From a cabin on the banks of Rutland Water, to five stores in and around Cambridge, Rutland Cycling has come a long way
Back in 1981, Dave Archer had a vision that the new reservoir in Rutland could be something more than just a drinking water resource with a perimeter maintenance track around it, and set up a cycle-hire cabin on the shores.
By the early 90s, cycling around Rutland Water had become a favourite family activity, and today Rutland Cycling has five stores in and around Cambridge, and five others across the midlands. The store has also picked up a host of awards, including Best Independent Bike Shop at the BikeBiz awards three times, and a Family Business Award for retail excellence.
“We love to get involved in the city’s cycling scene”
It’s still very much a family business, with Dave’s son Paul and his daughter Sally Middlemiss and their partners heavily involved in running the company. “Rutland Cycling’s history in Cambridgeshire started when we opened a hire cabin on the shores of Grafham Water, similar to our original Rutland site,” explains Sally, who is now e-commerce director for the business.
“We then acquired a company called Station Cycles who had four stores in the city, with the original shop being at the station itself.” The city and Rutland Cycling seem made for each other, with a population partly made up of students and academics who are attracted to the stores’ mix of hire and retail. Some of the most popular bike brands they sell include Brompton, Giant, Whyte and Pashley, while the hire side of the business is still thriving.
Cambridge also has the highest level of cycling participation in the UK, with a bike culture that Rutland Cycling has become an integral part of. “We love to get involved in the city’s cycling scene,” explains Sally. “We offer bike repair, but also understand that people want to learn how to fix their own bikes themselves, so we run maintenance classes, rotating from store to store each month. There’s also a weekly road ride out of the Histon store through the summer months which is always popular.”
This spring, Rutland Cycling opened their fifth shop in Cambridge, at the newly developed CB1 site. “Station Cycles always had a shop by the station – hence the name!” says Sally, “but when the redevelopment started three or four years ago, some of the original buildings had to be knocked down, and that shop was one of them.”
Luckily, that was by no means the end of Rutland Cycling’s relationship with that part of Cambridge. “When we opened the new store, it really felt as if we’d come full circle,” says Sally. “The original store manager of that Station Cycles branch is now our store manager here, so it feels like a great mix of old and new.”
Sally’s own relationship with Cambridge dates back to her student days, when she and her husband David studied at Queens’ in the late 90s. It’s perhaps this that helps Rutland Cycling tune in so well to the needs of Cambridge’s student population, offering a fantastically good-value student package of a bike with basket, lights and lock for only £149.99. “We also offer a student hire deal,” explains Sally, “of 90p a day to hire a bike for a term – not all students want to buy a bike and have to store it through the holidays, so that’s a great alternative.”
“There is a real commuter-cyclist culture in Cambridge”
The regeneration of the CB1 area is particularly exciting, and despite all the building work that’s still going on, the new store has got off to a flying start. “Considering that for the first two months we had wooden hoarding all around the store, we’ve done brilliantly!” laughs Sally. “There is a real commuter-cyclist culture here, with people arriving at the train station on their Bromptons, folding them up and hopping on the train to London. We’ve actually extended our opening hours in the morning and evening to accommodate those commuters – you’d be surprised how many people want to come in to the store early in the morning, or fresh off the train in the evening, to get their bikes repaired or pick up bits and pieces of kit or clothing.”
The plaza at CB1 is due to open soon, and with a host of new retail outlets and apartments almost ready to go, it’s a really exciting time. “It’s great for Rutland Cycling that we’ve been able to open so early in the process, and we already feel quite settled,” says Sally. “We’re very proud to be a part of Cambridge life, and we’re delighted to be so involved in this next stage in the city’s history.”