Located near some mountain biking hotspots, the Stif store near Bristol is perfectly placed as a destination MTB specialist. BikeBiz editor Alex Ballinger takes a tour of the high-end retailer
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Mountain bike specialist store Stif stands out from its backdrop. The striking wooden storefront and eye-catching logo, set back slightly from the road in the village of Winterbourne, just outside of Bristol, is an unusual sight amidst the takeaways and convenience shops on the sparse high street.
I first stumbled on Stif on my regular road ride, a route that takes you from Bristol out into the South Gloucestershire countryside, and I was routinely struck by the stylish-look of the shopfront and the gorgeous Santa Cruz bikes on display in the windows. So I opted to visit Stif to get a closer look, and chat with store manager John Holme, who has run the shop since it opened in early 2020.
The Winterbourne store is the second Stif location, alongside the original shop in Harrogate. Owned by Jungle products, the UK distributor for Santa Cruz and Juliana bikes in the UK, Stif is a flagship retailer for those brands, also offering a wide range of other bikes, apparel, and componentry alongside.
On the launch of the south west store Holme, who previously worked at Evans Cycles in West London, said: “It was chosen as a location near lots of good riding.
“Our other store is based in Harrogate, so this is Stif in the south basically.
“We’re a destination store, we’re easy to get to from south Wales. We get customers coming from London, Oxford, Reading as well, and we’ve got everything you need for mountain biking.”
Walking into Stif I was greeted by Dave, the resident shop dog – an American bulldog – who loves nothing more than to follow customers around the store and help guide them through their purchase.
Big name brands
The interior of Stif is just as eye-catching as the outside, with high-end mountain bikes from Santa Cruz, Juliana and Forbidden dotted around. Apparel is organised by brand, revealing the fashion-store inspiration.
“Everything we have in store we choose ourselves,” said Holme. “We have input into what we stock, so we’re not necessarily stocking things just because it’s got a good margin, but if it’s a good brand and good product that we’d use ourselves as mountain bikers.”
Stif also stocks its own range of aggressive hardtail mountain bikes, the next step in the brand’s development.
Other brands on offer at Stif include the big names in componentry – Shimano, SRAM, Fox, Rockshox, and Ohlins – and the major players in apparel and protective gear, from Fox to Troy Lee Designs.
Opening hours at Stif are also slightly unique, Holme explained, as the store is open five days a week rather than six, from Tuesday to Saturday, with a late open on Thursdays to help riders who might be heading away for the weekend.
The Stif store near Bristol works with four full-time employees, one full time workshop staff member, and three on the shop floor, along with one part-timer working Saturdays.
Having opened just before the start of the pandemic, Stif went mail order-only during the early lockdown in 2020, but was able to reopen that summer. Holme said he has seen the mountain bike boom in the same way as other parts of the cycle industry: “A lot of people have got into mountain biking since then.
“A lot of people have found it again, and especially lately we’re seeing a lot of customers that are actually going away, heading off to the Alps, which they haven’t been able to do over the last couple of years. For us it’s everyone from their early 20s into their 50s, and we’ve got people coming from BMX and motocross.”
Most of the team at Stif ride mountain bikes themselves, and they’re regularly out riding together on Sundays and Mondays when the store is closed. Away from the shop floor, Stif has also helped support local off-road charity Ride Bristol to support trail-building projects in the area.
With its stylish look and aspirational product ranges, Stif is a strong example of what a specialist destination store can offer consumers, even in an unusual location.