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The Peak District’s favourite bike shop, 18 Bikes, has had numerous highs and lows spanning the past 12 months. Mark Sutton talks to the shop’s Simon Bowns about winning (and narrowly missing out on) awards, a devastating break in and earning national recognition...


18 Bikes is a pretty big name in the UK bike world – how is it that you came to be so well regarded on the scene?
Well, I’m flattered at that. We’re a tiny shop, so I’m extremely chuffed to achieve national recognition. I think it’s partly brand led, offering what other shops don’t stock, along with our lovely location providing great riding on the doorstep.

You recently bagged a Singletrack Reader Award. How did that feel?
It was certainly a surprise, especially when the previous winner was nominated. We’d actually been planning a daft ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ campaign, so now Matt will have to find another excuse to wear a dress.

You had a rocky end to last year with the break in – what happened? Have you recovered many of the stolen items?
Some scabby oiks nicked four demo bikes and a rail of clothes. Both insurers were fantastic, but it wasn’t a great time, no. Nothing has been recovered yet and I’m not holding my breath for any returns.

How do you market your business? Are you logged into your @18bikes Twitter account all day…?
Web-based promotions mainly, word of mouth and working closely with local businesses too. Twitter has surprised me with its success. It won’t replace talking to real people, but it’s another method of communication. We’ve had several reps arrange visits via Twitter, so it’s not just the customer side of things.

How has business been over the past year?
Business has been steady, rather than growing as much as I’d have liked. But all things considered, we’re happy. I can never predict when it’ll be busy at present.

How’s the online shop performing? Has it been worthwhile doing business over the web?
It’s good and growing, although I have got no dreams of competing with the big guys on that front. Having the web store works well for unusual and one off items and ‘Magic Money’ is great for taking deposits.

You featured in the recent ACT top 50 – are all staff Cytech qualified?
We are indeed. We’re young, so it’s free – why not? Thanks to Matt and all at ATG.

What’s it like working with two different C2W providers?
More business and less margin. Cyclescheme is very good at what it does, but, in my opinion the percentage it takes a bit rich. Other countries have done direct schemes.

How is 18 Bikes’ side venture of frame building going? Will this eventually expand beyond frame manufacture?
Our frame is being CEN tested and should be done by the time this issue of BikeBiz arrives. We’re working on some nice paint and graphics options and should be good to go very soon. We’ll obviously offer custom builds in line with our current offerings on other frames.

Gone in 60 seconds…
Lycra or baggies?

Baggies. But with Lycra underneath. I have no figure for Lycra.

Best product of the past five years goes to…
This may be a boring suggestion, but I think Hope is onto something with its Hoops range.

Can you recall a high point of being in business?
Winning and being nominated for awards is a high point. Also, it is a bit of a cliche to say it, but when customers say
thanks it is great, and always rewarding.

And a recent low?
The break in at the end of last year. Enough said.

Do you recycle or bin old bike parts?
We take it all to the scrap man for a few quid.

Telephone: 01433 621111
Web: http://18bikes.co.uk
Owners: Simon and Matt Bowns
Opening times: Monday to Tuesday 9.30 to 17.30,
Thursday 9.30 to 20.00, Friday to Saturday 9.30 to 17.30,
Sunday 10.00 to 16.00

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