Top 20 IBDs 2018 - BikeBiz
BikeBiz presents its annual Top 20 Independent Bike Dealers list for 2018

The IBD is the bedrock of our industry, upon which all else is built. They are the face of the cycling world for consumers, and the trusted pair of hands when things go wrong. Despite an uncertain few years in which business has been volatile for many, the vast majority of shops have adapted and weathered the storms with admirable stoicism. This month, we’re celebrating those who are working tirelessly to maintain a high level of customer service, curate an enviable portfolio of products, and create a community hub around which cyclists can celebrate their passion for all things pedal-powered.

This year, we moved away from a submissions judging system and instead opted to base the nominations on the recommendations and advocacy of a judging panel selected from all areas of the cycling industry. This means that each choice has been made based on personal experience and relationships – some of which span decades – instead of on the sheer number of votes. 

Velosport     

“We aim to really build a community with our customers”

Over the past year, the Velosport store has been redefined and redesigned, while also launching a new website and building a new team of staff.

“We’ve worked really hard to refresh our product offering to customers,” says Velosport’s Liz Pepper. “We’ve added new bike brands Factor, Ritchey and Titici to our existing range of custom Legend, Specialized, Orbea and Argon 18 bikes. We have also broadened our offering to MTB and e-bikes, and have added new clothing ranges from ashmei and X-Bionic.

“It’s really important to us that we offer the highest levels of customer service. Our professional Retül bike fits and workshop services are a key and expanding part of our business model.”

How do you go that extra mile?

“We aim to really build a community with our customers. We engage with them as much as possible and offer free cycling events. Specifically, we organise riding skills sessions and host regular store rides. We are also happy to create bespoke workshop maintenance sessions and events for cycling groups, clubs and the cycling community in general.”

Mamachari     

“Being friendly, open and honest with our customers and freely giving time and advice is vital”

Founded in 2013, Mamachari started out importing and selling second-hand Japanese city bikes and child seats. Today, it has two stores and offers a multitude of bikes and accessories, as well as servicing and repairs.

“Being friendly, open and honest with our customers and freely giving time and advice is vital,” says Mamachari director Noah Fisher. “Time and again, customers have told us woes of condescending bike shop staff and being told how their beloved bike is a pile of junk and they should just buy a new one instead of repairing it.”

How can shops safeguard themselves in the current climate?

“I know of several well-established bike shops that have closed because they were not in sync with retail trends: whether it’s excessive inventory holding, focusing too narrowly on a single market segment, or just being too complacent in the face of competition.

“No one can predict the future but I think that as long as we keep listening to our customers and being adaptive and flexible we will have the highest chance of sustainability.”

Mud Dock Cycleworks and Café     

“While the high street is suffering, customers will still make the effort to come to you if it’s worthwhile”

Bristol-based Mud Dock Cycleworks and Café is housed in a redbrick harbourside warehouse, converted back in 1994. As keen cyclists, founders Jerry Arron and Beverly Newman found themselves consistently disappointed by their experiences in British bike shops and felt it time to do something about it.

Arron believes there are several key factors why Mud Dock continues to be successful in the current retail climate. The most prominent, he says, is quality staff. “I’ve always worked with knowledgeable, ambitious and ultimately successful key staff members. I know that because I can see what they have gone on to do.”

Arron cites “the best suppliers (how many other small independents have Trek, Specialized, Cannondale and Brompton under one roof?)” a “highly successful café”, a “great location” and “tight fiscal control” as the other keys to Mud Dock’s success.

How can shops safeguard themselves in the current climate?

“I recognised years ago that debt is the single biggest threat to your business. If you can’t afford it, best not to buy it. And invest in someone to manage that side of the business, if it’s not you.” 

Pennine Cycles     

“Pennine Cycles has over 70 years of heritage in custom-built framesets and a range of rides from kid’s to top-of-the-range racing bikes”

“We’re enthusiastic about making sure our shop continues to develop and are always looking at ways of improving; going out of our way to help customers and do what needs to be done,” says co-owner Sandra Corcoran (pictured). For Corcoran, the fight for the IBD is all about adapting to change.

