At London’s Bespoke Cycling, recommending the right bike is about ensuring customers get the perfect fit, which is why the firm combines a bike shop, fitting studio and performance centre all under one roof.
Founder Barry Scott [below] says their motto is “relationship-led, not transaction-led” and, unlike normal shops, customers are seen by appointment only. They get a fitting session before they purchase, to ensure they choose the right bike for their needs.
Scott left his job as a banker in the City to set up the company in 2005. A cyclist himself, he knew how he wanted the shop to be. “I was buying bikes and there seemed a real disconnect between the service level of bike shops versus other shops,” said Scott.
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“I wasn’t very impressed with the level of service I got and, with the arrogance of youth, I thought I could do something better.”
After starting as a distribution-only company in 2009, Bespoke moved to its current location in Farringdon, central London, when Ben Hallam joined as the head of the bike-fitting studio and performance lab.
During the fitting sessions, which can last two hours, rider size and position on the bike, riding style and pedalling technique are amongst the factors analysed to find the most suitable product. “Most [customers have] a rough budget [in mind] but no idea what [model] exactly,” said Hallam. “They want advice and guidance through the process.”
Hallam is clearly passionate about what he does, and cycling runs in his family. His uncle, Ian Hallam, was a three-time Commonwealth Games champion on the track. Hallam was a full-time rider for eight years, with the national junior pursuit title in 1999 among his victories. He also studied sport rehabilitation at university.
“My philosophy is mainly around the bike and the body working together,” he said. “The bike is very adjustable, but the body is very adaptable as well.”
Alongside getting people the right bike, the fitting sessions are designed to help cyclists who are experiencing pain while cycling.
“Cycling is one of those sports in which pain and suffering has been glamorised,” said Hallam. “It’s about how deep you can push into that pain barrier, how much can you suffer. Identifying the difference between good pain and bad pain can be difficult.”
Bespoke customers include elite athletes, such as British Cycling Olympic Academy rider Germain Burton, right down to beginners. Everyone is encouraged to come back for follow-up sessions after purchasing a bike.
“We’re developing a relationship,” said Hallam. “We want to be able to feel like we can be a trusted part of their experience, whether that’s bikes sales or just helping them riding.”
Some would argue Bespoke caters only to the high-end market – fittings start at £200 – but Scott and Hallam are keen to stress they can offer something to everyone. “We want to be known as a shop that looks after customers,” said Scott. And that means getting the fit spot-on. “No matter how expensive the bike, it always fits.”
This article was first published in the November 28 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!