For the second installment in the Our Favourite Shops series, we took a trip to Sigma Sport in Hampton Wick on the London-Surrey border, which serves an active cycling constituency that includes some of the thousands of riders who turn pedals in Richmond Park and the Surrey Hills.
Sigma Sport’s impressive new premises is the result of nine months of work begun in February 2010.
It has transformed an office block previously used by DHL into a three-storey, state-of-the-art cycling facility that houses a high-end shop with customer cycle parking and showers, a sports massage clinic, and a specialist cycle travel company.
Co-owner, Jason Turner, seems justifiably proud as he shows us around. He trained as an architectural technician before teaming up with business partner, Ian Whittingham, to begin the near 20-year journey that has led to their new flagship store. The pair began by selling kit imported from Belgium from the classified column in the weekly cycling press. Evidence that knowledge is never wasted, Turner harnessed the skills acquired before his immersion in the cycle trade to create the new shop’s layout, working with designer, Nick Butterfield, a Sigma Sport customer and Kingston Wheeler.
A staircase of Cornwall stone, the smallest piece of which weighs 1.5 tonnes, dominates a shop entrance illuminated by a huge art deco lamp suspended from the first floor ceiling by an oversized bicycle chain. A lounge area for weary spouses is furnished with a specially commissioned oak table and benches, and a flat screen television. The doors to the changing rooms are finished with full-length panels of carbon fibre, while the frosted glass doors of the bike fitting room are engraved with the letters ‘BG’ in a nod to the Specialized Body Geometry bike fitting service offered to all customers.
When I ask which bicycle brands are stocked, Turner ruefully warns me to buy a new note pad. Trek, Specialized, and new-ish arrivals (the end of last summer), Focus, dominate the ground floor. Upstairs, the shop’s Italian area contains a large collection of Colnagos and Pinarellos. A chest of drawers, each containing a Colnago frame, is one of many interesting touches. The journey to a triathlon area lined with Felt and Cervelo and TT bikes (the P5 is expected “within weeks”) on the opposite side of the second floor takes the customer past a handful of titanium cycles from Seven, an appropriate selection given the American brand’s exclusivity.
Turner is keen to stress the shop’s “something for everyone” approach, an ethos he says has led to a growing clientele of newcomers to road racing and triathlon. He points to the free bike fit offered to all customers “whether they’re spending £500, £5000, or more” as evidence of an inclusive approach.
The staircase leading to the third floor is hung with framed photographs by Graham Watson. A 1957 Bianchi Paris Roubaix provides an interesting distraction for mechanics on their way to workshops housed at the top of the building. Down the hall are the offices of specialist cycle travel company, La Fuga, and the studio of Aurelie Almeida’s Tri Touch team of sports masseurs. An elegant “club room” used by Sigma Sport and La Fuga to entertain clients, and a staff area equipped with kitchen, showers and lockers, completes the picture.
The shop can proudly number Olympic time trial champion, Fabian Cancellara, among its visitors. The Swiss star used Sigma Sport as a base for a trip last December to recce the time trial course for this summer’s Games, which starts at nearby Hampton Court Palace. A call from Kingston Council, themselves alerted to Cancellara’s mission by the Swiss cycling federation, put the Sigma Sport staff on standby for the arrival of Spartacus. His bike was fettled in the third-floor workshop, while the man himself and Radioshack-Nissan-Trek team boss, Johan Bruyneel, planned the ride. “We had to keep it low key until he’d left,” said Turner. “It was a Saturday morning and a few customers did a double take as he came through.”
A more recent visitor from cycling’s elite level was Daniel Lloyd. The former Garmin-Cervelo rider will race in 2012 for the Team IG-Sigma Sport, the UCI Continental squad backed by the shop and one of the biggest supporters of British cycling teams and events, IG Markets.
Sigma Sport is planning a “Festival of Cycling” in the weeks leading up to the Olympic time trial, which will pass directly in front of the shop. Opening hours will be extended to late every evening during the fortnight leading to the London Games’ “race of truth”. A secure bike park will be opened on August 1, the day of the time trial, when the world’s fastest men and women compete on a route that passes directly in front of the shop. A weekly series of Sunday morning guided rides is scheduled to begin in the coming weeks.