In association with Cyclescheme, BikeBiz reveals the second half results...

Top 20 Independent Bike Dealers: Part two

The thriving independent bike dealer population is on the frontline of the industry. We asked trade pundits, distributors, suppliers, customers and the shops themselves for their thoughts on who deserved particular praise. For more on how we arrived at the top 20 head on to the bottom of the page. In the meantime read on for the second part of the feature (you can read the first part here)…

Giant Store, Bristol
Giant opened its first brand store in Liverpool on June 2009, and the Bristol store (Giant’s third) was hot on its heels in November of the same year.

Under store director Paul Newman the Bristol Giant Store is based in the Bradley Stoke town, sporting a selection of bikes and cycle gear to suit the needs of novices and enthusiasts. Based in the Lower Mall at The Willow Brook Centre in Bradley Stoke.

One of our pundits said of the store: “It’s a fantastic futuristic retail space with excellent service to boot.”

Harry Hall Cycles, Manchester
If there’s a theme in this Top 20 IBDs list, it’s surely that many long-established bike shops know a thing or two about attracting their supporters. Harry Hall Cycles has been in the bike trade for half a century, serving the full gamut of cyclist markets, including road, BMX, mountain bike, commuter, leisure ‘or just plain pleasure’ riders. Our panel said Harry Hall Cycles is a “family run business who have been an integral part of the racing scene since the 1950s”.

M Steel Cycles, Newcastle
Yep, here’s another of the long-established UK cycle retailers that have gained praise in the trade. Set up in 1894, M Steel Cycles is possibly Newcastle’s longest established bike shop. It serves Tyne and Wear with its huge 3,000 square foot store, which is three times as large as its last shop, moved from in 2008. The move didn’t mean dispensing with the past, however.

The modern shop has keepsakes of Joe Waugh’s (Waugh now looks after the retail and accounts side of M Steel Cycles) days as a racer, with magazine covers, medals, pictures and signed tops for a bit of heritage chic. The shop says: “It helps to remind us of where we’ve come from and where we’re going to.”

One of our panel said of M Steels: “They have an excellent bike fitting service and work hard to promote their cycle to work offering.”

Moore’s Cycles,Twickenham
This independent cycle specialist has shops in Twickenham, Teddington and Isleworth, supplying South West London with bikes and paraphenalia since 1948. The store has a focus on women’s cycling and is recognised by Specialized as an official women’s dealer. Soon to offer a bike hire service, the store promises to offer the biggest choice of bikes in West London. Our panel said of Moore’s Cycles: “It is great value, provides great service and is long-established.”

On Your Bike, London Bridge
The family-run On Your Bike has locations in London and Birmingham. Priding itself on top notch customer service, both shops offer bike hire – catering for the casual cyclist as well as the hardercore – in addition to retail, while the London branch has what it describes as the capital’s largest secure indoor cycle parking facility.

The shop’s claims are backed up by our pundits, who said On Your Bike offers “great service and a safe cycle parking solution for the London commuter”.

Interestingly, On Your Bike has taken a stand against online trading, believing that serving customers face-to-face is the best way to meet the needs of the cyclist. Having said that the firm’s site is a comprehensive guide to what OYB offers.

Red Planet Bikes, Swindon
Pitched as being run and staffed by enthusiasts for the discerning cyclist, whether they’re road, MTB or A to B orientated, Red Planet runs open days and a regular mountain bike ride (every Tuesday night).

We got a first-hand experience of the store when Mystery Shopper visited Red Planet Bikes at the start of the year. The store was one of the very first to score top marks from the undercover reporter. After quizzing the needs of the potential customer, the staff member provided honest and opinionated answers and followed up the service by directing the customer to the store’s own polished website. With a coffee machine and a ‘very inviting vibe’ Red Planet is a store deserving of top marks, it was found.

Rutland Cycling, Rutland, Derbyshire
BikeBiz Award Winner 2010 (and profiled in last month’s mag) Rutland proved an extremely popular choice among the industry jury.

Trading for over 25 years Rutland has one of the highest turnovers of all IBDs in the UK, we’re told. Stocking all major brands and with three bricks and mortar shops, Rutland also has web and eBay shops. Employing over 100 staff this independent goliath also operates a very successful hire fleet/demo test ride fleet.

