Pendle Bike Racks: The Lancashire family firm providing a post-lockdown 'link to adventure'

Chris Smith of Pendle Bike RacksChris Smith of Pendle Bike Racks
Chris Smith of Pendle Bike Racks
It all started when a family friend of the three Smith brothers who ran Pendle Engineering asked them if they could design a bike rack for his car. They said they could and, thanks to that simple request, we today have Pendle Bike Racks.

Founded by Eddie and Ray Smith in 1977 (sibling Steven later joined the venture, too), Pendle Engineering launched Pendle Bike Racks in 1988 as a sub-division of the main company, which is how it remained until last summer when current owner Chris Smith incorporated it as its own standalone limited company with the view of growing the business.

"I used to work at the company when I was a kid and they'd have me sweeping floors," explains Chris, co-founder Eddie Smith's son. "I joined full-time in 2013 when my dad became poorly and was leaning towards retirement. I was a long-term succession plan, which was great for me because I could take some of the pressure off him and allow him to focus on his health before he passed away in 2016."

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Over its history, Pendle Bike Racks has had a simple mission statement: to encourage people to dust off that road bike, hose down that muddy mountain bike, or even whip out a trike or two and get active.

Chris at the Pendle Engineering factoryChris at the Pendle Engineering factory
Chris at the Pendle Engineering factory

"We don't expect the limelight at Pendle Bike Racks but, if you have a nice expensive car and a nice expensive bike, the last thing you want to do is put those things at risk," says Chris, 33. "Our tagline is 'Your link to adventure' because we're trying to connect people to their adventures with family in places where they would never otherwise be able to take their bikes.

"If you've got youngsters or you're not a confident cyclist, jumping on the bike right outside your house might not always be appropriate, so we allow people to drive to a local beauty spot and enjoy a bit more of a safe ride," he adds. "It's all about getting people outdoors."

With some 65 people employed by both Pendle Engineering and Pendle Bike Racks, the company produces everything from tow-bar racks to professional 12-bike trailers, ceiling hooks to anchored bike stands. All of their products are designed, manufactured, and tested and the company's home in Nelson and are made to cut out any fiddly gimmicks.

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In fact, Pendle Bike Racks bases its mantra around three key words: strong, simple, safe.

Chris SmithChris Smith
Chris Smith

"I love speaking to customers about what they want and what challenges they face, because then we can look to develop products for their needs," explains Chris, who is from Trawden. "We're not so egotistical as to design a product for the sake of it, we try to meet the needs of our customer base.

"I'm dead interested in the development side of things because - using the expertise we have at our disposal through Pendle Engineering - we can be agile, make tweaks, develop on the fly," he adds. "All of that benefits the customer."

Chris says that the last 12 months have been 'a funny time' for the company due to the Covid-19 outbreak. After the company closed their factory for the sake of staff health and well-being, they watched as demand for their products skyrocketed with people keen to make the most of their one daily permitted outdoor dalliance. But they had no stock to sell.

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"We were gearing up to launch new stock when lockdown hit and we closed the business because of the pandemic, but we saw web traffic double in April 2020 and then double again in May," says Chris. "Trouble was, we didn't have the products!

"We regrouped and launched a new website and started taking orders again in January," he adds. "Now that there's a road-map for restrictions to be lifted, we anticipate a serious increase in demand, especially as there's real enthusiasm for British products and more people interested in cycling as a health and well-being pursuit.

"What's more, people have been stuck at home more than they perhaps would have liked over the past year, so what better than to get the family out on a bike ride?"

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