Chain Reaction Cycles are celebrating 25 years in business, during which time they’ve grown from a small bike shop into one of the biggest stockists of cycle equipment in Europe.
The Northern Ireland-based company ship goods to more than 140 countries every day, and if you buy cycle bits online, chances are you’ve used the website at some point.
The business was founded by George and Janice Watson in 1984 using a £1,500 loan. Then called Ballynure Cycles, their first sale was an 11p chain link.
The shop proved successful and in 1989 moved to larger premises in Ballyclare, where the Chain Reaction Cycles name was adopted.
The Chain Reaction team today
Ten years later the website was launched, initially offering around 1,000 products for sale. That has now grown to a massive 60,000.
Chain Reaction also sponsor a World Cup downhill race team, which this year consists of Matti Lehikoinen, Chris Kovarik, Julien Camellini, Matt Simmonds, Ruaridh Cunningham and Claire Buchar.
“The feeling all the staff get watching the team ‘on a run’ on Freecaster.com at a World Cup takes some beating!” says Chain Reaction’s Michael Cowan.
To mark the store’s 25th anniversary, we asked Michael some questions about the website:
What’s the strangest question someone’s asked about a product online? Do pedals come in pairs? We also had a customer who phoned us in a panic after getting their feet stuck in a brand new pair of high-end road shoes as they didn’t know how the ratchet mechanism released. Our customer service team always have some good stories, but generally our customers are very knowledgeable.
Most expensive cycling component you sell? Manitou Dorado forks at £2,299.
Most bought component at the moment? Shimano HG93 chain.
Most popular tool? X-Tools chain wear indicator.
How do you deliver so quickly to the UK mainland when you’re based in Ireland?
It’s quite simple: we make sure we dispatch the order as quickly as possible. We set very high standards for ourselves in that area and if we do that bit well then Royal Mail or Parcel Force are the experts in doing the rest. And they do a great job.
Are there any plans to sponsor a pro road race team? That would be a big move for us, and we never think small.
What do you think the next big cycling innovation is going to be?
I don’t think it’s going to be one thing. Five- and six-inch-travel all-mountain bikes will continue to get lighter and stronger, and we might see carbon being used a lot more for downhill frames.
The first CRC website
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