Reading and riding: In the heart of affluent Royal Berkshire, Mystery Shopper investigates what the cycle retailers of county town Reading have to offer riders in search of the latest cycle computers...


AW Cycles
Situated on a lengthy parade of shops on a busy thoroughfare leading into Reading, AW Cycles features an eye-catching store front with bike parking facilities outside the shop.

AW Cycles – which has been established for over 25 years – was bustling with customers and a vast array of bikes on the day of Mystery Shopper’s visit. The sizeable range of cycles and accessories were clearly labelled with prices, and after circling the well-staffed store I approached the sales counter to ask about the shop’s range of cycle computers.

The salesperson showed me to the relevant display, and after asking for guidance on the type of cycle computer available, the staff member handed me a feature comparison chart which clearly listed each model against its features.

The approachable staff member remained nearby to answer further questions and provided a copy of the store catalogue that I could take away with me, complete with details of the cycle computer ranges available and contact details for the store.

JJB, based in the heart of Reading town centre, is split onto three levels, and gives cycling a high profile. Outside the entrance a display of five or six models were the only products visible from outside the store, which is perhaps a measure of the sector’s increasing pull for customers.

A limited selection of bikes for juniors were located on the first floor, with the bulk of the offering on the second floor. All of the models on display benefited from clear pricing and labelling, and all were priced towards the lower end of the market.

Mystery Shopper found that JJB did stock cycle computers, but, perhaps unsurprisingly for a store that dedicates space to so many different sports, the selection was limited – to two models in this case. Both of them were again at the value end of the market and entry level models. Mystery Shopper approached a passing sales assistant and asked if there were any more available in store, or online. I was told that this was unlikely and was, surprisingly, encouraged to head to a rival national retailer for a wider selection of models.

Action Bikes
Action Cycles is another well located bike retailer, situated right in the retail centre of Reading. The shop makes good use of the town’s many bike parking facilities with store advertisements attached to static bikes in nearby bike parks.

Inside the shop, bike labelling was excellent, with key features and pricing listed clearly for browsing shoppers. After only a few moments in the store a sales assistant pro-actively approached me and offered help. The staff member showed me to the cycle computer display and without hesitating went on to explain the differences across the ranges – including the cadence click push-screen that can be easily operated even when the rider is wearing large gloves, and the wireless versions available.

After talking me through the features unhurriedly, the knowledgeable staff member left me to browse the sizeable range. Boasting excellent advice and a great selection of computers to choose from, Mystery Shopper found Action Bikes to be one of the star stores of the day.

In a retail park close to Reading on the one-way system, Halfords was another retailer putting bikes to the fore with a display outside the shop. Like many other stores in the chain, the branch included a bike-dedicated mezzanine level with a good selection of bikes and accessories, all boasting great signage that lists features and prices.

After walking around the mezzanine level unapproached, I headed to the sales counter to ask about the cycle computer ranges available. Initially I was pointed towards the relevant products, but after going on to ask for further help (interrupting a wheel fitting session) the sales assistant showed me to the display. He explained that they were low on stock on the day, but were expecting new models to arrive in the week.

The staff member went on to explain that some wireless models suffer from interference. He also advised that high-end devices are primarily for professional and semi-pro riders, and added that most amateurs would find devices that sport fewer functions adequate for use.

Berkshire Cycle Co
Based just outside Reading, Berkshire Cycle Company is situated near to a busy junction, with great signage and a cycle display outside the shop that is sure to attract attention from the steady stream of passers-by and commuters.

With plenty of staff on hand to help customers, the sizeable shop was stacked full of bicycles, which again were well labelled. After browsing the store, Mystery Shopper approached a sales assistant to ask about the store’s range of cycle computers. The staff member showed me the product line-up, which included a range of models, including wireless and wired devices. The sales assistant took the time to go over the features of the devices, praised the accuracy of wireless cycle computers and answered questions. The knowledgeable member of staff encouraged me to make a purchase without being pushy, and was more than happy to discuss the products in depth.

Berkshire Cycle Co was another store with a good range of relevant products, plus staff members happy to take the time to help prospective customers.

Cycle Zone
Situated in the Earley area – just outside the town centre, Cycle Zone is located on a parade of shops close to a busy junction. Signage was again strong inside the store, and there was a good range of bikes and accessories available on the day.

The sales assistant was busy serving a customer with a range of long queries at the time of Mystery Shopper’s visit. Despite that, the member of staff managed to field my query and showed me to the retailer’s cycle computer range in between handling requests from other customers. The busy store had a good selection of cycle computers too, including high-end options circa £100 as well as lower priced entry-level models.

Despite being too busy to get the chance to go over the features of the devices with me, the sales assistant was friendly and seemingly pro-active. The depth of information he was imparting to the customers he was serving at the time of the visit showed that he was happy to go into detail with potential cycle customers and answer questions to the satisfaction of shop visitors.

Cycling enjoys a high profile in Reading, with plenty of cycle lanes and cycle parking facilities throughout the town. With well-placed signs positioned near traffic hotspots encouraging commuters to go by bike, the town council is clearly taking a pro-active role in encouraging cycling uptake. Mystery Shopper found that the university town was well served with bicycle retailers, all of which provided at least a good level of service. Of particular note was Action Cycles –one of the star performers on the day.

Berkshire Cycle Company was another high achiever, with both offering detailed information with little encouragement.

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