
The grass roots nature of Bike Week is part of its charm, as are its challenges, according to Darnton: “That is the great joy of local events, but at the same time it’s something that makes it difficult to pull together and make more successful.”
The aim of Bike Week is the essential business of encouraging people into cycling – and broadening the potential customer base for retailers:
“Many people who are passionate about cycling enjoy cycling long distances and cycling up steep hills. With Bike Week we’re trying to say that even though you may like cycling 40 miles, new cyclists aren’t going to become a fan of cycling with a 40-mile demo.
“We have to think about people who don’t think of themselves as cyclists.
“It’s more about people getting on a bike and enjoying themselves. Serious cyclists are very committed, but sometimes forget what it is to get started, and how you get people started is by almost seducing them into cycling.”
The timing of Bike Week – this year from Saturday June 13th and running to Sunday 21st – has been a contentious issue for some retailers and is something that Darnton addresses: “It is always an extremely busy period for cycle retailers and a lot will say that what we really need is an event that promotes cycling when there isn’t much of it going on – like February – but the thing is that people don’t enjoy cycling if it’s wet and windy.
“I think that the idea that its in the middle of June is a given.”
But it needn’t be an obstacle – smart retailers can plan ahead: “I think that the imaginative retailers have all sorts of good ideas and that many of them are starting now and doing things in their shop –like making customers aware that it’s only eight weeks until Bike Week, and now is the time to come and get your bike checked over – don’t wait till June when the sun is shining and everyone is in store.
“I think retailers do have a great opportunity but very often I think, and I’m no expert, they do leave it a bit late.
“I think there are ways of exploiting that it’s coming for several weeks before hand. I think that if we can help to catch organisers and let them know who their local bikes shops are and if we can get retailers to find out who their local organisers are – which they can from the Bike Week website – they can say we’re prepared to help you and we’re prepared to do all sorts of things – and now’s the time.
“It isn’t about saying it’s up to you to make the effort in Bike Week, it’s all about the opportunity that leads up to it for retailers.”
OPINION: Chris Compton, Compton Cycles
Chris Compton has a unique perspective on Bike Week. The founder of south London bike store Compton Cycles also sits on the Bike Week board.
“I can empathise with most stores – it is a busy time of the year. But changing the date of Bike Week is never going to happen.“
Compton offers practical advice for bike dealers: “Make your shop the centre of information for any events. And whatever you do, make it store based. Ultimately you want to drive people into your shop.”
Getting involved in locally planned events is beneficial for bike retailers, Compton argues: “Underpinning other people’s events is ideal, but make sure you get the recognition. If you are providing support you need to make sure you get some way of helping drive people through your store.”
Raising awareness of Bike Week needn’t be time consuming either: “In my shop at the moment we’ve got a notice board to make people aware of local events that are part of Bike Week.”
Compton left the biz with some sage advice: “When I first got involved in Bike Week I found it hard to gauge the effect it was having on my business.
“Then I turned it on its head – there are all of these organisations promoting what I do and that’s something I felt I had to support. Anything I can do to help out has to be good.
“However, you can’t quantify it and say ‘I’ve had an extra £500 of sales’ because of Bike Week, which is a shame.”