Customers bid farewell to London bike shop WF Holdsworth after 86 years

Last retail outpost of once-dominant British cycling company shuts its doors

by John Stevenson   October 2, 2013  

WF Holdsworth

Famous London bike shop WF Holdsworth is to close, its owners have announced on Facebook.

In its heyday, Holdsworth was one of the most famous names in British cycling and framebuilding. The Holdsworth bike brand is now owned by Tandem Group, which also owns Falcon Cycles and others, while the shop was the last outpost of the family-owned retail chain.

The announcement on Facebook reads:

It is with the greatest regret that I have to announce that after 86 years of serving Putney and its residents (and the wider world) with all of their cycling needs, the difficult decision has been taken to close our doors for the last time at the end of October.

We thank you for your custom and interest, and hope to see you out on the road.

Yours in cycling,

W.F.Holdsworth Ltd

1927-2013

Customers of the shop paid tribute to its importance in the local cycling community and quality of customer service.

Peter Bragg, managing director of clothing maker Shutt VR posted: “They were the first bike shop that made me feel at home! Sad day.”

Demonstrating the shop’s longevity, Martin Itter wrote: “What a shame, my first bike came from you in 1953, my dad had it specially made. Unfortunately I don't have it any more but I had 2 adult sized bikes to race in my early teens.”

George Casley wote: “This is so sad. Undoubtedly the best shop in Putney. Amazing customer service. We will miss you all a lot!”

Another long-standing customer Simon Lowe wrote: “Very sad news. It's been a great pleasure to be a customer for the last 19 years.”

Barry Clarke reminisced: “This is such a shame. I bought my first road bike off you chaps in 2001 and my daughter's first bike (ever) a couple of years ago. I still make my wife and kids walk by your shop front to spend a couple of minutes looking at the frames, bargains and generally 'cool' bikes. All the very best to you all for the future. People like you will be missed so badly.”

In Putney for 86 years 

The WF Holdsworth shop at 132 Lower Richmond Rd, Putney has been there since William Frank “Sandy” Holdsworth took over Ashlone Cycle Works in 1927.

Framebuilding began in a shed behind the shop in the 20s, but Holdsworth was better known for clothing until frame-builder Bill Hurlow joined the company in 1938.

By this time, the company had three more premises and formed a subsidiary, Holdsworthy Factoring, which built W.F. Holdsworth bicycles and wholesaled British-made parts and those it began importing from the continent.

In the 50s and early 60s, Holdsworth grew by acquiring the Freddy Grubb, Claud Butler and Macleans brands.

In 1953 Sandy Holdsworth hired Roy Thame, who would go on to work for the company for more than 50 years. Thame established and managed the dominant professional cycling team that the company co-sponsored with Campagnolo, which Holdsworth had the rights to distribute in the UK.

Sandy Holdsworth died in 1961, but his wife Margaret survived as company owner till the 1970s. On her death, Roy Thame inherited the retail arm, W.F. Holdsworth. The  wholesale and mass-production side of the business, the Holdsworth Company, which owned the rights to all of the brands, stayed in the Holdsworth family.

In 1987 the family sold the Holdsworth Company to Elswick plc and through a series of subsequent acquisitions, the brands are now owned by the Tandem Group.

16 user comments

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My first road bike was a Holdsworth, bought second hand in the 90s whilst a student, after my mountain bike was nicked.

Loved it to bits and rode it a lot. Sadly it met its demise under a London Bus a few years later.

posted by qwerky [130 posts]
2nd October 2013 - 12:18

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Truly, truly gutted. I used to go in there all the time growing up (my dad bought his first road bike from there). I was more into MTBing in the late 80's / early 90's but used to call in there with my riding buddies all the time.

I popped in there in August and got a water bottle and some bar tape. I must go back before it closes now.

End of an era.

posted by Super Domestique [1583 posts]
2nd October 2013 - 12:40

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Crying
Used to stop there on my Raleigh Clubman on the way back from school and drool at the bikes in the window.
I'm sure LRR needs another estate agent's premises or coffee shop.

posted by Dr_Lex [129 posts]
2nd October 2013 - 13:07

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I'm wondering if the direction from the parent company assisted in the demise?

I take it there products would be the main items sold in the shop?

When I went in, there was a lack of bikes on display but I'd put that down more to end of model year / small shop than anything else.

Now, looking at the brands the parent company own (Dawes, Falcon, Townsend,etc) would indicate low end products.

At the low end your average punter will often buy from Tesco, Argos, halfords at best. Slightly more research will have them at Decathlon or still at halfords.

The cycling 'boom' has meant some stores (think Sigma here for eg) have ridden the wave well. They have targeted high end / quality goods and benefitted from that.

I can't help thinking of all the nostalgic comments from those like myself, who recall the store as a 'go to' bike shop. It still has a smell of a bike shop. Now that's a kick I enjoy instead of smelling like a coffee shop, a kick that is rare in bike shops these days (usually I go to my garage for it now).

I'd love to see the shop as a place for frames, wheels but mainly quality clothing, shoes, accessories. Given the average price of bikes seen passing to hit the wonders of the Richmond Park cycling Mecca I think trade would be healthy.

