Opinion: Don’t take your local bike shop for granted

As grumbling about the Cycle to Work scheme continues, it’s time for all of us to value our local shop

Bike shop
(Image credit: Getty Images)
Adam Becket
Adam Becket

News editor at Cycling Weekly, Adam brings his weekly opinion on the goings on at the upper echelons of our sport. 

This piece is part of The Leadout, the offering of newsletters from Cycling Weekly and Cyclingnews. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

Good morning, and welcome back to The Leadout. It’s me with your weekly dose of analysis and opinion, although this week I am not coming to you live from Down Under, but merely Bristol. It’s a bit dark and cold, isn’t it. Remember, you can email me on adam.becket@futurenet.com with thoughts, feelings, that kind of thing. This week, we’re steering away from pro cycling and towards the high street.

I’m very fortunate, where I live, to be within walking distance of at least five bike shops. These places are at the heart of the cycling industry, providing help, service and products to everyone from the beginner cyclist to the KOM hunter. If you need a new inner tube, a headset fixed or even a new bike, where else do you turn but your local shop?

Last week’s assertion that Cycle to Work schemes are "sucking the lifeblood" out of bike shops, by Sheffield-based retailer Mark James was yet more proof - if proof be needed - that cycling shops feel pushed to the edge, forced to live hand to mouth. 

It was not news, though. Last month, Gavin Hudson of Butternut Bikes told Cycling Weekly of the “outrageous” fees that bike shops have to pay scheme operators. "You've got a middle man, who charges a lot of money, essentially. It's painful, we don't want to turn down business, it does drive a lot of business for us,” he said.

Businesses have a lot to contend with right now: the post pandemic bike boom and bust, energy price rises, mega online retailers undercutting; Cycle to Work scheme commissions add an extra struggle. These businesses need our support, our continued loyalty. Every shop which closes its shutters one final time is a loss for the community, and the wider world of cycling. If we want to see more people on bikes, we need local businesses supporting this, putting people on them in the first place.

What I have taken away from the Cycle to Work farrago is the importance of researching how the scheme you choose impacts a retailer; while there are some, the biggest incidentally, which charge 10% commission, there are other operators which charge a whole lot less. Every percentage point saved is a boon for a bike shop.

In the same way that people have come round to  the idea of certain online mega-retailers to support smaller businesses, and their local high street, the same should be applied to bike shops. Think before you buy, shop local, and help the whole ecosystem thrive.

Wiggle’s descent into administration could have been the wakeup call the whole industry needed; while it seems it will come back, maybe now is the time to start supporting your local cycle workshop. Building a relationship with someone you can see regularly might mean better things for your bike, too, as well as your community, and the wider industry. 

Essentially, we need to stop taking our bike shops for granted, and start celebrating and championing them. If it’s a co-operative or a social initiative, even better, but these are special places, run by people passionate about their craft. Let’s support them, before our only option is Halfords.

Hors d'oeuvres

The early season races seem like a kind of amuse-bouche or hors d'oeuvres to the actual bike racing which is coming down the line, so it is always hard to draw any sort of conclusions from it. Men’s teams like Jayco AlUla and Bora-Hansgrohe have started off on fliers, while Visma-Lease A Bike and Ineos Grenadiers are yet to really trouble the scorers. 

Meanwhile, the most dominant women’s team ever, SD Worx-Protime, haven’t even raced yet. All of these races matter, are things that happen and have winners and losers, but they have the feeling of pre-season friendlies. Until Opening Weekend, it all feels rather arbitrary, right? With apologies to everything that happens in January and February.

This piece is part of The Leadout, the offering of newsletters from Cycling Weekly and Cyclingnews. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

If you want to get in touch with Adam, email adam.becket@futurenet.com.

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