Hotel Markets To Cyclists: 128 Bicycles Stored Overnight Record So Far
Hospitality veterans Simon Rhatigan and Simon Kershaw are betting that bicyclists will spend big in their new upscale hotel in the North Yorkshire seaside resort of Scarborough. The Bike & Boot overlooking South Bay’s sandy beach is the first in a—ahem—chain. The next to open will be a new-build in the Peak District in March 2022 with another opening in Sherwood Forest the following year.
So far this summer, the 65-room boutique hotel has had a 95% occupancy, said Kershaw.
In 2019, Rhatigan and Kershaw took out a £2.8 million loan from OakNorth—the “bank for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs”—to buy and fit out the run-down Mount Hotel on Cliff Bridge Terrace overlooking Scarborough’s iconic Spa Bridge. Over the following 18 months, they transformed it into the hip and stylish Bike & Boot.
The Grade II listed building was originally a Georgian terrace, with servant quarters in the basement. Now that basement—trademarked as “Wadobi” (an abbreviation of walk-dog-bike)—has rooms dedicated to bicycle storage next to a bicycle cleaning zone with a hosepipe, bike detergents, chain lubricants, and, for tinkerers, a tool station.
(The Wadobi also has a dog grooming station and a 16-seat cinema with three daily film screenings, free for guests.)
MORE FOR YOU
Upstairs there’s the high-ceilinged bar-and-grill restaurant Bareca (“bar/restaurant/cafe”) where, at 3 pm each day, the on-sale cakes are moved to the plush lounge for guests to eat for free. Cyclists love cake.
Adorning the walls of the hotel are taxidermy heads made not from culled beasties but bicycle helmets. There are also cantilevered full bicycles and sculptures made from defunct bike parts and huge wall maps of local cycling destinations such as Dalby Forest, a mountain biker’s delight. Bathroom doors in the plush bedrooms and suites sport full-length close-ups of bike gears.
Why market an upscale hotel to cyclists?
“You only have to look around to see what’s happening,” said Kershaw, pointing out that the uptick in cyclist numbers started well before the pandemic’s bicycle boom.
“In the Yorkshire Dales, you can forget driving a car because you can’t wade through the sheer number of cyclists,” he added.
And many cyclists are, well, loaded.
“Spending £10,000 on a bicycle isn’t unusual anymore,” said Kershaw.
“And if you’ve invested that much on one of your cycles, you don’t leave it in the boot of your car; you don’t leave it strapped to the car; you want to bring it into any hotel you’re staying at.”
Some hotels allow guests to wheel bikes to rooms, but there’s no need at the Bike & Boot because, with full CCTV coverage, the basement Wadobi is secure.
Until 2016 when he went into partnership with Kershaw, Rhatigan was managing director of Devonshire Hotels and Restaurants and before that was owner of the award-winning Feversham Arms Hotel and Verbena Spa in Helmsley, North Yorkshire. Kershaw is a former senior Whitbread executive. Neither are cyclists.
“My son introduced me to cycling’s potential,” said Kershaw.
“He got into cycling when he was at school and became completely mad on it. I went along with him to a bike shop in Harrogate to buy him a bike for his 18th birthday and there was a big crowd of people outside, with the shop name on their jerseys. My eyes were then opened to seeing the massive number of other cycling groups.”
Cogs started to click in Kershaw’s business brain, helped along by another trusted source: “Martin Wood, our architect, is a fanatical cyclist. He goes all over on cycling trips.”
Bike & Boot may have a cycling (and hiking) aesthetic, but it’s far from exclusive to cyclists and walkers. The hotel is purposefully dog friendly, and catering to a canine clientele is another growing niche in the hospitality market.
Nevertheless, the hotel is using cycling’s street cred as a distinctive marketing tool. It has appointed professional bike trials rider Jack Carthy as a brand ambassador—he’s seen in a promotional video pulling stunts in the hotel and downtown Scarborough—and, in May, the hotel sponsored its first “sportive” cycling event.
The 55-mile Velo2Velo Scarborough Bike & Boot Sportive started outside the hotel and followed part of the route of the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire professional cycling race. The event was open to all but boosted business for the hotel, too. The basement stored 128 bicycles on the night before the sportive.
Four more events are planned, said Kershaw, including a mountain bike sportive, a family sportive, and a hill climb.
A guest might not arrive at the hotel as a cyclist but could end up becoming one, believes Kershaw. If that is, they hire one of the hotel’s electric mountain bikes at £60 a pop.
“Have you been on one? They’re astounding.”
The hotel has a fleet of four, with another four on the way.
“People go off on them, and when they come back, they’re all smiles, saying ‘we just got to get one, we just got to get one,’” said Kershaw.
“They’re revolutionary, really.”
As well as touring around Scarborough on these electric mountain bikes, guests are also zipping 25 miles to Whitby along the Cinder Track.
This is a cycling-and-hiking path on the disused railway track that once ran between the two towns.
Lockdown hit Scarborough hard: almost 20,000 jobs in the local economy rely on tourism, but in the current sunhine, the future looks bright for Scarborough. Billed as one of England’s first seaside resorts—popular since the 1700s as a spa town—Scarborough is currently being spruced up by the local council in an initiative called Project Sunshine.
Thanks to £20.2 million from the national government’s Towns Fund, announced on March 3, more cycling facilities—such as safe cycleways—will also soon be added. Bike & Boot is therefore well placed to ride cycling’s surge in popularity.
“Can you tell the difference between these pics of Scarborough and Marbella?” asked the hotel’s cheeky Twitter account recently.
“Ditch Marbs and visit sunny Scarbs instead,” demanded the social media poster, adding that “Scarbados” was now the in-place to be. Arrive in town with a bicycle to be even more on-trend.