How to Stay Relevant in BMX for 40 Years - Alans BMX, UK
Keeping it Hardcore in the North West of England
10 Mar 2021
Images courtesy of ALANS BMX
With over 40 years of BMX shop business under his belt at ALANS BMX store in Wigan, UK Alan Woods continues to thrive in an ever-changing BMX world. Speaking from personal experience we've bought, bike parts, skate videos and punk records from him since as early as 1984 and his cross-cultural influence can never be overstated.
Forget the people who only show up in BMX every few years when they think there's money to be made, it's guys like Alan who put in the hard work who are the true backbone of our BMX world. We caught up with him to find out more.
The importance of BMX shops to local scenes (and BMX culture) can not be underestimated and that's why we support them. Throughout the year we'll continue to feature our DIG PARTNER STORES from around the world, so look for more local BMX shop articles soon!
How long have you been in business?
Well, I started selling BMX bikes around August 1980. We had a small showroom in my dad’s car workshop where we sold used motocross bikes and gear, we took a van to the races selling parts trackside, we were the first to do that. The first BMX bikes we had were Moto One, then Mongoose. We already had all the trick JT Racing and DG gear that’s why we all look so dialled back then when people had skateboard helmets.
Can you explain how the idea for your store came to be & why did you start a shop in your area?
It’s where I grew up and already had a base. It wasn't planned, it just evolved out of the Motocross side. I got ahold of a BMX Plus! mag in 1980 and I wrote to every company in there about distributing their stuff in the UK. I was 16. Chuck Robinson and CYC replied and we went out to California, Easter 1980, my mum, dad and Dave Arnold. Chuck took us to Vans, Bob Haro, Voris Dixon, A’ME, Steve Johnson (Torker). We came back distributing Torker, Haro & A’ME.
Who owns the shop? Who works there?
I still own the shop with my wife Julie and we have a really great team here at the moment, we all have the stoke for BMX and bikes in general: Toby Woods, Tom Garcia, Adam Elliot, Jodie Melling, Ste, James and Dan.
Are you primarily a BMX shop?
We are yes, but when we moved to bigger premises in 2004 we started selling mountain bikes as well. We’ve always sold skateboards. Why? Because that’s what we wanted to do rather than a clever plan or anything.
Who's on the shop team?
Shop team is currently:
Sam Davies-Bate (15 years he has rode for us) @wsmsam
Lee Hebb @bmx_hebby
Charlotte Worthington @chazworther - Rides for HyperBMX and Snafu
Chris Smith @chri5mith - Rides for RadioBikes
Andy Kay @a___oh__kay
Dale Tunstead @daletunstead
Tom Cookson @tomcooksonbmx - Rides for Haro
Our race team is under one team instagram @alans_bmx_heritage and the team includes:
John Bentley who has been racing for us since the 80s @benters_bmx
Karl Sanderson who again racing with us since the 80s @sandersonbmx
Joe Parr @joe_parr144
Kira Lee @kiralee325
Jason Lee @_jasonlee._ (Both the children of the famous 80s Raleigh Factory rider John Lee)
We also have Wheelie James on the team ripping up the southern wheelie scene in style - @j19ms_a
Do you have any plans to produce any new team videos and how did you enjoy filming for Vans ’The Circle’?
We have recently done a video with Chris Smith for his welcome to Radio edit and are working on a mixed team edit over winter, although COVID closing all the skateparks is hampering our efforts. The latest release was for the Monster Energy Shop Battle over on our instagram IGTV @alansbmx. We were really stoked to be invited to the Vans the Circle video contest, it was a great opportunity to rub shoulders with the big guns and send it for a larger project. The filming process was very intense and the timescale is rough for these kinds of things but the team smashed it! We have a write up here: https://alansbmx.com/blogs/news/vans-the-circle
What promotional events have you done at the shop since opening?
We used to do yearly competitions at the Wigan Council skateparks near us including Alexandra Park, Ince Park and Ashton but a change there meant we had to insure the events ourselves making them undoable. The Beastrampz all nighters were usually organized by us also including the infamous Gauntlet of Death that Sam made each time before that place closed its doors.We’ve done a few tours a well, Fit, Colony, Vans and more.
Any plans for more?
We are looking forward to sorting some new events as soon as the restrictions are lifted at some more outdoor parks working with the local councils and also hopefully some more at indoor parks, we want to bring the BMX all nighter back! Tom is working on a 'Ride to Glory' style competition between the shops hopefully for summer all things going well so expect a few things from us in 2021.
How has COVID-19 affected the shop and local scene?
We have found that with lockdown people have decided to take up old hobbies again that they did not usually have time for so there has been an increase in riders from the surrounding areas and the skateparks have been rammed (until they were forced to shut), great to see some older familiar faces around the scene again.
What changes have you noticed in your local scene since the shop opened?
It was 40 years ago. I guess we introduced BMX to the North West.
How important is performing bike repairs and maintenance for your shop?
