Ribble Cycles: The 124-year-old Lancastrian bike brand leading the peloton and taking the world by storm
Hand-assembling bikes since 1897 in the heart of the Ribble Valley, Ribble Cycles has, over the decades, emerged as on of UK’s truly world-class bike brands.
Selling an impressive range of award-winning models - from road, mountain and electric bikes to hybrid, track, and cyclocross bikes - designed in-house by a specialist team, Ribble is one of the world’s oldest cycling companies. With strong Lancastrian roots and a global reach, they are one of the county’s true success stories.
“Every bike is designed in the UK and tested on the Lancashire roads, so we’ve got a close connection with our roots,” says Andy Smallwood, Ribble’s Morecambe-born CEO. “Our USP is our business model: we see a bike as a very personal purchase. You choose the type of bike, customise it using our BikeBuilder, and then personalise with one of four million colour combos.
“And, regardless of whether it’s a £700 hybrid or a £10,000 world championship model, every bike is built, start to finish, in Preston by a single mechanic.”
Borne of the Ribble Valley and proud of it, the company recently opened a new state-of-the-art flagship showroom in Clitheroe, which features Europe’s largest indoor 4k video wall, Ribble’s BikeBuilder tool, and the Ribble Live virtual showroom team, which enables global customers to speak with the local experts. The store even has its own signature scent.
“The team is made up of passionate cyclists who live and breathe bikes,” says Andy, whose first race bike was a Ribble some 30 years ago. “We really appreciate a customer’s point of view; everything is designed by and for cyclists and there’s just as much positivity from seeing our cycling teams breaking records as there is from seeing a customer having a genuinely life-changing experience from one of our bikes - those stories re just as heartwarming.
“It’s a really exciting place to work because there’s always something new and a culture of continuous innovation. We try to challenge convention and we like to do things our own way - for example, when we launched the e-bike, we didn’t just build a bike with a heavy battery grafted onto it, we made the world’s lightest e-bike,” he adds.
And their e-bike is certainly a hit with Brian Robinson, the first Brit to finish the Tour de France, who does 30 miles a day on his Ribble e-bike at the sprightly age of 90.
“When I joined the business, we wanted to resurrect this premium bike brand with real heritage,” continues Andy, who joined Ribble - which has a total of just under 200 employees - in 2017. “We invested in the products and we’re really starting to see the fruits of our labour.”
Sasha Castling, who works in marketing for the company, agrees. “Ribble is a fantastic local employer which sells globally and Andy has really transformed the company,” she says. “Whereas before we were selling parts, clothing, and accessories, Ribble has always inherently been a beautiful British bike brand, so we’ve come back to that.
“We’ve crossed three centuries, gone through two world wars, Spanish flu, and this pandemic and we’re still going and still growing.”
In fact, during Covid, Ribble has seen demand skyrocket, with the operations side of the business not missing a single day whilst also adhering to relevant safety regulations. Despite experiencing slight supply issues, the company has gone from strength to strength and, for the first time, will even have a women’s team competing in this year’s Spring Classics.
“I’ve loved the journey,” Andy says. “It’s been amazing and real testament to the team. It’s not been without its challenges, particularly over the past year, but we’ve come out the other side in a stronger place. We’ve learned a lot, things are looking good, and this is just the start.
“It’s an exciting time for us.”