Hope Technology - Barnoldswick’s cycle pioneers

Ian Wetherill putting a Hope bike through its paces in the Lancashire countryside

Ian Wetherill putting a Hope bike through its paces in the Lancashire countryside - Credit: not Archant

This has been a big year for Hope Technology in Barnoldswick and they have even bigger plans for the future

Ian Wetherill in Hope Technology's Barnoldswick factory

Ian Wetherill in Hope Technology's Barnoldswick factory - Credit: not Archant

This year has been devastating for many businesses but the wheels at Hope Technology in Barnoldswick keep turning faster and faster and sales soared during lockdown.

The workforce there has grown this year and there are plans for expansion as the company continues to develop.

The factory produces bicycles and bike parts which are exported around the world and co-founder Ian Wetherill said: ‘It’s been incredible, cycling has had a real boost. That tends to happen in times of recession but during lockdown people had time on their hands and good weather to enjoy, so it was ideal for cycling. Because people aren’t going abroad this year they have been able to get a new kitchen or buy a new bike.

‘We export to 50-plus countries and there has been global growth in cycling, not just among commuters in London. The cycling boost after the 2012 Olympics was very much among the Mamils [middle-aged men in Lycra] in this country, but this year the boost has been all over the world.

‘Components account for about 95% of our income and we make and sell about five or six carbon fibre bikes a week – they are very high end, about £7000 each.’

Ian launched the company with SImon Sharp in the 1980s after the pair left Rolls Royce. Initially they manufactured tools and parts for aerospace companies but the bike side of the business grew and in 2000 they decided to concentrate purely on that market.

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‘Simon and I were colleagues at Rolls Royce and we used to ride trials bikes,’ Ian said. ‘We were the first people in the UK to take disc brakes from motorcycles and put them on push bikes.

‘We make everything – from the nuts and bolts up to the finished product and we’re the proof that it is possible to produce good quality parts in this country, they don’t have to be shipped in from China or India. Very few businesses do everything themselves like we do.

Hope Technology founders Simon Sharp and Ian Wetherill. Simon died four years ago and the business i

Hope Technology founders Simon Sharp and Ian Wetherill. Simon died four years ago and the business is now owned by his and Ian's families - Credit: not Archant

‘We started in Nelson, then moved to Colne and now we’re in Barnoldswick, so we haven’t moved far and we haven’t wanted to. This is a great area to be in and we have a wonderful workforce and I think people understand that by buying our products you’re helping people in this area.

‘A lot of companies have lost their way and have moved production to cheaper markets but we run the business the old-fashioned way, even though it’s very high-tech. We grow gradually when we can afford to do so. We don’t have a grand plan, we just want to continue our steady growth. We’re not getting carried away, just investing and developing as we go along. It’s evolving.’

The latest growth saw the addition of ten new members of staff and £750,000 worth of new machinery and there are now plans to develop a brownfield site in Barnoldswick into more factory space, adding to the 115,000 square feet they already have in an old dyeing mill in the town.

They are also working on other projects, including an electric trials bike and more carbon fibre bikes, an area Ian says has huge potential for growth.

Previous Hope Technology projects included working with Lotus Engineering to create the bike that would have been ridden by Team GB track cyclists at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

And while the association with the Olympic team has raised Hope Technology’s profile, Ian said: ‘We have never put Union Jacks on our bikes, we have always sold on our quality. I think the Union Jack can be seen as an apology – ‘we might not be the best, but we were made here’ – but we have always believed that if we make the best products, people will buy them. And they do.’

Hope Technology, Hope Mill, Calf Hall Road, Barnoldswick. 01282 851400, hopetech.com

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