We offer free fitting on a lot of parts when you purchase instore from us, even little things like grips or pedals are quick and easy so we usually do them on the spot along with free frame swaps when you buy a frame from us and same for cranks. We want to make sure what you get is fitted correctly so it can operate the way you would expect and not fail. It's very common to see wrongly fitted parts, forks backwards, missing top hat washers on sprockets etc. With that we also do all repairs including wheel truing, bearing replacement and hub servicing. We currently do free wheel build and spokes when you buy the hub and rim from us.
How have you been affected by the increase in people solely buying online and what have you done to combat that?
With the cost of the shop in the location that we are, the reality is that it is moving more and more to online.
What brands do you carry?
Literally anything and everything BMX, there aren’t too many brands we don’t do. We love to support the brands and distributors that support us so we have lots of Radio, Volume, Haro, GT and WeThePeople parts as those are the brands that hook up our riders and support our scene locally along with the people at 4Down they are always onboard with us!
Which brands are doing well for you right now?
What's something you never expected to happen since opening?
We’d go through a time when people would want snake boards instead of skateboards and Rocker bikes instead of BMX.
What is the weirdest request you’ve ever had in the shop?
What’s the most commonly asked question that you hear?
'How much is (insert bmx bike or part) worth?' We get that constantly, particularly on the old school stuff that we specialize in, the usual answer is 'it is worth what someone is willing to pay fot it'. We suggest using the SOLD LISTINGS feature on eBay and see what they have sold for in the past rather than what people are asking for right now as its a better indicator of price.
How many times have you had cheap bikes come in with the forks on backwards? What do you tell them?
With the way modern forks are going it will become the norm soon! This used to happen a lot more, particularly as we are in between the two main train stations in Wigan that connect to London, Manchester, Liverpool and Scotland. We have a sticker that came off a boxed bike from ages ago we have on the side of the tool box so we usually just point to that. It's a 2 minute fix so we usually just sort it for them.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen happen out front?
Every day there is some girl going crazy, shouting at a lad in the street, I don’t know why it attracts that here!
One thing was our wheelie guy E-Ratic Dominator had his Beast Mode stolen and Tom saw some guy riding it past the shop and chased after him, luckily the police were right there and we had the frame number and got it back.
Tom G: I'll elaborate on this question as it was a bit mad!
One of our wheelie team riders, E-Ratic Dominator, had just gotten his new SE Beastmode bike, we had spent about 3 hours making a custom decal set to say his Instagram name on the downtube and swap it all from Black to Gold. Swapped the pedals, pegs and more to all gold pieces, the thing was bling! About 24 hours later, it was stolen from outside the McColls directly across from our store at around 9pm at night. BUMMER! We searched high and low and couldn't find it anywhere. Multiple sightings but nothing solid. Then about 9 months later at around noon a good customer of ours and a friend of the E-Ratic Dominator was in the shop looking at some grips and happened to look outside at the exact moment someone rode past on the bike! I sprinted out the shop and saw a bald 35ish year old man riding it up the street towards the town center, quickly caught up to him outside a pub up the road and placed my hands on the bars with my legs either side of the front wheel, explained that the bike was stolen and that the police where on their way. At this point a bit of a crowd was forming as the chap kept screaming that he had bought it fair and square for £100 (£1000 bike...) from the market and some nosey fella from the pub had come out and started to defend him, trying to pry me off the bike. Needless to say the police came quick smart once a scene was being made and rocked up to diffuse the situation. Luckily we had an instagram post showing the bike, serial numbers and case number so it was quickly resolved but the chap on the bike had a warrant out for his arrest! He was swiftly loaded into the back of the police van while the chap from the pub was kindly told to leave before he was arrested (He seemed to be known to the coppa already on first name basis). I walked back down with the recovered bike in hand and heart pounding just pleased we had gotten it back after all that time. The only thing that was different was the seatclamp must have broken and was replaced with a cheap blue one.
You must be one of the oldest running BMX shops anywhere in the world. What’s motivated you to be around for so long?
In the UK for sure, us and Edwardes were close and they are still going. Once you get set up and you come to the point where you don’t want world domination, just doing a good job is reward enough. We employ a lot of local staff, loads of riders, sponsor events and are doing more and more charity work, from the Goggles 4 Docs to things like backpacks from Direct Provision in Ireland. I really like keeping our finger on the pulse and covering racing and the older stuff too, I guess that’s our USP.
Where do you want the shop to be in five years?
Still involved and doing something a bit different to everyone else. The BMX shops will always be the lifeblood of the scene and they have had a bloody tough time of it these past 5 of so years. It breaks my heart that we lost someone like Hardcore Hobbies, but from what I see the regional shops are stepping it up doing a great job, it’s good to see Mike at Foundation back on it. With such big players in the Mail-order market, we can only offer an alternative if there is this network. This Summer is going to be awesome. I can see a BMX boom coming that we haven’t seen since 1983.
And his Wethepeople Utopia
"innovative Tubeless Compatible systems"