In the beginning, back in 1977 there was a small suburban bicycle shop on West End Lane, West Hampstead in North West London called Beta Bikes. The shop was owned by an entrepreneur, Errol Drew. Errol has spent time in the USA and had seen the emergence of mountain biking and decided to bring it to the UK. Errol started to import some American brands as well as develop his own mountain bikes under the Ridgeback brand. Demand for these products grew from other bicycle retailers and consumers. This lead Errol to create Madison to supply product to the trade and the Freewheel mail order catalogue for the consumer. The Freewheel catalogue was sold throughout the UK in all newsagents and fast became the go to publication for everything cycling in the UK.
From Catalogue to Store
In the 90's, the retail model of Beta Bikes was developed as a franchise and these franchise stores operated under the fascia of Freewheel. At the peak there were circa 30 Freewheel stores in the UK. Whilst the stores looked great and performed well for a while, running a successful bike shop is hard work and requires a huge amount of dedication and this is not so easy to replicate through a franchise. At the same time Madison grew at a rapid rate and it was clear that the future of the business lay in being a distributor to the trade rather than a retailer. Madison pulled out of the franchise scheme in the mid 1990s and stores continued to trade for several years after but eventually were sold or absorbed into other retail chains so none exist anymore.
Today Madison still operates as the UK’s largest distributor of bicycle parts and accessories and Freewheel (a trademark still owned by Madison) has been reinvented as a new e-commerce website for the Madison and Sportline brand portfolio to support our national network of independent specialist bicycle retailers. Ensuring we deliver the best service to the cyclist by bringing the best independent specialist bicycle retailers together with their wealth of expertise to be able to compete in a market where independent specialist retailers are under threat. All the benefits of ordering online but backed and supported by your local independent bicycle shop. The best of all worlds.
The Freewheel Union
Freewheel features a growing Reserve and Collect network made up of regional independent bike shops. Each shop is highly regarded within their local communities and provides customers with many value added bike related services. Collectively know as the Freewheel Union, each participating bike shop retains their own bricks and mortar identity and are not owned by Freewheel or Madison. Freewheel.co.uk simply brings together professional cycle shops to give our customers extra service and peace of mind.