“People need to continue to shout out the message to support independent bicycle dealers and not the giants
who have jumped on the cycling trend. It’s all about encouraging cyclists both old and new to shop and support local, and keep their communities thriving with a presence on the high street. We also need to slow down the idea of yearly model changes and bringing out next year’s models in the middle of the year.”

Why are bike shops struggling at the moment?

“There are too many ‘experts’ out there and too many places online to sell pre-owned equipment. New cyclists are buying on the internet purely based on price, thinking they are getting a bargain without consulting an expert.”

Big Maggy’s     

“There is room for both IBDs and the internet. It’s about focusing on the right things and prioritising”

Big Maggy’s was set up in 2009 by Richard Tanguy and Tony Moffa (pictured). Both are keen racing cyclists, and the team recently expanded with the addition of friend and race teammate Aaron Gouveia.

“We have always felt that you need to be proactive and create a market, rather than waiting for it to come to you!” says Moffa. “If people only need to make a purchase, they can do that on the internet at ease and more conveniently. You have to create reasons for people to come into the shop; expertise and a friendship.”

How can shops safeguard themselves in the current climate?

“Online is a completely different business model. There is a big place for brick and mortar shops – you have to find your niche and focus on that. Trying to compete with shops that have low overheads (online) is futile. Innovating is the answer. Create your own market. There is room for both IBDs and the internet. It’s about focusing on the right things and prioritising.”

Ubyk     

“We like to do things a little differently than the average bike shop”

Ubyk is a shop keen to buck its online perception.
“We are a small business with shops and a website being run by pure cyclists, with a good mix of mountain bikers and roadies,” explains Ubyk’s James Heath. Heath believes Ubyk is best known for its online custom bike builder, as well as for building pimp bikes.

How do you go that extra mile?     

“We like to do things a little differently than the average bike shop, being more of a contemporary showroom to display our high-end bikes and components, rather than having the bike shop crowded with bikes. We are a relatively young and creative bunch, with myself doing all the website design, adverts and marketing, shop manager Richard looking after social, and web manager Steve looking after the photography. As a team, we’re able to drive the right customers to our store and website while keeping our overheads down. “I feel our success is down to focusing on one area of the market, which is Ubyk’s case is the focus on high-end custom builds.”

Drover Cycles     

“Stack it high and sell it cheap is becoming an outdated concept”

Drover Cycles is owned and run by Anna Heywood and Luke Skinner, based on the Welsh borders in Hay-on-Wye.

“Our journey in the cycle industry – rather unusually – started with a 20,000-mile bike ride from London to Cape Town,” explains Heywood. “We had a lot of time to ponder while we pedalled and we decided we wanted to start our own cycling business. We run cycling holidays and sportives all over Wales alongside our hire centre, shop, workshop and cafe in Hay on Wye.”

“It sounds simple, but being friendly goes a long way,” says Skinner. “That’s why you’d have found Anna in a layby handing over a wheel to a beleaguered cycle tourist at 10pm the night before her honeymoon!”

How can the industry move forward successfully?

“Stack it high and sell it cheap is becoming an outdated concept. Consumers are turning (or returning) to small, independent local businesses because they can offer things that chains and online sellers can’t.”

Criterium

“We are never complacent”

Criterium Cycles prides itself on being an innovative bike shop always open to trying new things, whether that’s traditional bike shop activities or things that are a little bit different.

“We are never complacent,” say the team. “We are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve. Many of the ideas we have for improvement aren’t ours at all – they come from our wonderful customers and we are always grateful for their ideas and input.

“We believe in supporting our local community as well as helping the development of our talented athletes of the future. We sponsor Team GB and Team Scotland Commonwealth Games athlete Natalie Milne and are doing everything we can to help her in her quest for qualification to compete in the Commonwealth Games in 2018.”

