Cycle training... for retailers

Andy Tucker, Marketing Manager for BikeRight! explains to BikeBiz about the retail opportunities in cycle training for adults...
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What’s the background behind BikeRight?
BikeRight! is one of the organisations with qualified National Standard (NS) accredited instructors that deliver Bikeability training. For those who don’t know, Bikeability is the public brand of the National Standards for Cycle Training set up by leading cycling organisations back in 2004. The NS have three levels: Level One skills, delivered in an off the road environment such as a school playground; Level Two, performed on quiet side roads; and Level Three, which includes busy roads and complex junctions.

Bikeability delivers eight hours training to school children aged 10-11 to achieve Levels One and Two, funded by local authorities or school sports partnerships, via grants awarded by Cycling England (or the Department for Transport from next year).

Level Three National Standards, however, is largely taken up by a more mature audience: adults who want to improve skills, build confidence, or learn how to tackle today’s busy roads and complex junctions. They may be driven by the desire to commute by bicycle as part of a cycle to work scheme, for example.

There has been lots of talk in the press about the demise of Cycling England and the potential impact on Bikeability. This ‘cycling proficiency for the 21st Century’ does seem safe for the remainder of this parliament. Future funding for Bikeability could be around £10m per year.

How do you see cycle training fit in with retailing?
There is a mounting body of evidence that suggests that cycle training encourages long-term take up of cycling. This means long-term spending on cycling related items and activities, which can only be a good thing for dealers.
Retailers could consider training as NS instructors and provide NS courses as a way of attracting commuter cyclists and offering a more holistic approach to cycling that goes beyond the sale of bikes and accessories – a kind of ‘push and pull’ tactic if you like.

To quote Carlton Reid from last month’s BikeBiz – “Think of it as saving up for a rainy day” – cycle to work schemes are not guaranteed to be around for ever, let’s face it, government policy changes faster than a chameleon on a zebra crossing, and MAMILs who have progressed from golf to sportif races will no doubt soon find something else to spend their bonuses on.

How can cycle dealers capitalise on this?
There is a lot more that retailers could do to encourage cycling, being at the ‘coal face’ as it were and in direct touch with end users of bicycles. Yes, some shops organise great sportifs and field shop teams in endurance MTB races – but this only encourages competitive types and isn’t for everyone. There are lots of rusty cyclists, or potential cyclists, who just want to build confidence to become a regular rider. And we all know that regular cyclists spend more on bikes, clothing and kit.

Retailers could build valuable customer loyalty by providing cycle training to customers – as an added value after-sales service, or to generate income during quiet periods.

It is simple to become a National Standards instructor. A specific course aimed at retailers provides everything a shop owner/manager needs to deliver National Standards cycle training to new and existing customers, even children.

What do the courses include?
There is an initial four-day training course leading to ‘provisional’ status. Those attending also receive a National Standards instructor manual and a post-course assessment to achieve ‘qualified’ status. There’s back-up from a leading instructor-training provider, regular updates and newsletters, use of our branding on promotional material and Ride Leader and PrePedal learn to ride training too.

What are the potential returns for retailers getting involved?
Shop-based cycle training could meet latent demand, particularly among women and cycle commuters. In Manchester, of 300 adults trained in summer 2010 (funded by the city council) 76 per cent per cent of the trainees were women, 20 per cent were learn-to-ride sessions and 18 per cent were one-to-one Level 3 training for people wanting to ride in busy traffic.

We also get hundreds of bookings for bespoke courses or open sessions during summer, Easter and half-term breaks. Typical charges for a two-hour session are around £50 per head depending on location and demand.

With NS instructor training courses starting from as little as £190 (subject to availability of a £300 bursary from Cycling England) the pay-back period could be very short, whereas the benefits of customer retention and additional revenue could be realised over the long-term.

Finally, where can retailers find out more?
Dealers should visit www.bikeright.co.uk and follow the Instructor Training links for more information.

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