Welcome to our round-up of 2017 biggest bicycle business stores. This was the year that some British brands seemed set to move up to the next level in 2018 and beyond with major overseas investment, it was also the year in which other well known names hit the rocks. Brexit and cast a shadow and a new breed of hire bikes hit the streets of many British cities in big numbers, the high end bike retail sector saw a surprising new entrant, and another big retailer won plaudits on social media for taking a stand…
Right at the start of the year, we reported how Indian tycoon Sanjeev Gupta planned to revitalise the British bicycle manufacturing industry after buying the Warwickshire-based Trillion Cycles brand.
A further acquisition came in October when Gupta’s Liberty House Group confirmed it had bought Scotland-based bicycle manufacturer, Shand Cycles.
Since the June 2016 referendum, UK business has been gripped by uncertainty and we’re still no clearer on knowing the terms on which we will leave the EU. Meanwhile, with imports costing more and inflation outstripping wage growth, consumer confidence is being dented.
March saw news that imports of bikes fell sharply during 2016. It’s unclear what role Brexit has played in that; Halfords and the Tandem Group have said the fall in Sterling after the vote have had an impact but Brompton, which exports four fifths of its bikes, has benefited from the exchange rate.
In early May, Nick Hussey, the founder of clothing brand Vulpine which weeks beforehand had pulled a second fundraising drive on Crowdcube due to lack of interest, revealed in an email to investors that it had run out of money and would be forced to call in the administrators.
By the end of the month, the administrators had secured a buyer in the shape of Cirencester-based Mango Bikes, one of a number of parties that had expressed interest in Vulpine. While Vulpine is now continued to trade under a new holding company, Mango Bikes itself went out of business in October, a month after being sold back to one of its co-founders.
In June, troubled Eddy Merckx Cycles was bought by Race Production, the owners of fellow Belgian brand Ridley Bikes, in a deal it said would help the brands “strengthen each other.”
Five-time Tour de France winner Merckx founded the business in 1980, two years after retiring g from racing, but sold most of his shares in it in 2008.
After months of speculation, a majority stake in Rapha was finally sold in August in a deal worth a reported £200 million to an investment firm owned by two members of the Walton family, owners of the US retail behemoth, Walmart.
The new owners, acting through their firm RZC Investments, are Steuart and Tom Walton, both keen mountain bikers who have helped fund trails in Walmart’s home state, Arkansas. Rapha founder Simon Mottram remains as chief executive of the London-based business.
September saw Evans Cycles receive applause on social media after the retailer confirmed it would no longer be advertising on Mail Online or on the websites of the Daily Express or The Sun
Evans made the decision in response to an appeal from the pressure group Stop Funding Hate and in a post to Twitter said: “Needless to say, the content highlighted on these outlets go against our core values as a business.”
In October, it emerged that Mike Ashley’s Sport Direct was targeting the upper end of the road bike market after buying Yeovil retailer TRI UK, with plans for another five stores in Nottinghamshire, Oxford, Kent, Edinburgh and Belfast.
Cannondale’s owners said they were “excited to be a part of the next stage of TRI UK’s growth,” while Cervélo said they were “looking forward to supporting TRI UK with their expansion where possible for 2018 and beyond.” Going by the comments to our story, road.cc readers weren’t so confident.
One of the big themes in cycling – and not just the UK – has been the global expansion of dockless bike hire schemes, mainly from the Far East, with Chinese giants Ofo and Mobike going head to head in November in the London borough of Islington.
Ofo chose Cambridge for its UK launch, while Mobike made its debut in Manchester Singapore’s oBike is here too, including in Oxford where Ofo – and UK start-up, Pony Bike – are also present. Such schemes will expand further in 2018; Ofo has already confirmed a January launch in Sheffield.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.