Occupying a focal point of Swinley Forest with neighbouring attractions such as Go Ape and an inland Coral Reef, Swinley Bike Hub has for the past 20 years been the go to destination for any local family outing into the wilderness.
As inclusive as Swinley’s facilities are for the parent who hopes to drop kids at the play centre and shoot out into the woods for a few hours, family cycling is growing in popularity, much thanks to the Swinley Bike Hub team who maintain a variety of trails for any skillset. Now under the management of Tristan Taylor and his team, the trail-side firm has undergone a revamp that has seen both an improvement on the premises and the singletrack.
Taylor tells BikeBiz: “The trails began with investment from the Crown Estate, but we’re growing the network through a combination of dig days and staff input after hours. At the last count, spanning the 1,000 acres of woodland, we had 24 kilometres of waymarked trails and growing. There’s the beginner friendly green loop at just one kilometre, a ten kilometre blue and 13 kilometre red loop. The further into the woods you go the more technical the trail becomes.”
With an ever growing network and a close proximity to the city, it’s a destination of choice for the capital’s mountain bikers and increasingly, riders from much further away.
“One thing that’s surprised us since taking over is the number of groups that travel out from London and hire a chunk of our fleet for the day,” says Taylor. “The profile of the trail
is without doubt growing. In recent times MBUK have been in the woods for their Trail Centre Guide, while Olly Wilkins and Brendan Fairclough filmed a great United Kingdom of Dirt profile on the woods last year.”
Though there is an increasingly strong retail offering at the Bike Hub, it’s hires that are driving business at present. Increasingly those hires are coming with coaching, explains Taylor.
“We’ve really been growing the coaching side of the business, with lots of school work, as well as a programme to get London’s disadvantaged youth into bikes. We offer coaching at a ratio of one coach to six riders to ensure everyone stays safe and has enough one-to-one tutoring, for those who need it. By this summer we will have three of our own coaches in place.”
Since taking the reins, Taylor has also brought on board two local riders as full time staff, both of whom have since trained to Cytech level 2. With the Hub just metres away from the trail, there’s also now a £1 bike wash service for anyone who hasn’t the time or space when they get home.
It’s off-shoot business like this that’s part of Taylor’s plans to expand.
“We hold the rights to events in the woods, so that opens up new social opportunities. We’ve already hosted a local craft brewery, which came to the woods one evening to offer samples to riders. There’s plenty of scope to host demo days. In the near future we’re also looking at the possibility of becoming a service centre.”
The Hub also last month began hosting shop rides to further build on the firm’s focal point in the woods.
With all this in mind, the business is open seven days a week, from 9am until 6pm, to meet demand and all of this from a mountain bike scene that was reported to be flat.
Signs of a slow down in the off-road market haven’t materialised in Swinley, says Taylor.
“We’ve become one of the larger Mondraker dealers and have demo units for any rider considering a purchase. Custom build in particular is something we’re specialising in. We don’t carry loads of stock, but sales of Hope, DMR, Maxxis and RaceFace aren’t going too badly through custom builds and general sales. “
Also doing well at the performance end is Swinley Bike Hub’s own team, which has three enduro and three downhill riders spanning veteran to junior. Sporting the shop’s custom jersey, the team scored its first podium in a recent Red Kite race.
So, what’s the best part of owning a store right on the trail?
“I get to ride more than most shop owners,” says Taylor. “Particularly with the growth of skills coaching and team management, I’m out in the woods quite often with various skillsets. That’s quite rewarding. I hope it’s evident to our customers that we ride the very products that we sell. We’re very much behind our brands and that first hand experience is particularly useful when pairing a customer to their dream bike.”