Supermarkets want to add bikes to our grocery list. Surely, quality will prevail over cheap cost? The cycle industry definitely hopes so...

SPOKESMAN: A nice piece of cycle pie?

Last month I was able to follow the Tour De France for a few days in the Alps, joining thousands of motor-homes parked in precarious positions along mountain lanes, with frightening drops only a foot away from the vehicles’ wheels. Previously, one could arrive the night before a stage and park up with no trouble.

Furthermore, the year Stephen Roche rode up Alp Du Eze, I arrived late evening and parking was not a problem. This year, however, to get a vantage position, one had to be there the morning of the day before a stage, and even then most bends had been grabbed by motor homes from Dutch, Swedes, Germans, and Italians. I arrived for the individual time trial, in Annecy, the night before the stage, and it was impossible to park on route. Instead, we found a field, which was the first site in ten days where we found electricity.

There is nothing like watching and waiting for hours to cheer riders on. It’s really just an excuse for an almighty booze-up around a barbeque with our fellow Europeans, and some happy, inebriated Welsh guys. It’s going to be interesting to see who the UK riders will be, if a Tour team is formed for 2010. I doubt the UK boys can afford to leave their teams, which evokes the question, who, with any tour experience, will be available?

So, Asda and others believe they can sell cycles alongside groceries. It has been tried before and usually costs the suppliers dearly, unless they import direct themselves. The returns are a nightmare. The only sales that will have any measure of success will be small kids’ bikes at Christmas.

The space taken up on the sales floor, and staff who will never be trained like we are in the independent shops, will cause shop management many problems. I have seen it all before. Pots, pans, stationery – even screwdrivers and hammers – are easy to layout on supermarket displays, while cycles are somewhat different.

I wonder why management believe cycles will bring more consumers into the stores. Will mum honestly pick up a bike with the baked beans? Of course not, she will go home and tell dad, who will have to take a look after work or on a Saturday morning. Yet he might go to the local cycle shop instead, unless of course he’s never had a bike and doesn’t know cheap from quality.

Fortunately, because of cycling’s high profile at the moment, most kids know brands, and as the latest ‘with it’ trainers, most do not wish to be seen on a nondescript BMX or other bike. An advantage of Bike Hub is the education I hope the cycle officers are installing in the ride to school campaigns – the difference between junk and bikes of quality.

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