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Surrey disused pub reborn as bike shop

Free coffee replaces beer in new road-only Farnham store

It’s always sad to hear of a pub closing, but the Seven Stars on East Street, Farnham, which closed its doors back in 2011, is being reborn this weekend as the next best thing: a bike shop.

Hoops Velo opens on Saturday October 26 and is the brainchild of Gary Bird, who owns nearby East St Cycles. But while East St is a general bike shop, Hoops Velo will concentrate exclusively on road bike, which even in the Age of the MAMIL makes it unusual.

Gary says the idea is to provide an inviting, thoroughly modern shop that offers great service from properly trained staff, personal advice, bike fitting, spacious changing rooms with lots of mirrors, and a ‘dream bike’ custom building service. And free coffee, which makes up for the premises no longer serving beer.

It doesn't hurt that Gary's making a point of being good at things that you can't get from an online retailer, but he says that's not the sole aim. 

"The brief I gave the design team was that I wanted people to almost consider visiting this particular store as an event. Like you would Hamleys or Selfridges for example, albeit on a regional level," says Gary. "The shop looks terrific and certainly all the sales reps who've visited pull out smart phones and start snapping away.

"You can visit Hoops, drop your bike off for a quick tune up for the weekend century ride, catch up with work on our wi-fi, and have a cup of coffee while the Tour is on in the background on TV. This you cannot do online."

Gary says he and his team are also making an effort to properly serve women riders. "Considering the massive increase of women cycling we have to be female-friendly. We've included a range of carefully selected female apparel and we're sensitive to the fact that many women find bicycle shops to be intimidating and staffed by patronising staff."

The shop will stock bikes from Felt, Cube, Cannondale, Bianchi, Legend, and Volagi, plus clothing and accessories from Mavic, Castelli, Giro, Bont, 3T, BeCool, Catlike Helmets, Continental, DeFeet, Prologo and lots more.

And if free coffee weren’t enough of an incentive, the first 100 customers through the door on Saturday will get entered into a prize draw to win a £175 Gore Bike Wear Power GT AS jacket.

For more about Hoops Velo check out the Hoops Velo Facebook page.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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