Lancashire's premier bike-peddlers: life in the saddle at Ormskirk's Bicycle Lounge

From the very start, Harry Middleton earned a reputation as a fast rider.

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 4:55 am
Matt Middleton, owner of The Bicycle Lounge, with triathlete Ethan Bennett, whom they sponsor

A keen cyclist from a young age, he joined East Liverpool Wheelers when he was just 16, quickly making a name for himself by riding 1hr, 3min, 48sec 25-miler and a sub-two-hour 50-miler.

On two wheels, Harry was lightning.

As a young man, Harry pursued a potential career on two wheels, travelling to France for a year as a 20-year-old before returning to the UK to continue racing on the circuit with aplomb.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Bicycle Lounge

In 1961, he won the prestigious Anfield 100 with an event record time and, the following year, came eighth in the British Best All-Rounder (BBAR), a year-round competition for the UK’s best time-triallers.

But it was arguably something he did in 1978 which has ended up having the most long-lasting impact: he opened Harry Middleton Cycles, his own bike store, in Ormskirk.

Harry, who went on to win the Anfield 100 again in 1964, even had his own line of Harry Middleton bicycles at one point and, right up until he died at the age of 60 in 1998, maintained his well-earned reputation as a fast man - in 1980 at the age of 42, he came fourth in the BBAR just behind Ian Cammish and John Woodburn, two greats of road time-trialling.

After their father died, Matt Middleton and his brother took over the bike store before, in 2011, Matt took over as sole owner and renamed it The Bicycle Lounge.

The Bicycle Lounge

Never forgetting the shop’s legacy, however, Matt nevertheless keep his dad’s legacy going through the affiliated Harry Middleton Cycling Club. Founded in 2008, the club started life as a meeting of 10 to 15 friends but now boasts almost 400 members, sometimes running four or five different group rides on a Sunday morning.

“I took the business in a different direction, so now we specialise in racing bikes whilst still doing all of the more general stuff and repairs,” explains Matt, 46. “Don’t get me wrong, we concentrate more on the high-end racing bikes now - our average-selling bike probably goes for about £4,000 - but we still do hybrid bikes for £500 or £600.

“We’ve moved the way we have because sometimes people don’t want to spend that kind of money online and would sooner come into a store so they can have their bike fitted and enjoy the personalised experience,” adds Matt, from Ormskirk. “So that’s what we do, and it’s worked: everything has been really good.”

Now with four employees, The Bicycle Lounge has, in the past, played host to the likes of Bradley Wiggins as well as an assortment of former Liverpool and Everton footballers looking to buy bikes for themselves and their families. And, while Matt says the trade is different to how it used to be, the cycling industry is still in a good place.

“It’s been good to watch the company grow and the success of cycling over the last 10 years has helped massively,” he says. “Off the back of that, we’ve started to sell some very bespoke brands such as Pinarello. And the last 18 months have been absolutely crackers with Covid; from a business point of view, it’s been beneficial because people have been out riding bikes.

“I never thought we’d be selling the kinds of bikes we do, but it doesn’t matter if we’re selling a ten-grand bike or a puncture-repair kit, we’re here for people as a local business,” adds Matt. “We live in a fantastic area for cycling once you get out on the country lanes and we’ve got so much on our doorstep so you can disappear for a few hours.

“Last year, we had queues outside the shop and one of the big things we’ve heard from customers is that people aren’t going back to gyms because they’ve realised how much they enjoy exercising outdoors,” Matt explains. “I love what I do, I’ve never had an issue coming to work.

“Myself and my dad come from a racing world, so that’s what we do and what we’ve made our name doing.”