BikeBiz speaks to former tech editor and 8Ball Bikes owner James Middleton about his use of the virtual currency

Does the bike business use Bitcoin?

Bitcoin has landed in the bicycle business, with London’s 8Ball Bikes James Middleton telling BikeBiz “I was certainly one of the first retail adopters in the UK, most definitely the first in the bike trade and I think I might even be still the only one.”

For those who haven’t heard of the digital currency before now, in the words of Bitcoin it’s “a decentralized peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users with no central authority or middlemen.” In simple terms, it’s cash for the internet.

Middleton, formerly a tech journalist for 15 years, said: “Deciding to back it was a no brainer, but accepting it in practice is a different matter. I build my own websites and implement my own ecommerce engines and to start with I had an automated system running the Bitcoin transactions. The transactions would clear and then my Bitcoin would be automatically converted on exchange every evening into sterling. That would then be automatically cleared to a bank account.”

There have, however, been stumbling blocks when it comes to currency conversion, says Middleton.

“While I support the idea and the system, Bitcoin is useless to me as a (bike) business, because I can’t pay any of my supplies using it. My main problem was that the clearing house required a minimum of £1,000 before it would send the balance to my bank account in sterling. That meant my money was tied up for ages. So now I do all the Bitcoin business manually. If I get an order paid in Bitcoin I fulfill it and at some point I’ll just sell the coins on an exchange and get the sterling like that.” 

Though Bitcoin is still a foreign concept to the majority of us, 8Ball has benefitted in publicity terms, with Channel 4 occasionally calling Middleton for background information on digital currency news.

“The Bitcoin community has been good to me. I get a lot of free publicity because of it and because of my background I’m able to talk with more confidence about it. The main issue for businesses accepting Bitcoin is that it’s so unstable. But my position as small fry in the market means I can be disruptive and experimental. You’re not going to get a big retailer in our trade doing this anytime soon. It’s important to understand however that with Bitcoin, the currency was never the end game. I don’t think it will be the currency of the future, some other digital currency might, but Bitcoin itself as a technology, a protocol, can enable all sort of other decentralised and secure applications – things which will emerge over the next few years. 

“Honestly, the transactions aren’t that much. I’ve sold a few bikes, and a bunch of lower value stuff. It’s pretty quiet. But hey, if it takes off I’ll be ready,” concludes Middleton.

8 Ball Bikes is the distributor for Colossi Bikes in the UK.

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