It is refreshing to welcome a dynamic new specialist sector leader to Retail Week Knowledge Bank’s coverage: Evans Cycles.

The latest figures put Evans Cycles well into the top 200 frame, with sales of £73m. Because its financial year ends in October, final 2010 figures will only be available later this year but Retail Week Knowledge Bank expects sales of about £85m. This is about half those of bikes market leader Halfords, where motoring products long ago overtook cycling sales in its 450-plus stores and £800m total.

However, Evans Cycles, after a sticky patch in 2007/2008 when accounting problems were discovered, was quickly back in the saddle under the new control of Active LLP,

achieving a 43% increase in the latest year, taking sales to approaching three times their level just four years earlier.

Evans Cycles still has only 44 stores, which are heavily biased towards London (where it was founded in 1921) and the Southeast, although there are now shops in the Midlands, northern England and Glasgow. So there remains much infilling potential for tapping into the explosive growth in cycling in the pursuit of healthier lifestyles.

How things have changed in a decade or so for a market that seemed to be running on flat, even going backwards, for so long. Initiatives such as cycle to work and local cycle routes have helped, as has the high price of fuel. Evans Cycles was also a pioneer of online bike selling. Competition online has increased greatly, but Evans Cycles’ website accounts for more than 20% of its sales.

The challenge now is for Evans Cycles to move up the gears as the growing chain requires new priorities, additional skills and changing corporate decision processes; in other words, peddling faster to sustain forward momentum.