Paul’s Cycles: Powering into the future with electric bikes

SME catches up with Tom Thornley, Managing Director, Paul’s Cycles and hears about his plans for the company

First Tom, can you tell us about Paul’s Cycles. When did you come up with the idea of the business and how did it develop?

With a legacy spanning 40 years, Paul’s Cycles has evolved from a clearance seller to a modern, prominent brand in both the online and in-store cycling and e-bike retail space. Despite changes in ownership over the years, the last 4-5 years have seen Paul’s Cycles successfully navigate unprecedented market challenges through the Covid-19 Pandemic and the years that followed. Our primary objective is to be the preferred destination for cycling enthusiasts, offering compelling deals with a steadfast “low price guarantee” across diverse price ranges.

Originating as a humble local business, we’ve witnessed numerous customers embark on their cycling journey with their very first bike, fostering relationships that will span for many years to come with our growing customer base. Even though we’re a small team, we’re close-knit and committed. Whether engaging with us online or in person, our commitment is to provide a seamless and friendly experience.

What were the challenges in the early days?

Like most, we grappled with challenges such as cash constraints limiting growth as well as trying to build strong relationships with the bike brands, to have confidence in the Paul’s Cycles team and brand to deliver growth.

You’ve experienced an increase in demand for electric bikes. Why do you think that is?

The surge in demand for electric bikes has been notable. This can be attributed to the growing emphasis on green travel, mental health, combating obesity, enhancing accessibility, and managing the rising cost of living, with recent sales primarily coming our discount strategy. We pride ourselves on our ability to curate the best value deals for our customers. For instance, our recent focus has been on the R Raymon electric bike range, while not as widely known, has been communicated to our customers for its exceptional value, aligning with our understanding of what matters in the e-bike market.”

We observe a shift in the market, with an influx of non-cyclists compared to the early adopters of electric bikes. There is a broader understanding that e-bikes are not about “cheating,” and technological advancements in the e-bike sector continue to drive interest.

The most popular electric bike category was e-MTB’s, where we saw a 74% increase in interest compared to the previous quarter. E-MTB’s give riders the confidence to go further and explore new places, knowing that they have that added assistance to get back home. It could be said that this has made MTBing more accessible and inclusive for broader ages, health and fitness levels. With the increasing sight of electric MTB’s at your local trails, more riders are naturally becoming all the more curious!

What advice would you give someone thinking about setting up their own business?

For aspiring entrepreneurs, our advice is to engage in thorough modelling before venturing into business. Ensure that your cash projections are robust and try to have multiple sources of funding to fortify your foundation and support your business, especially when trying to scale.

Where do you hope the company will be in five or ten years’ time? What do you hope to achieve.

Looking at the recent data, electric bikes are undoubtedly on our radar this year, we’re looking forward to expanding our core range of cherry-picked deals. In the coming years, we envision Paul’s Cycles as one of the leading bike and e-bike retailers in the UK, with potential international retail presence within the next five to ten years. Our aspirations align with creating a lasting impact in the cycling community and beyond.

Paul’s Cycles is a specialist bicycle and e-bike retailer serving online customers, nationwide as well as in-store at our showroom based in East Anglia. Trading since 1983, Paul’s Cycles supplies a comprehensive range of bikes to take you through every step of your cycling journey. Curating a product range from the industry’s top brands known for their trusted quality, Paul’s Cycles is committed to bringing the best value for money to its expanding customer community.