Author Topic: freewheel.co.uk  (Read 712 times)

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
freewheel.co.uk
« on: July 18, 2020, 07:51:00 am »
Not seen a thread about this outfit so thought I'd start one...

I've just placed my first ever order with them - for a re-up of Rema TipTop puncture kits. They seem to be the only UK-based online seller with stock at the moment.

Although I've never used their service before, I remember hearing about Freewheel from my contacts at Madison a few years ago when it was first being set up. The idea was essentially to be an online portal for Madison stockists - so you would order via the website for collection at your local Madison LBS, and the shop would get its usual cut. The rationale was that Madison wanted its independent LBS to be able to compete with the likes of Wiggle.

Click & collect seems to be unavailable at the moment, but they're doing delivery. I don't know how that fits with the "supporting your LBS" ethos but you do get to nominate your LBS when setting up an account, so maybe they do still get a cut.

The only minor downside is that you're restricted to Madison brands. But their own-brand stuff is pretty good (ie Madison clothing, Genesis & Saracen bikes), and they are the official UK dealers for a wide range of popular brands (including Shimano), so that's not nearly as restrictive as it might sound.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

MikeFromLFE

  • Previously known as Millimole
Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2020, 08:43:22 am »
Is this the same company that used to have a catalogue sales operation back in the 80s & 90s now online?
Too many angry people - breathe & relax.

robgul

  • Cycle:End-to-End webmaster
  • . . cyclist, Cytech accredited
    • Cycle:End-to-End
Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2020, 10:33:45 am »
As Mike says it's a re-birth of the mail order catalogue outfit from the last century that started in Hampstead . . . that business morphed into Madison which is, probably, the largest distributor of cycle stuff to the LBS trade - they hold the UK distributorships for Shimano*, Park Tool, Wheels Manufacturing and others - as well as their own brand clothing and parts.

Freewheel was realunched in early 2019 with the idea of punters buying direct from Madison and then collecting from their LBS (assuming that shop had signed up to Freewheel)  The shop received a pretty small fee for handling the "order" ... and had to deal with the customer in the event of problems/returns.

The LBS I managed until November 2019 didn't sign up as we thought that a) the fee revenue would be minimal for the potential hassle, b) the prices to the end-user were high when compared with the other usual online suspects . . . . .  we really thought it was a poorly conceived business model.   

Even with the 10% offered for BC members prices were high (again like other retailers offering BC "benefits")

* Shimano parts at retail from Wiggle/Chain Reaction were often significantly cheaper than the best elite dealer trade price from Madison . . .

That's what it is.

Rob

Edit: I should add that Madison/Freewheel did suggest that the LBS might generate workshop business fitting the parts that they sold direct to the consumer . . . perhaps? 

Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2020, 08:40:16 pm »
*nostalgia alert* Freewheel started as a bike shop called BetaBikes in Hampstead. I bought a secondhand bike from them in the mid 70's.
I am often asked, what does YOAV stand for? It stands for Yoav On A Velo

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2020, 08:50:36 pm »
*nostalgia alert* Freewheel started as a bike shop called BetaBikes in Hampstead. I bought a secondhand bike from them in the mid 70's.

It wasn't a brown Raleigh Esquire, with VECHT in reflective letters on the rear mudguard was it?

My brother's bike was nicked from our shed one lunchtime and s cousin saw this bike for sale at 275 West End Lane but never asked.

Beta Bikes fenced my brother's wheels :(

Adam

  • It'll soon be summer
    • Charity ride Durness to Dover 18-25th June 2011
Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2020, 09:02:24 pm »
As Mike says it's a re-birth of the mail order catalogue outfit from the last century that started in Hampstead . . . that business morphed into Madison which is, probably, the largest distributor of cycle stuff to the LBS trade - they hold the UK distributorships for Shimano*, Park Tool, Wheels Manufacturing and others - as well as their own brand clothing and parts.

Freewheel was realunched in early 2019 with the idea of punters buying direct from Madison and then collecting from their LBS (assuming that shop had signed up to Freewheel)  The shop received a pretty small fee for handling the "order" ... and had to deal with the customer in the event of problems/returns.

The LBS I managed until November 2019 didn't sign up as we thought that a) the fee revenue would be minimal for the potential hassle, b) the prices to the end-user were high when compared with the other usual online suspects . . . . .  we really thought it was a poorly conceived business model.   

Even with the 10% offered for BC members prices were high (again like other retailers offering BC "benefits")

* Shimano parts at retail from Wiggle/Chain Reaction were often significantly cheaper than the best elite dealer trade price from Madison . . .

That's what it is.

Rob

Edit: I should add that Madison/Freewheel did suggest that the LBS might generate workshop business fitting the parts that they sold direct to the consumer . . . perhaps?

