Once upon a time, largely before I ever had need to visit such a facility regularly, the local bike shop was a rather drab but homely affair. Usually there was a strange, but largely comforting, smell of oil and bike cleaning kit, and tyres hung from the wall fairly randomly.
If you wanted something high end, you probably needed to convince the bloke behind the counter you were worthy of owning such a steed, and then order it in.
Those were he days when to be a real cyclist you had to be initiated through being dropped repeatedly on the club ride, ideally wearing ‘slacks’ and riding a third hand bike. Okay – I”m taking this mainly from books I’ve read, so forgive my exaggeration – and I won’t deny I rather like the smell of oil and the romantic notion.
In recent times, cycling has become a lot more accessible – there are riders all over the country lanes, sprinting around Richmond Park and puffing up Box Hill. Not everyone is comfortable with the be-spectacled veteran rider behind the till, or the uneven tyre arrangement.
Enter: The Bike Shop Revolution. Bike shops are no longer drab or uninviting – they’re hubs of activity, hives where cycle-bee’s can cluster to chat chains and cleats over coffee.
Not long ago, myself and my boyfriend would make a monthly-ish homage to Sigma Sport in Kingston if we wanted to look at the lovely top end gear. Not to buy – just to browse (though that might lead to purchase..), and take in the atmosphere that just breathed bicycles and riding. We love Sigma, but the market is expanding.
There are two amazing new such bike shops near me now.
Maison Du Velo opened a few months ago and describe themselves as “a hub for cyclists to meet, talk bikes, refuel, or just chill and watch the cycling action on screen”.
The café/bike shop in Reigate is around 3 miles from my home and I’ve popped down for quite a number of ‘recovery day lunches’, ‘post ride cappuccinos’ and ‘feeling peckish flapjacks’.
Everything about Maison du V is beautifully choreographed – from the Legs of Steel route along the window, to the wooden track on the ceiling in which lights are fitted. Bikes are displayed as items to covert, stacked beautifully with spotlights.
You could be forgiven for believing each one will require a re-mortgage of your home – but it’s not the case and there are always a couple below the £2k mark.
At Velo du Maison (see what I did there) they put cycling first. The shop organises several rides weekly, with a Thursday evening jaunt, a Saturday ladies ride and a Sunday hill fest. They’ve done everything right to nestle themselves into a very active Surrey Cycling community – appealing to racers and super sportivers alike.
With their own club kit now designed and on sale, you could be forgiven for suggesting the bike shop was taking on the role of cycling club – offering camaraderie, riding advice, and a community vibe.
Joining the ranks of the Reigate success story, Hoops Velo is set to launch in my home town of Farnham this Saturday. Not content with one pretty amazing store in the town, East Street Cycles have expanded and added an extra store in a closed down pub. This is a road only store to make the eyes of any racer, or indeed MAMIL, widen and water.
Hoops Velo, like Maison du Velo, will be offering coffee, space to read or watch TV, as well as a beautiful array of the best top end road and TT kit. They look ready to offer personal advice, bike fitting and a friendly service in a downright beautiful environment.
Before opening, Hoops, like du Velo, have been active on social media, with glimpses into the store as the interior took shape, and a Twitter feed to keep the waiting hoards up to date as to when their new home of cycling would be open.
The revolution bike shops are created with a customer in mind who knows they want quality, but still wants advice and a friendly face behind the till that doesn’t judge them. Cleverly incorporating shop kit and club rides, they create a community that is not about products or retail, but more geared towards replicating the club vibe of a your local CC.
Times are changing – and with happy customers grinning over their lattes as they browse the web in a cosy cycling shop, there is no going back.