But why do they tie their bike ranges exclusively to specific retailers like Halfords and Evans? BikeBiz looks at the phenomenon

Hoy, Pendleton, Boardman: Olympians making tracks for the bike trade

Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Bradley Wiggins, Laura Trott, Mark Cavendish… the list of household and British names from the world of cycling goes on and on.

In the same way that the likes of David Beckham and Freddie Flintoff are familiar to those that take little interest in the sports they are best known for, all those cycle stars listed above, and more besides, have taken a step closer to the public’s consciousness.

All of which means Hoy, Pendleton, Wiggins, et al, are enormously attractive to advertisers, brands and retailers aiming to boost their profile in the minds of the public.

With that in mind, it’s no little surprise to see Halfords secure Victoria Pendleton’s services for another round of bikes in her name, or to see Evans Cycles snap up the sole rights to Sir Chris Hoy’s new Hoy bike line.

Back In June 2010 BikeBiz asked Victoria Pendleton whether she’d follow in Chris Boardman’s footsteps and create a line of bikes in her own name.

She said not, indicating that she was yet to embark on her partnership with Halfords (or she was cannily not giving us a scoop). Regardless, Pendleton has gone on to mimic Boardman in terms of working with Halfords exclusively (although not following Boardman’s line of high-end road bikes).

On the day Pendleton signed up to produce her second exclusive range of bikes (and a mooted line of accessories) Halfords repeated its claim that the line has been its most popular women’s cycle range ever. So popular in fact, that it rushed them into store one month early.

Halfords’ Clare Standage said at the time: “We are not surprised by the demand for the Victoria Pendleton range. There is certain elegance about a classic bike and it seems the trend-setters are moving away from the macho, sporty look and going for a more relaxed everyday style which is perfectly epitomised by these bikes.”
But star power will also have fuelled those sales successes, of course.

The Hoy bike range, announced in November, has not yet been made available to the public, but it seems a safe bet the range will be popular with the public in terms of sales and – moving on to that ‘brand power’ again – kudos for the retailer in question.

At the Hoy launch, Evans was up front about the benefits of being associated with a popular and respected figure like Hoy, and about a shared goal of getting more people on bikes.

Evans Cycles CEO Nick Wilkinson said: “We were really impressed with his professionalism and his vision for what he wanted to try and do. [His enthusiasm] for getting the next generation of cyclists on their bikes and enjoying cycling was something we had a shared passion for.”

Similarly, deflecting criticism that her range wasn’t serious or sporty enough for a champion track cyclist, Pendleton responded by explaining that her intention was to create a bike line that “you could just jump on to go down to the shops or the park without having to change into cycling kit”, adding “I want to encourage women to cycle more and that is why I wanted to design a range with Halfords.”

So, helping boost cyclist numbers and being seen to do so, as well as sales and kudos of association with these respected household names…the list of reasons for retailers to sign up the likes of Pendleton, Hoy and Boardman is compelling.

A move into the cycle trade isn’t unheard of, or even unexpected, for a cycle champion – many’s the cycle star who has moved into bicycle production, from Merckx to Cipollini and Colnago.

Speaking at the Bermondsey launch at the end of November, Sir Chris Hoy elaborated on the fact that the project would be there when he eventually retires from racing, something he is set to confirm one way or the other in spring.

He said: “I’m very excited to be launching my own brand and partnering with Evans. It’s something I’ve been working on for about 18 months. The project has been in the background and will become even more important as time goes by and I have more time to spend on it.

“I’ve been so focused on cycling – when I do retire this is something I’ll really get my teeth into. I’m very excited to have this opportunity as it gives me an excuse to play on bikes again. I’m 36 and I’ve never had a proper job! I’ve ridden a bike virtually everyday and when I retire from my cycling job I’ll have this and be able to cycle every day in this job too. Being able to design stuff to a hands-on level – I’m enjoying the experience.”

Hoy’s enthusiasm for the world of bikes made the move a natural choice. Again speaking at his bike range launch, he said: “It’s been a dream of mine to launch my own bike line and pick and choose the components on it. I used to do it when I was kid: I had a budget for the year for the bike, I’d work through the summer to get my money and trawl through the classifieds in Cycling Weekly and try to put together the best bike I could for the budget, and essentially that’s what I’m trying to do here.”

Why do Olympians like Hoy, Pendleton and Boardman sign up to exclusively work with the likes of Evans and Halfords? Brand power and familiarity with the likes of Halfords and Evans surely plays a part. When you’re relatively new to the industry, household names like Halfords and even Evans are safe, recognisable brands to get involved with. And the retailers have got form, with their own successful and well marketed bike brands.

When BikeBiz posed the question on Twitter over why these cycle stars had opted to go exclusive we received some interesting answers, ranging from the benefits of a ready-made (and short) distribution chain, to the maybe crucial point of ‘personal brands’ only having traction in the UK and therefore being less interesting to international manufacturers. The buying power of big retailers able to bring in decent specced components at good price points helps too.

There will doubtless continue to be criticism levelled at the bike lines in question, that Hoy and Pendleton (and Boardman) are producing bikes outside their area of track expertise and for their exclusivity with the aforementioned retailers. Whether those lines remain with those retailers for the foreseeable future is up for debate (with top end Boardmans already available through IBDs). Whether we’ll see the cycle star bike line trend continue depends very much on the number of household cycle names the world of racing continues to produce. But so far Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and Laura Trott are yet to get involved in the space… And if the major retailers already have their hands full with existing ranges like Hoy’s Pendleton’s and Boardman’s, who knows, maybe there will be a star-associated bike line or two for IBDs.

Let us know what you think in the comments below or at BikeBiz@intentmedia.co.uk

This article originally appeared in the January edition of BikeBiz. Read our recent editions of the magazine here.

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