My Madison account has just been credited with £11.78 commission in respect of 3 orders placed in June on the Freewheel website.  No idea how that's come about, as I haven't had anything delivered for collection by a member of the public.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” -Albert Einstein

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2020, 09:24:03 pm »
Thanks, Rob. Good to have the perspective of an actual LBS manager.

As Mike says it's a re-birth of the mail order catalogue outfit from the last century that started in Hampstead . . .

I have absolutely no recollection of that!

Quote
probably, the largest distributor of cycle stuff to the LBS trade

I knew they were one of the biggest, not entirely surprising if they are the actual biggest. I know the Zyro-Fisher merger made them pretty big too, but as you say, Madison has many of the biggest brands in its stable.

Quote
The LBS I managed until November 2019 didn't sign up as we thought that a) the fee revenue would be minimal for the potential hassle, b) the prices to the end-user were high when compared with the other usual online suspects . . . . .  we really thought it was a poorly conceived business model.

I was at the launch event at IceBike, and attended a presentation which was followed by a Q&A session. Most of the Qs were from disgruntled LBS owners who didn't see what was in it for them, and weren't convinced it would make money for them. Also several complained about the user-unfriendliness of the portal.

I think it's a nice idea, and the idea behind it is noble, at least. For Madison, the buying power of online retailers (specifically Wiggle) must be a real existential threat.

Quote
* Shimano parts at retail from Wiggle/Chain Reaction were often significantly cheaper than the best elite dealer trade price from Madison . . .

That doesn't entirely surprise me either.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2020, 09:28:48 pm »
My Madison account has just been credited with £11.78 commission in respect of 3 orders placed in June on the Freewheel website.  No idea how that's come about, as I haven't had anything delivered for collection by a member of the public.

As mentioned earlier, they seem not to be offering the click & collect at the moment, only online direct ordering, so presumably that's three people who have made purchases online for delivery and have you as their nominated LBS (or the same person three times).

Fpr me, the convenience of being able to order online while knowing that my LBS is getting a few quid from the purchase makes it a positive. For things like accessories and consumables, it ought to be an easy win for the LBS. I can see that orders for parts that need fitting might be less attractive.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2020, 09:45:06 pm »
*nostalgia alert* Freewheel started as a bike shop called BetaBikes in Hampstead. I bought a secondhand bike from them in the mid 70's.

It wasn't a brown Raleigh Esquire, with VECHT in reflective letters on the rear mudguard was it?

My brother's bike was nicked from our shed one lunchtime and s cousin saw this bike for sale at 275 West End Lane but never asked.

Beta Bikes fenced my brother's wheels :(

Helly, I think the statute of limitations might have expired by now...
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2020, 09:57:51 pm »
*nostalgia alert* Freewheel started as a bike shop called BetaBikes in Hampstead. I bought a secondhand bike from them in the mid 70's.

It wasn't a brown Raleigh Esquire, with VECHT in reflective letters on the rear mudguard was it?

My brother's bike was nicked from our shed one lunchtime and s cousin saw this bike for sale at 275 West End Lane but never asked.

Beta Bikes fenced my brother's wheels :(

Helly, I think the statute of limitations might have expired by now...

Oh I know. I think that shop is or was a Cycle Surgery recently.

In the late '70s Richard Ballantyne was the UK agent for Citadel Locks and other Madison/Freewheel merchandise IIRC...

Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2020, 11:32:34 pm »
*nostalgia alert* Freewheel started as a bike shop called BetaBikes in Hampstead. I bought a secondhand bike from them in the mid 70's.
I bought my Mercian frame from them, probably early ‘83. I thought it was as cool as fuck at the time (very much the bike of my dreams) but in reality it was like riding a sofa.

Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2020, 11:51:00 am »
I remember buying some Agu waterproofs in a Freewheel shop sometime in the early 80’s. It wasn’t London as I was living in Coventry at the time, so somewhere in the Midlands. Nottingham perhaps.
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2020, 07:43:07 pm »
*nostalgia alert* Freewheel started as a bike shop called BetaBikes in Hampstead. I bought a secondhand bike from them in the mid 70's.
Just a Shimano 600 (IIRC) rear mech for me, c1979. I liked that shop.

Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2020, 10:24:26 pm »
The Freewheel catalogue was pure porn in the mid 80s when I was a teenager. They used to sell Revell frames some of which were made by Dave Yates IIRC

Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2020, 10:28:52 pm »
I've still got the wheel-building jig I bought out of the catalogue around 1982.

Re: freewheel.co.uk
« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2020, 03:37:40 pm »
It wasn't a brown Raleigh Esquire, with VECHT in reflective letters on the rear mudguard was it?

Sorry, no. It was a yellow Sun 10 speed racing bike (in the days that all bikes with drop handlebars were called "racing bikes" and all bikes were 'road' bikes)
I am often asked, what does YOAV stand for? It stands for Yoav On A Velo