Sad day for cycling nostalgics like me I guess.

posted by Super Domestique [1583 posts]
2nd October 2013 - 14:56

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I used to lust after a Holdsworth that my mate owned. Gunmetal grey Reynolds 501 with new-fangled aero brakes - the rest of us still had cables sticking out of the hoods!

Very sad.

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2888 posts]
2nd October 2013 - 15:43

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Given how popular cycling is in that area, the fact that a well established, apparently well liked shop failed should tell its own story.

I've been into that shop perhaps a half dozen times in the last 20 years, while living locally and slightly further afield, and everytime left empty handed and disappointed. For years it was my local bike shop, I wanted to love the place and to use it, but I couldn't.

The prices were not competitive, the selection had been poor and the customer service ... every time I enquired about servicing or some sort of work, I was met with a blank look as if they'd rather do *anything* else, but if I absolutely wanted them to do it, well, they'd probably be able to look at it in about a fortnight.

posted by unsliced [14 posts]
2nd October 2013 - 15:51

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Got my first Road bike here 15 years ago. A very sad day.

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posted by Barnes Badger [4 posts]
2nd October 2013 - 16:46

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Super Domestique wrote:
I'm wondering if the direction from the parent company assisted in the demise?

No. Holdsworth Company, which owned all the bike brands, ended up being owned by Tandem Group. WF Holdsworth, the shop, is separately owned and now nothing to do with the wholesale/bike arm.

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posted by John Stevenson [953 posts]
2nd October 2013 - 20:32

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This is what happens when people buy all their stuff online.... Then those same people who buy online wonder why there's unemployment everywhere Silly

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posted by Municipal Waste [190 posts]
2nd October 2013 - 20:55

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It was part of my cycling education and I hung around for ages.
I bought my first decent frame set and all the kit from them in the early 80's.
I used to stop off on my way home from work and chat to Roy and pick his brains about road racing.
There was another older chap in the shop front whose name escapes me who was very kind and helpful, I think he died prematurely.
I wonder if Strattons on Wandsworth hill, just a short ride away is still going?

posted by festival [101 posts]
2nd October 2013 - 21:17

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John Stevenson wrote:
Super Domestique wrote:
I'm wondering if the direction from the parent company assisted in the demise?

No. Holdsworth Company, which owned all the bike brands, ended up being owned by Tandem Group. WF Holdsworth, the shop, is separately owned and now nothing to do with the wholesale/bike arm.

Thanks John. Would they not dictate what to stock?

I just can see how this shop could have worked imho. Such a shame.

posted by Super Domestique [1583 posts]
2nd October 2013 - 22:09

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Municipal Waste wrote:
This is what happens when people buy all their stuff online.... Then those same people who buy online wonder why there's unemployment everywhere Silly

True but in a time when money is tight people are often price driven.

However, the ball is in the court of the retailer to offer something 'different' that online can provide. A personal and friendly service, a hangout for the cyclist. An atmosphere.

posted by Super Domestique [1583 posts]
3rd October 2013 - 10:00

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My Holdsworth built, 70s Claud Butler is still providing great service as a winter/wet weather training bike!

posted by Paul J [525 posts]
3rd October 2013 - 17:49

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Is it anything to do with the fact that Planet X have a whole load of Holdsworth stuff now ?

Cycled up Alpe d'Huez at least once each month since July 2008

http://www.morethan21bends.com
http://www.prompt.cc

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posted by gbzpto [78 posts]
4th October 2013 - 7:43

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My first cycling club had it's club nights at a hall almost opposite the W.F.Holdsworth shop in lower Richmond road. later on I worked for The Holdsworthy Co. who were the main sponsor of the the Holdsworth team as well as Campagnolo who supplied the groupsets for the team. W.F.Holdsworth originally built the team frames but later these were also built by The Holdsworthy Co.

W.F.Holdsworth and The Holdsworthy Co. were two different concerns at that time (the two split due to a disagreement many years ago) with the Holdsworthy Co. being wholesale only but also manufacturers of Holdsworth, Claud Butler and Freddie Grubb cycles, so it was very confusing for people wishing to buy a Holdsworth bike, the shops (there were more than one for a while) retained the W.F.Holdsworth name, but the Holdsworthy Co. produced many of the cheaper Holdsworth bikes and even the Holdsworth Professional model which was based on the team bikes.

Roy Thame was certainly the force behind the Holdsworth professional team and ran it very successfully, but it was the Holdsworthy Co. and Campagnolo who were also backers of the team. The Holsworthy Co. were the official importers of Campagnolo not W.F.Holdsworth.

posted by jimhagan [2 posts]
16th December 2013 - 14:05

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Very sad, first road bike was a red 531 Holdsworth frame that I built up with Campag Super Record; long since nicked in Oxford

Living in Ireland now but came over for Olympics & watched RR nearby; first port of call to but new tubular was Holdsworth, served by same man that served me as lad (son I guess)

Also surprising considering how popular cycling now is on UK (& Ireland)

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posted by architectmark [1 posts]
3rd May 2014 - 20:14

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