Quella fixed on becoming the one to watch
12th March 2021
Cycling came of age in the UK in 2012 - Bradley Wiggins became the first Brit to win the Tour de France and the nation's track cyclists swept all before them at the London Olympics.
The founding of Quella Bicycle in a Cambridge chicken shed attracted rather less attention, but, after upping sticks and changing ownership in 2017, the company has been going through the gears in the last few years - or it would if its bikes weren't single speed.
Quella - Italian for 'that' or 'the one' - relocated to Gloucester for a fresh start with bike fan Mike Mellor, who originally invested in 2014, and managing director Chris Pengilley in the saddle at its current home at St Modwen Park, Quedgeley.
Mr Mellor said: "I originally invested in Quella as a silent investor when I was running Space Group in Barnwood, a large restaurant fit-out business, which I sold in 2016 enabling me to get much more involved.
"It was quickly apparent that the business needed better day-to-day running and some experienced management."
He continued: "I found Chris who had launched brands before, as well as having a solid business background and we got on straightaway.
"His involvement has been key to the success of the business and he manages the day-to-day operation entirely.'
"We effectively started from scratch, moved the whole thing from Cambridge to Gloucester and wiped the slate clean. Since then it's gone from strength to strength."
As well as the Nero entry level and the more premium Varsity range of fixie and single speed bikes, Quella offers customers a chance to modify their specifications which can be anything from a few tweaks to a full custom build.
"The majority of bicycle parts come from Taiwan and China and, like most manufacturers, we source our frames and components there but the design and build is very much ours, with a distinctive British, retro look" said Mr Mellor.
"We have a great workshop facility and, as well as our standard range, we also make a lot of custom bikes and enjoy working with customers to develop something unique."
He continued: "We keep our bike builder Harman very busy, but he is very good and loves a challenge.
"Everyone gets stuck in, even Chris can be found in the workshop lending a hand when it's busy. Like me, he is a bike nerd and loves to get his hands on the product.''
The bikes have a simple, clean look that is key to the brand and very easy on the eye.
''They are very good-looking, classy bikes, low maintenance and practical but are also a real style statement and this is key to our fashion conscious riders.," he said.
"We have stickers that go out with the bikes which say "No gears, no problems" - that's key to our ethos, bikes should be simple."
He continued: "You can do any sort of ride on a single speed if you have the will and the fitness, but the majority of our customers are urban riders rather than those who are heading out doing 100 mile sportives on the weekends.
"Keen cyclists are well aware of the benefits of single speed riding for training and will often have a single speed in their stable next to a carbon fibre racer costing 10 times more.'
"I'm a bike nut and I do sportives and endurance rides on my racing bike, but the bike I use the most to whizz across town or go to the pub would be my Quella."
The desire for a specific colour scheme can mean a turnaround of up to four weeks on a customised bike, but the two standard Nero and Varsity ranges are normally available for next day delivery.
Quella sold more than 3,000 bikes last year, defying the challenges of the pandemic to notch up a record year and a turnover exceeding £1million.
"Lockdown brought a big bike boom," he said. "We were lucky we had planned our purchases well in advance and were able to keep trading well throughout. Stocks dipped pretty low at times but we still had a record year.
"The brand was out there but became better known. We did a lot with pre-orders and fulfilled them quicker than many of the bigger manufacturers who were less nimble."
He continued: "Cycle to Work schemes were massive as employer's sought to help staff get to work without using public transport.
"We offered a 15 per cent discount to NHS workers - we were inundated. Lots of doctors and nurses have been heading around town on our Quella bikes.'
"Covid brought its challenges but we coped well and are coming into 2021 in a good place. We have good stocks at present and our delivery schedule is all booked in to keep it that way.''
Last year saw the company plug into the electric bike market but with design still key.
Unlike most e-bikes, the battery and motor are completely integrated into the rear hub rather than creating a bulky frame to preserve the bikes clean looks.
"The integrated hub means that our e-bike is quite low range, about 60km, but for 90 per cent of people that's more than enough, and we didn't want to compromise on the elegant look of our steel frame" he said.
"A unique, kinetic recharge feature which recharges using the bikes momentum can take the range up to 80km if you use it well."
The style continues with a range of accessories such as lights, locks and helmets, as well as clothing, which is available from the website and independent stockists such as William Cycles in Cheltenham.
The company is keen to spread the Quella lifestyle message, working with interesting people to share the story of single speed bikes on its blog The Fix.
Among those featured are former England goalkeeper and Quella enthusiast Karen Bardsley, cancer survivor James Golding on his bid to become the first Brit to win the fabled Ride Across America and para-athlete Garret Turbett on tackling the Hell of the North Paris-Roubaix route on a single speed bike - all good reads that can all be found on the company website.
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