University challenged? There’s more to Oxford than spires, students and Inspector Morse, as Mystery Shopper found out when he asked the town’s retailers for their advice on folding bikes...


Bike Zone
Located close to the main shopping strip and one of Oxford’s many colleges, Bike Zone is well placed to pick up passing trade from shoppers and students alike.

Inside the modestly sized store, bike labelling was good and the well-placed counter meant that shoppers could be quickly greeted and helped by staff.

One of the sales assistants took me through the features and materials of the two folding bikes the shop stocked, and I was advised they were easy to operate.

After asking about their popularity, the staff member informed me that they were extremely sought-after, but that shoppers are effectively paying an extra £100 or so than one would normally pay for an equivalent non-folding bike. He advised me that technically, more can go wrong with a folding bike, but in terms of their forte – fitting into limited spaces – they were hard to beat.

The friendly staff member was happy to go through features at length, explaining various parts to me, and offered a catalogue so I could read about the models in stock. He also suggested a test ride – if I came back with a photo ID.

Beeline Bicycles
Occupying a large footprint on a busy thoroughfare leading into Oxford, Beeline Bicycles stocked bikes from the mid to high end.

After browsing the ranges in the vibrant, busy store, Mystery Shopper was informed that Beeline didn’t stock folding bikes. But despite that fact – and that the shop wasn’t going to make any money from me – the sales assistant was happy to chat about the pros and cons of them, a measure of the high-level customer service the shop provided.

He said Beeline didn’t stock folders for a variety of reasons. They were slow sellers, and the decent models were all relatively expensive and off-putting for those looking to dabble in the genre. He said that the store chose not to cover a broad range of bikes, but rather concentrate on a smaller selection and do that well, adding that folding bikes might be more popular in areas like London. He then recommended a local store that stocked a wide range.

Despite the lack of relevant product, the store earned top marks for taking time to provide advice on folders, and for the obvious enthusiasm of the sales assistant.

Cycle King
Oxford’s Cycle King is another large bike store serving the city’s cycle shoppers on a busy road near the town centre. The shop features eye-catching sale signage outside – something that was followed up consistently throughout the shop. Cycle King also had a large display of bikes outside, hinting at the huge selection of product indoors, which led to what can only be described as a fussy interior.

After walking around the shop and then asking for assistance, the staff were happy to help and go through the store’s folding range. Cycle King stocked a good number of folders – though not from as well-known names as some of the other stores on the day. The bikes were also placed at lower price points – largely in the £200 to £250 category. The sales assistant encouraged Mystery Shopper to spend more money on an improved model, telling me that an extra £25 would buy a bike made from a lighter and non-rust material. The employee also assured me that folding bikes are popular, when I said I was weighing up whether to opt for one or not. Overall the shop stocked a good, if value, range of folders, with decent unhurried advice on offer.

In other news...

Cycling e-commerce solution provider Objective1 undergoes rebrand 

E-commerce solution provider for the bike market Objective1 has undergone a rebrand. The Bristol-based company …