Per square kilometre, no place on earth idolises the sport of cycling quite like the Flemish region of Belgium.
Almost four decades ago, Stellenbosch locals were introduced to this culture when a Belgian couple immigrated to South Africa and established Flandria Cycles.
“The shop was named after the factory in which the husband worked,” says co-owner Leonardo van Onselen. “In the sixties in Belgium, it was synonymous with bicycles, mopeds and all kinds of transport.”
However, in South Africa the Flandria brand has always been associated with the sport of cycling.
The Van Onselen family and business partner Alwyn de Kock, who sports national colours in triathlon, decided it was time to turn obsession into opulence when they bought Flandria Cycles five years ago.
“I always loved cycling,” says Van Onselen, whose father Linus was recently crowned mountain bike world champion in the 60 to 64 age group. “Other kids play cricket or rugby with their dads, but we went riding.”
It would seem that they invested at the right time, as Van Onselen notes that cycling has become a lifestyle activity in recent years.
“Eighty percent of all the bicycles we sell are mountain bikes. We’re lucky that cycling is so popular in the Western Cape.”
The shop stocks a range of bicycle brands to suit customers’ needs and pockets. These include: Merida, Scott, Cannondale, Giant, Santa Cruz and Pinarello.
Because mountain bikes require more maintenance than their on-road cousins, Flandria Cycles have made a point of appointing some of the best workshop staff in the business.
The five well-trained mechanics include Pieter Jansen, who is head mechanic of the South African Paralympic team, Ahmed Khatieb, a former development rider for South Africa, and Nolan Adams, who has been with the company for 18 years.
The workshop extends to a washing facility and customers have a choice of service and wash packages.
While everyone in the shop is an avid cyclist and can assist customers with everything from nutrition to cycling gear, Van Onselen, who bought out his dad a year ago, says they are also tapped into a network of specialists.
“For instance, we have someone who is an expert in bike setups and a masseuse who specialises in sports massages. They’re not on the premises, but we have good relationships with them and often refer customers.”
Development of both the sport and its riders is something close to their hearts and therefore Flandria Cycles are involved with several initiatives aimed at strengthening the sport locally.
“We try to get kids into the sport from school age and, for example, offer discount on merchandise to Paul Roos pupils,” says Van Onselen. “We also sponsor two youngsters.”
One of the shop’s longest-running partnerships is with the Medallion Tour de Stellenbosch, which features Flandria Cycles as a subsidiary sponsor. “We’ve been part of the race for 23 years and would like to continue the tradition of supporting local events.”
Their good work is however not limited to cycling, says Van Onselen. “Most shops stay in their niche field, and that’s fine. We try to broaden our focus to include the entire community.”
To this end, they support a local feeding scheme and have an open-door policy when it comes to sponsoring prizes. “Sometimes we’ll be able to donate products, other times we can at least provide it at cost so an organisation can raise some money for their cause.”
The shop is open from 8.30am to 5.30pm on weekdays and from 8am to 1pm on Saturdays.
Phone them on 021 887 1533 or find them at www.flandria.co.za or on Facebook.
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On behalf of:
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