THE new owners of a South Lakeland cycle shop are confident they can put the business back on the road to success after a bumpy ride over recent months.

Wheelbase reopened its doors just days before Christmas after administrators finally accepted a management buy-out bid, as previously reported in The Westmorland Gazette.

Former manager Chris Herd, together with brothers James and Toby Dalton, are now joint owners of the Staveley business, and are aiming to put the troubles behind them.

Administrators KPMG were called in last September after Wheelbase's parent company, Concept Cycling Ltd, ran into financial problems.

"We knew that the parent company was in serious difficulty, despite the fact that we (Wheelbase) were very busy and had a record month in August. It was a bit frustrating," recalled Mr Herd.

He and his colleagues made a bid to take over the Staveley operation soon after it went into administration, but they could not compete with offers being made by national companies keen to buy the business.

But they found an important ally in landlord David Brockbank, owner of the Staveley Mill Yard where Wheelbase is based, who invoked a clause in the lease agreement that gave him the final say over who took over the premises.

Mr Brockbank, who is also chairman of Cumbria Vision, the public body driving economic regeneration in the county, was keen to see the business come under local ownership, and refused to let outsiders come on board.

But with KPMG officials duty bound to get the best deal for Wheelbase, a game of cat and mouse developed between the administrators, and Mr Herd and his colleagues, whose bid was still on the table.

With stock levels dwindling and the traditionally busy run-up to Christmas period fast approaching, Wheelbase continued to trade with a skeleton staff until administrators shut the shop on November 21.

"There was a certain amount of stock remaining in the building, and they (KPMG) were going to sell it on to other parties.

"We decided to up our offer to take it, lock, stock and barrel everything that belonged to Wheelbase," recalled Mr Herd.

The revised offer was accepted and Wheelbase reopened, under new ownership, on December 22.

Mr Herd had been manager for six years, while James Dalton had worked at Wheelbase for almost as long, and his brother, Toby, had also been employed by the business some ten years ago, before he went on to get a degree in marketing and advertising. "He was in at the beginning of mountain biking and he's coming back to his roots," said Mr Herd.

He told Business Gazette he had never harboured ambitions to own Wheelbase but, faced with the prospect of closure and losing his job, he jumped at the chance to take over the business.

He was reluctant to disclose how much he and his partners paid for Wheelbase, or the fine details of the deal.

But he is so confident about the firm's future prospects that he hopes within a year or two to repay out of profits the money he borrowed to fund the buy-out. "It was a very profitable business I wouldn't have bought it otherwise," he added.

Wheelbase employed 20 staff back in September, but numbers dwindled due to redundancies and natural wastage, leaving only six now on the payroll a figure Mr Herd is keen to increase as the business gets back on its feet.

In the meantime, he is busy trying to rebuild bridges with suppliers "some are treating us as a new account that they haven't dealt with before, others have been very helpful indeed."

Mr Herd hopes to join the Government's Cyclescheme fitness drive, which offers people the chance to buy a bike through their employers at discounts of up to 50 per cent. More details on the scheme can be found by visiting

And the cycles and snowboarding equipment business also plans to start selling more folding bikes aimed at the inner city market.