What motivates your team?

“At Criterium Cycles, we are motivated by two pretty straightforward desires; we have a passion for cycling and we also love serving anyone who shares that passion for cycling. We look forward to being of service to you.”

Woodrup Cycles 

"I feel diversity is the only way to survive”

Over the past 70 years, Woodrup Cycles has accrued a vast knowledge of cycling and has tailored its brands to offer what it feels are the best products available on the market.

“Our workshop has been key to our success,” says Tony Woodrup – part of the third generation in the family business line. “We carry out huge numbers of repairs annually and take on jobs which other shops generally turn away. We also don’t sell online. The way that the online industry is now, unless you are selling a unique product or are selling it the cheapest you won’t sell anything!

How can shops safeguard themselves in the current climate?

“We’re all tied in an industry that is racing to the bottom. The online giants have deemed it upon themselves to see who can sell products the cheapest! The industry can’t rely on purely retail sales anymore. I feel diversity is the only way to survive.”

Hart’s Cyclery

“We’re genuinely thrilled that we have been nominated! I hope it’s because we’re a good honest local bike shop that cares about its customers. We do our best for all our customers and we pride ourselves in serving everyone, from the person who buys an upright Gazelle to buy their shopping and go about their daily errands, to the racer on their road bike or mountain bike and everyone in between.”

Graeme Hart – Hart’s Cyclery

700

“We build relationships, not just bikes”

Windsor-based 700 focuses entirely on getting customers the best bike and kit possible without any “unnecessary fluff ”. To that end, the store stocks and sells products it wholeheartedly believes in – ones that offer real benefit to the user and genuine value to their given task. “We see value as important when taken in context, and it is not be confused with cheap!” says owner Dave Butcher.

“We try really hard to educate our customers so they are better informed, not only about their buying choice, but with the maintenance of their kit and machines. We also try to help steer them through the marketing hype wherever possible – we’re nothing if not honest.”

700 also has an associated cycling club with 100 members and offers maintenance courses and tailored, guided cycling holidays in the Costa Blanca.

How can shops safeguard themselves in the current climate?

Keep doing the little things right. Stay honest. Don’t get greedy. Focus on the customers and the staff and don’t buy a boat!

Pedal Power

“We want people to feel like the shop is a welcoming place”

Pedal Power prides itself on being open seven days a week. “Sundays are hugely busy days for us, and we think some shops really miss out on weekend business by shutting,” says shop manager Garry Nicol.

“For us, that’s about building up a rapport with these people. We want people to feel like the shop is a welcoming place and we achieve that with little touches like having a decent free coffee machine! We also benefit from having an absolutely vast stock range, which we believe to be the best in Scotland. We have 500 bikes in varying sizes on hand at all times, meaning if the customer wants the right bike in the right size that day, we can sort that for them with no issues.”

Northfield Cycles

“We have whatever you need!”

“Northfield Cycles was established in 1996 by Richard Tranter, a semi-professional cyclist who came in sixth the 1995 World Under-23 Cyclocross Championships and was Divisional Road Race Champion, and has had over 50 race wins in his time.

Whatever your looking for from leisure commuting to racing and children’s bikes, we have whatever you need and we’ll explain them to you in simple English. You can even have a ride on them to see how they feel and ride!”

Alf Jones

“It’s not enough these days to just be a bike shop – it’s all about the consumer”

Alf Jones has been serving the North West and North Wales for over 60 years, building its values upon offering “the best customer service and shopping experience”.

“We have worked really hard to create an environment where people feel comfortable to visit and shop with us, regardless of their level of experience,” say the team. “They know they can have faith in the honest advice they are receiving, and can feel confident that they are making the most informed decision they can when spending their hard-earned money.”

How can shops safeguard themselves in the current climate?

“It’s difficult to have a crystal ball to know how things will pan out in the future. Our main aim is to keep offering our customers the brands and products they would like to
buy, and giving them the best possible unique Alf ’s experience to make them feel confident to keep coming back and shopping with us.

