Private equity firm ECI Partners is believed to be leading the race to acquire bike specialist Evans Cycles.

Antidote’s TV ad for Evans includes a scene of a bicycle used as a coat stand

Active Capital, the retailer’s private equity owner, hired investment bank Canaccord Genuity to conduct a strategic review of the business earlier this year.

Rival bidders include PAI Partners, which owns Cotswold Outdoor as well as Equistone and Graphite, but it is understood ECI has pulled ahead in the race, according to the Telegraph.

The deal between ECI Partners and Evans Cycles could value the business at around £100m. This would value the business at more than 13 times last year’s earnings of £7.5m.

This valuation would cement the trend of steep price-earnings ratio in private-equity deals as the UK climbs out of recession.

Last month, the retailer revealed it had returned to profit. The cycling specialist posted a £2m pre-tax profit on ordinary activities for the year ending November 1, compared with a loss of £98,000 in the previous year.

Sales increased 11.9% to £127.7m. EBITDA excluding exceptional expenses, the growth measurement favoured by the retailer, increased by 33% during the period from £5.6m to £7.5m.