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Lancashire bike shop closes after more than 100 years

Grandson of man who founded Ratcliffe's of Leigh in 1906 retires at age 67...

A bike shop in Lancashire, CycleLife Ratcliffe's of Leigh, has closed for the final time after trading for more than 100 years.

Tony Ratcliffe took the decision to close the shop after he was unable to find a buyer for the business, founded by his grandfather William Ratcliffe in 1910.

The 67-year-old, who has been involved with the family shop on Bradshawgate for more then four decades, told the Leigh Journal that he had decided to retire after overcoming prostate cancer.

“This town has always been good to us and I will really miss all our customers, but at my age it is time to take a step back," he said.

"Sadly we could not find a suitable buyer for the firm.

"The store is 106 years old and I have been here for 45 years. It has been my life so it will be very strange not working at the shop any more.

“I made this decision after I was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year. I am okay now, but it made me think more about retirement."

The shop's last full day of trading was on Saturday, with a closing down sale held to clear stock.

According to its website, the shop will trade briefly on the weekend of 3-4 December, but only for customers who have already had items laid away to pick them up in time for Christmas.

As with many independent, family-owned businesses, the question of succession was also a factor.

“I have two lovely daughters who have their own careers and no-one else to take over the firm, so this is the end of the road and we are selling off our stock,” Mr Ratcliffe said.

The growth of chains such as Evans and Halfords and the rise of online retailing has led to a number of independent bike shops, many with a rich history, closing in recent years - what had been the world's oldest such business, Howes Cycles on Regent Street in Cambridge, ceased trading in 2013.

Born from a business originally established in 1840 which began selling bikes in the late 1860s - Charles Darwin was an early customer - its premises have been turned into a pub called The Old Bicycle Shop, with plenty of nods to its past use.

According to Carlton Reid in an article on BikeBiz, the oldest bicycle shop still trading in the world is Pearson Cycles in Sutton, south west London, originally established as a blacksmith's in 1860.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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