End of the road for Harrogate bike shop

The Bike Red Bike Co

2:15pm 18th May 2017
(Updated 9:28am 19th May 2017)

Another independent business in Harrogate is preparing to close its doors for the last time.

The Big Red Bike Co, which is next to the Odeon cinema, will shut up shop on Saturday.

With the lease on the building about to end, business owner Andrew Richards has decided to call it a day and retire.

It all started as an idea when Andrew sold his solicitor's practice back in 2007.

He gave up working as a solicitor two years later, giving him the freedom to pursue his dream of starting a bike shop selling bikes for people who prefer style and comfort to speed, and also families who want to enjoy the great outdoors.

In 2010, The Big Red Bike Co opened its doors and was immediately seen as something different.

Women particularly loved the elegance and simplicity of the traditional upright style of bicycle, with few gears to worry about and a basket on the front.

People not sure about bikes, who would often feel intimidated when going into a bike shop aimed at more specialist or sporty riders, were relieved to get down-to-earth friendly advice from someone who just wanted to help them get a decent bike for what they wanted to do.

The Bike Red Bike Co

Two of the trademark bikes at The Big Red Bike Co

When the skate park was built in Valley Gardens, Andrew quickly recognised the interest in stunt scooters, and soon The Big Red Bike Co became the 'go to' place for scooters and scooter repairs.

Parents were once again glad to receive the same straightforward advice and help from Andrew and his small team, and the shop would often be packed with young riders waiting for repairs or bits to be fitted to their scooters.

When the Nidderdale Greenway from Harrogate to Ripley was opened in 2013, Andrew spotted the need for both local residents and tourists to hire a bike and enjoy some cycling in the countryside.

In keeping with its traditional theme, a fleet of red bikes was created, and throughout the summer, couples or larger groups of riders could be seen enjoying a leisurely ride to Ripley for an ice cream or even liquid refreshment at The Boar's Head pub.

The biggest bike race in the world, the Tour de France, came to Harrogate in 2014 and Andrew fully entered into the spirit and changed the name and signage of the shop to 'Le Grand Velo Rouge', as well as buying yellow bikes for his hire fleet.

Despite the hopes of many in the trade and the assumptions of many outside it, businesses such as The Big Red Bike Co have not necessarily benefited from things like the Tour or success in the Olympics and, in common with all retailers with the overheads of rent and rates on the High Street, some bike shops have found it hard to make a decent living.

Andrew said: "Margins are continually squeezed by internet sellers and it is simply not enough to try and focus on supplying only services which cannot be bought online such as physical repairs. Employment costs for small businesses have risen, and continue to do so, and eventually prices that people will pay for work fall below what makes economic sense to a business.

"It does not make economic sense to continue and certainly if I was to move to different premises in anything like as good a position, it would mean substantial outlay on shopfitting, burglar alarms and roller shutters, as well as increased rent and rates.

"Customers have said they are sad that another independent bike shop is closing and have expressed concern that it seems so hard for small independent shops to thrive on the High Street any longer.

"I will be sad to close the business and it has given me enormous pleasure to see people who have come to the shop and rekindled or even discovered for the first time a love for riding a bicycle and I have been glad to play a part in that."

The Big Red Bike Co

A group of Dutch GPs who hired bikes from The Bike Red Bike Co during a visit to Harrogate

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