best bike shop in the country?
Well if there is one thing that every cyclist in the land will have an opinion about (being by and large a supremely opinionated lot, in my opinion!!!), then it is the answer to the question ‘what is the best bike shop in the country?’. Well, I think there may actually be a correct answer to this one.
Being a Suffolker by residence and upbringing, it pains me to shower such lavish praise on anything from Norfolk, but I have to say that the holy grail for the keen cyclist is a small, slightly shabby-looking shop situated on Shelfanger Road in Diss.
Nestling half way along the unremarkable A140 trunk road, which connects the fine city of Norwich to the outside world, you will find Diss. A small, unremarkable market town built around a large and beautiful body of water known as the Mere, Diss is one of those eccentric little places that just carries on doing its thing whatever the rest of the world is doing, and very much at its own slow pace. Since the electric railways came, Diss has been arterially connected to the pumping heart of London, but seems not to have been affected by it.
And if you follow the signs for Attleboro’, you’ll soon find on your right hand side the somewhat dishevelled looking Madgetts bike shop, based around a once lovely town house. A free (for the first hour) car park opposite is ideally placed assuming you haven’t biked there.
Crossing the road, you have to push the front door a couple of times to make it open. But once you step inside, I can only really liken it to the bit in Harry Potter when they step for the first time into Oleander’s Wand Shoppe. Madgetts has been described before as an ‘aladdins cave’ – that’s doing it a dis-service. It is quite simply bicycle heaven.
Lined up along the right hand side of the shop is a row of bikes that takes your breath away. Amongst the sensible commuters and lovely old Dawes shopping bikes is exotica that you would have to travel Europe to see. A gorgeous Principia (a Danish make I hadn’t come across before) stood toe to toe with a Mercian. Step through the left hand door and (mind your head sir!) you see tandems, folders (Bromptons and Airnimals as I recall), whilst at the back of the shop is yards of racking that contain every possible bit of kit you could need.
Behind is the workshop, where you’ll most likely see Mick Madgett working on a bike (he was filing the inside of a newly trued wheel when I last visited), whilst chatting to a customer about recent sportive activity. He really is the most friendly, unassuming proprietor I have had the pleasure to meet, far removed from some of the swollen egos you seem to encounter when bike shopping. And just looking at the guy, you know he’s been there and done it. You can imagine him as an early 1970’s roadie or time triallist – he’s an authority on cycling, and a leading light in the Veteran Cycle Club. From a cycling family(three egenerations in the trade), he has expanded the shop into what it is today.
Upstairs, you’ll find yet more bikes in various little rooms, plus a stack of lovely Carradice sadllebags and panniers. Like me, you will leave the things you wanted to buy at the counter and say you’re off for a browse. Forty minutes later, the trip that was supposed to take five minutes has grown in both time and scope and control has been lost; you are slipping down a greasy path towards an expensive afternoon.
If you’re reading this and you have never experienced Madgetts, then you must go. As I have said, you can get there by train, by road – dammit, here are the keys – take my car!!