Chain Reaction Cycles IRP Case Study

Size: Enterprise
Market: Cycling
Type: Retail
Company: Owner Led
Outcome: Acquired in a VC-backed buyout

On the IRP from 2000–2013, Chain Reaction Cycles (CRC) became the world’s leading online bike retailer. The company achieved:

– Over £170m in online turnover
– Sales in more than 170 countries

Humble beginnings

CRC began in 1984 as a small, family-run bricks-and-mortar business with a mail-order service for specialist bike parts. In the year 2000 they had a turnover of £500k and a staff of 6.

Then came the challenge: how to compete online.

“Some of our rivals had started to get websites but most were difficult to use and did not seem up to the job,” says Michael, Ecommerce Director of CRC.

“We believed that a website should be about the content and products. Users should be able to easily find what they are looking for and they should never be lost in the site.”

Michael, Ecommerce Director, Chain Reaction Cycles


Enter the IRP

CRC supported the development of the IRP as their ecommerce platform and went live in September 2000. The impact was immediate:

– They generated over £110k in total online revenue in the first 6 months using the IRP.
– In their first year of retailing online, they achieved 15% month-on-month growth.

Explosive growth

CRC had strong ambitions to grow. The initial focus was on optimising CRC’s IRP-based website to improve conversion rates. The resulting growth was explosive:

– By April 2002, CRC’s online revenue had broken £100k per month.
– Two years later, the site hit £500k per month.
– In August 2005 CRC hit a landmark £1m in online revenue and ended the year with 75% growth on the previous calendar year.

International expansion

Every online business needs to attract international custom. CRC harnessed the full potential of the IRP’s in-built international capabilities — including its multi-language and multi-currency functionality.

As a result:

– In 2006 sales grew by over 42%.
– By January 2007, monthly online sales had reached £2m.
– By the end of 2007, international sales grew to over one third of total online revenue.

CRC also maximised the IRP’s integration with Google to manage a huge range of keywords across multiple languages:

– By March 2008 the sales figure was £3m.
– By the end of that year, foreign transactions were making up more than 50% of online sales.
– Total sales had grown by over 200% in the previous two years.


From 2008 to 2012, CRC tripled its online revenue on the IRP platform, reaching over £170m in annual turnover.

CRC Annual Online Sales

Approximately two thirds of these sales came from outside the UK.

With over 2 million customers served on the IRP and a compound annual growth rate of 69% over 12 years, CRC had become one of the top 10 online retailers in the UK.

CRC became the largest online bike store in the world and in 2016 they were acquired in a VC-backed buyout.

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