The workshop is Cytech accredited and the shop is open all day, seven days a week, with dedicated experienced trained staff – several of which have Mountain Bike Guide Awards.

The shop also finds the time to support local cycling clubs, including Velo Club Rutland & St Ives Cycling Club. It also organises free public events, including monthly nightrides and four yearly Demo Weekends.

The 20,000 square foot shopping floor is spread across three shops and Rutland also partners with the world’s largest Giant concept store.

Sigma Sport, Kingston upon Thames
One of our unnamed pundits said Sigma was ‘a must’ to include on a list of top IBDs. Why? Well there’s a host a reasons. Since starting up 18 years ago, Sigma has evolved into a respected name in the road cycling and triathlon scene, offering a comprehensive range and staffed with highly knowledgeable staff. 

The shop moves beyond retail too. Sponsoring world-class triathletes, Sigma also runs its own UCI Pro Continental cycling team which has competed at the Tour of Britain and Tour Series. Sigma launched a new flagship store in Hampton Wick, Kingston, staffed by 14 plus four cytech-trained mechanics and over 3,000 sq ft of retail space per foot. The store offers cycling holidays and events through La Fuga through the store, and the presentations and seminars can be hosted in the Club Room. There’s even a shower room for customers that drop off their bike in the morning before work, a lounge area with TV and complimentary wi-fi and range of things we don’t have room to squeeze in here.

Tri UK, Yeovil
With an eye-wateringly large 10,000 square feet of retail space filled with a brilliant selection of clothing and accessories, the shop’s claim of being the world’s largest triathlon store may indeed be true.

It’s a measure of Tri UK’s success that even those generous proportions aren’t enough for the growing business, with a 5,000 square foot extension planned, with work due to start later this year. And as if a 15,000 square foot shop wasn’t enough, Tri UK is also including a coffee shop alongside the building as well, reaffirming the trade’s penchant for caffeine and forward-thinking retailing.

Being a triathlon focused store, Tri UK also stocks all the relevant paraphenalia beyond cycling, including swimming gear. That it is no surprise that this shop includes an in-store Endless Pool to enable triathletes to try before they buy is a testament to the shop, involved in the exciting and fast growing sport.

York Cycleworks Co-op,York
This co-operative is run and owned by cyclists, for cyclists. Priding itself on offering top-notch service, it has been on the scene since 1980, catching the early days of the mountain bike revolution. York Cycleworks is now doing a lot of high-end road bikes, as well as Cycle to Work trade in hybrids and mountain bikes.

One of the few worker co-operatives around, Cycleworks is York’s only full Shimano service centre and a workshop manned full-time by three qualified Cytech mechanics. York Cycleworks Co-op also offers bike box hire, test and demo bikes to its customer base.

Lists. Some people hate them, others love them. One thing is for sure, lists are virtually guaranteed to fire up debate.

This list of the top 20 IBDs has been put together to put the independent bike dealer under the spotlight and celebrate these stars of the bicycle industry. Offering top-notch service, superb product knowledge and a great range of product, the best bike retailers are invaluable to the industry, on the frontline of the business and the most obvious face of our trade.

IBDs that can do all of the above and manage to forge great customer and community relations – and maybe even reach out to non-cyclists to bring them into the cycling community – are, needless to say, worth their weight in steel frames. 

There are, of course, many more than 20 IBDs deserving of praise and recognition operating in the cycle industry at the moment. So just how did we manage to whittle the list down to a mere 20?

IBDs could nominate themselves, consumers could make suggestions and we asked suppliers and distributors within the trade let us know who they thought were the best of the best. Cyclescheme, as supporters of the feature, also helped put the top 20 together, but we stress that IBDs did not have to be partners of Cyclescheme to make the final list. We also called on the experiences of Mystery Shopper to help collate the list.

So, have we ommitted some of the finest dealers in the business? No doubt there are some shops we’ve missed.

But have we managed to assemble a list of independent bike dealers that impress their peers, suppliers, undercover journalists and even their customers?

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