Barry Hook freewheels along Knutsford’s King Street and dismounts at the local cycle shop renowned for its…….
I walked into Bikes ‘n’ Gear at 31 King Street just as Les West was leaving. Of course, I didn’t know he was twice winner of the Milk Race (The forerunner to the Tour of Britain). But Paul Bonner, the cycle shop’s owner, discretely whispered it to me.
All those achievements of the cycling septuagenarian were in the 60’s when Paul was ‘no-but-a-lad’.Paul Bonner
Bikes ’n’ Gear has been in Knutsford for 25-years but Paul bought the business, along with his lifetime and business partner, Leanne, just after the London Olympics. They were living in Bath. Leanne had just graduated in psychology and was keen to return to Cheshire and her parents in Timperley.
“I was working in a motorcycle dealership and enjoying riding motorbikes” Paul told me. “But when my son came along I became aware of my mortality. I’d always been a keen cyclist so I swapped my motorcycles to concentrate on pedal power. I also had to start thinking about moving to Cheshire.”
He also had something else to think about. During his career in the motorcycle trade, he’d been the manager of most departments in the dealership. With all this experience in selling and training staff he wanted to run his own business. What better than to move to Cheshire and start a cycle shop?
His next move must have seemed to him like chasing snowflakes. He searched the internet for ‘cycle shops for sale in Cheshire’. Immediately, details of the Knutsford shop came up on screen.
“We sold the house in Bath and bought the business,” said Paul, as if catching snowflakes was an everyday occurrence.
“We’ve seen huge year-on-year improvements since we’ve been here, not just in turnover but in the front of shop experience. Our concentration has been on improving our customer service. We now also employ a full-time technician in our service bay.
“Of course, I have learned to worry since we started running our business, but then I remind myself: ‘I’m not running a cycle shop in some run-down spot in Birmingham but in the nicest part of the UK’.
“Cheshire really is the best place to be riding. There’s the Peak District on our doorstep and then so many dedicated rides and trail centres to enjoy. A lot of our bike sales are for road bikes and mountain bikes.
I never have enough time to cycle as much as I want. When I’m not road biking I love mountain biking.” Leanne, too, takes pleasure in cycling but admits to being a fair-weather rider, whereas Paul is devoted. And so he is to their business.
“Most good cycle manufacturers recognise the benefit of retail stores like ours. We are professionals in what we do and manufacturers need us to carry out a bike fit to ensure it is the correct size for the customer. We dial them in accordingly.” Handlebar stems are adjusted, so are the saddles and the pedals and everything else to make sure you are comfortable.
“We need to ensure that when you are clipped in (with your cycling shoes lightly fastened to the pedals) everything is right.”
So whilst you can order and pay for a cycle on Bikes-n-Gear.com, it is a ‘click and collect’ service. You get the bespoke service on collection. So, best of both worlds really.
“I don’t see myself as selling bikes but as selling fun. Not many can state that, but it is a great feeling to make someone happy,” says Paul.
I left the bijou bike shop knowing I’d met two enthusiasts. Their wheels are merrily turning. www.bikes-n-gear.com