Red Cloud’s Mark Almond writes for BikeBiz…
Think of cycling in Wales and chances are that thoughts turn to mountain bike trail centres and steep road climbs to stunning scenery and, perhaps, Geraint Thomas in full flow at Le Tour or Manon Carpenter winning her rainbow jersey.
Whilst all this is a reflection of what helps to make Wales so popular with bike riders, it does not necessarily paint the whole picture. There is so much more to consider and the bike industry is beginning to recognise this.
Established companies such as Cambrian Tyres and Fibrax amongst others have long made Wales their home but recent years have seen a steady increase in start up companies and expanding businesses heading there.
Cycle tourism is growing and whilst much more perhaps needs to be done to expedite its growth and the benefit to the Welsh economy, bike friendly hotels and cycle tour companies are increasing in number as are MTB leaders (and MTB leader courses) and guided ride organisers.
The Drover’s Rest in Llanwrtyd Wells is a shining example of bike friendly accommodation in the heart of Wales. Not only do they happily accommodate bikes but they have even been known to throw open their restaurant doors to mass participation rides as a rather nice feed station. This is just one example of the many tourism businesses that are adopting cycling in Wales.
One area that is definitely helping cycle tourism grow is organised events. From huge road sportives such as Velothon Wales, major life affirming challenges such as Red Kite Events’ The Bala Devil to world-class MTB events and races such as the Scott MTB Marathon Series, Epic Cymru and the Mondraker Enduro Series, Wales gives riders and their families multiple reasons to head there to ride, spectate and relax.
Bike industry support service companies are also moving to Wales as accessibility and business infrastructure such as superfast broadband are introduced. Red Cloud Marketing & Communications moved to Welshpool in 2012 and reports an upturn in its bike specialist marketing and PR business since the move.
With a steadily growing cycle market comes the need for quality retailers to serve it of course and recent years has seen some notable new names hitting the Welsh streets. From Tweeks Cycles in Wrexham to start ups such as Cranc Cyclesport in Carmarthen, consumers in Wales perhaps have a greater choice of local bike shops than ever before.
With the Welsh Assembly steadily being granted more powers and budgetary control, the future for cycling and the bike industry in Wales is on the agenda for discussion. Certainly, recent talk of improved cycle infrastructure and ‘right to roam’ discussions are all very positive signs. Pair this with a huge commitment and investment in regenerating communities such as those currently underway around the Wales National Velodrome in Newport and the Swansea Bay area amongst others and it becomes clear to see that positive change really is afoot in some of the country’s densest population centres.
So next time you think of Wales, think of the amazing riding and the stunning scenery of course, but perhaps also spare a thought to the huge opportunities that exist for bike related companies big and small. As in days gone by, the adage ‘Go West’ may now be more beneficial than ever before.
This month the BikeBiz Regional Spotlight is focused on Wales and the South West.
This article first appeared in the April edition of BikeBiz, which you can download or read online for free.