Sigma Sports

“We now cater for cyclists of all levels and abilities”

“From local bike shop to online retailer, Sigma Sports came about when two friends opened their doors to the public back in 1992 with the aim of getting more people on road bikes and enjoying the sport we love,” says Ed Hole, Sigma Sports store manager. “Going from strength to strength, a small shop became a bigger shop, and from the flagship store at 37-43 Hampton Wick, we now cater for cyclists of all levels and abilities. Running social rides, state-of-the-art workshops, bike fitting sessions, mechanics courses and providing the opportunity to experience products first hand, at competitive prices, we’re keen to remain an established hub for cycling in South West London.”

KB Cycles

“Don’t compete on price – compete on service”

Newcastle-based KB Cycles serves as one of the North East’s Bike and E-Bike specialists, and according to manager Tom Waugh, possesses one of the largest in-store bike ranges of any IBD in the North East.

“We try to be as innovative as possible,” says Waugh. “Customers feel like part of what we are doing, rather than simply a transaction. If a customer is coming in wanting to spend £5 or £5,000, they all get treated with the same level of respect and enthusiasm.

Brexit was a huge overnight issue, according to Waugh. “Since the referendum, bike prices have gone up on average 25 per cent. But mostly it is the uncertainty surrounding the whole thing, which inherently people stop spending as much money. If people aren’t buying bikes and kit, shops can’t sell it.”

How can the industry move forward successfully?

“By starting to look after itself, and have respect for what we do. Customers come in expecting to see at least a ten per cent discount, and we need to start asking ourselves why we should. People don’t go into a supermarket and get to the till and ask for their “best price”. The cycle industry has got itself to this point and we should now be asking why. Don’t compete on price – compete on service.”

Primera Sports

“Primera is a store with its feet firmly on the ground”

“Unlike most cycle shops which are owned by large investment companies, Primera is a store with its feet firmly on the ground and understands the passion cyclists feel for their bikes. We are very proud of our knowledgeable, friendly staff and our priority is always to give the best customer service possible. Primera is owned and run by Bill Temple whose aim is to keep offering a great personalised service. Bill started racing in 1974 and has been involved in the sport ever since his schoolboy racing days.”

Johns Bikes

“We pride ourselves on good advice”

“At Johns Bikes our recipe is simple,” explains manager Calvin O’Keefe. “We value our customers, we stock a wide range of products and we pride ourselves on good advice. It sounds simple, but it’s what ensures we match each customer to what they need. Whether that’s someone returning to cycling tempted by our wide e-bike range, an experienced cyclist after that something special, providing a child’s first bike or our workshop keeping a commuter’s workhorse rolling.”

Dave Mellor Cycles

“Our view is to control the controllable”

Shrewsbury-based Dave Mellor Cycles was founded back in 1984 following encouragement from late local champion cyclist and bike shop owner Graham Bufton. “I was always discouraged to take on a partner,” says Mellor. “His sage wages were ‘£1 is only 50p if you do’!”

Mellor believes his shop’s key to success lies in good old hard graft. “Our workshop guys have to be open to new technologies all of the time, and with the rising popularity of E-Bikes, that quality has never been so important,” says Mellor. “Fortunately, the majority of our staff are open to new ideas and embrace it. I’m the oldest of the team and I think that if I can get my head around new products and new ways of thinking then anyone can.”

The Bike Factory

“We believe that choice, credibility, environment and service are the key factors to having a successful bike store”

“Being a family business, we are 100 per cent committed to serving the rider through choice and delivery. We work extremely hard to create a bond with our customers, which we achieve by providing credible advice and a comfortable environment,” says The Bike Factory’s Dave Quinn.

“We believe that choice, credibility, environment and service are the key factors to having a successful bike store.”

We pride ourselves on offering a high level of service and choice for all types of cyclist.”

    

    

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