Pennine Cycles 70 years on two wheels
Pennine Cycles has been serving its community since 1946. We spoke to proud owners (and married couple) Sandra and Paul Corcoran about the shop’s rich cycling heritage – from grass-roots to the Tour de France – and its long-standing relationship with Barclays.
“The business started in 1946 when two friends returned from the war. They’d spent years in Europe fighting for their country – and had fallen in love with the gorgeous Italian bicycles."
Sandra Corcoran smiles as she recounts the humble beginnings of Pennine Cycles – the Bradford-based bicycle shop she owns with her husband Paul.
After spending just a few minutes in the Yorkshire couple’s company, it’s obvious that Pennine Cycles is far more than your average bike shop. Surrounded by signed jerseys – presented to them by the most famous names in the sport – Sandra looks back on Pennine Cycle’s unique legacy with infectious enthusiasm.
“Look around and you can see how much cycling means to us. This shop is steeped in rich cycling history, it’s been built on 70 years of passion.” And Barclays has been there since day one.
The couple – who actually met when Paul served Sandra in the shop – had an unusual path into the business, with Paul being inspired to swap four wheels for two by an arduous daily commute to his job as a motor vehicle technician.
“I remember in the early eighties I was caught in traffic in Leeds one day,” says Paul. “I was stuck in this stuffy car and thought to myself ‘there has got to be a better way’.”
For Paul that better way was to sell his car and buy a bike from his boss so he could skip the city centre’s relentless congestion.
The bike happened to be from Pennine Cycles, and as Paul’s love of cycling developed, he found himself visiting the shop regularly.
“Paul was here one particularly busy Saturday,” explains Sandra, “and Johnny Mapplebeck – who founded the business – asked him to pop behind the counter and help out. It just slowly grew from there.”
The growth may have been slow, but it was certainly significant. Paul went from helping out occasionally to becoming shop manager, and eventually buying the business with Sandra in 2000.
“It was a risk, as the business had experienced difficult times,” says Sandra.
“But it’s what we wanted to do. I left my job, and Paul gave up a good job and pension in Leeds – much to his mother’s dismay!”
Look around and you can see how much cycling means to us. This shop's steeped in rich cycling history, it’s been built on 70 years of passion.
A “proper bike shop”
In the 18 years that have followed, Sandra and Paul have enjoyed sustained success, building and selling bikes (along with a range of equipment and clothing) to customers all over the world – riding the bust (and recent boom) of the UK cycle industry with an unwavering commitment to grass-roots cycling.
They’ve established strong links with their local community – sponsoring a local cycle club and organising a road race every year.
“A lot of people have an interest in road racing but assume they aren’t good enough to do it,” says Sandra. “That’s why we invite everyone – of all abilities – to come down and get involved.”
For Sandra, the most exciting period in their history came in 2014 – with Yorkshire playing host to the Tour de France. After almost seven decades in the industry, Pennine Cycles found the world’s most distinguished cyclists on their doorstep.
“The whole experience was a dream come true, and it gave us so many opportunities as a business,” she recalls.
And they certainly made the most of those opportunities, from representing Yorkshire at the Lord Mayor’s Show in London to rubbing shoulders with five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault. A custom, Pennine Cycles machine was even used as an on-stage prop during a speech made by then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
“We were everywhere,” laughs Sandra. “I think people could see our passion, and that we’re a proper bike shop. Everybody wanted a piece of us.”
Being a “proper bike shop” is a staple of the business, and a badge the couple wear with pride. The bike manufacturing industry has grown exponentially in the last decade – but Sandra believes the couple’s authentic biking credentials give them the edge over their competitors.
“There are loads of corporations or boutique studios that you can get bikes from, but that’s not what we’re about. The shop isn’t perfectly clean and tidy, and it’s not meant to be. We’re here to provide a personal service, and we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty”.
I think people could see our passion, and that we’re a proper bike shop.
In tandem with Barclays
The company has been providing that service for 72 years, and Barclays has been with them every step of the way.
It’s a relationship that Sandra values: “We first banked with Barclays in 1946 and we’ve worked together ever since. For us, it’s that personal touch that makes a difference. We’ve built a relationship and are very grateful for the support they have given us.
“The bank has sponsored our annual bike race and invites us to networking events. Small businesses are the bread and butter of the UK, and it’s great to see such a large institution offering a hand.”
Caroline Pullich, Barclays’ Head of SME Yorkshire and Pennine Cycles customer, says: “We’ve worked with Pennine Cycles for a long time and love their passion for cycling.
“We particularly enjoyed partnering with them when the Tour de France came to Yorkshire – Pennine Cycles helped us prepare other businesses for the flood of tourism that was expected in the area.”
In Sandra’s opinion, the company’s future is looking just as exciting as its past – with plans already in motion to grow the historic brand.
“We’re looking to expand our international market, beginning with an advertising campaign at Leeds Bradford airport – we’ll be the first thing that tourists see when they visit Yorkshire.
"Other than that, it’s business as usual – fixing bikes, connecting with our community and cycling.”
We first banked with Barclays in 1946 and we’ve worked together ever since. For us, it’s that personal touch that makes a difference. We’ve built a relationship and are very grateful for the support they have given us.