As prodigious cycling teenagers, Dennis Lightfoot and Hilton McMurdo would probably never have thought they’d end up running a bike shop on the other side of the world.
When they first met as British teens they were too busy racking up track wins and then debriefing about it at the local pubs (sorry – that should read cafes given they were under age) to speculate on where riding would take them.
Dennis’ dad was a pro road cyclist, so it was a case of the apple not falling far from the tree. That said Dennis took things next level and during his cycling career amassed more than 200 wins in countries including England, France, Belgium and Australia. His palmares include taking out the British National Championships in ’78, ’81 and ’86.
Hilton’s path to cycling glory was a little less obvious at first.
According to the man himself, he wasn’t really good at anything as a kid. He was always last in running races, he never really had a knack for ball skills; things just weren’t as predestined as they probably appeared for Dennis. But then he found the bike and, well, it soon became very obvious that he was in fact very good at something. A couple of second places in the British Pro Criteriums, stage wins in the Commonwealth Bank Classic/ Sun Tour/ Tour of Mauritius, two Tour of Thailand GC wins, a couple of Australian Masters Championship victories, five WA State Road Championship wins and a World Masters Pursuit Championship later, and Hilton’s still adding to his palmares.
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Competing Down Under during the Southern Hemisphere’s race season saw the two end up in Perth during the late 80s. They quite enjoyed what they saw and so they decided to stay. Dennis went and got a ‘real job’ whilst Hilton just kept riding his bike. In 1992 an opportunity arose for them to purchase one of Perth’s most iconic and oldest bike shops, Glen Parker Cycles. It was a chance for Hilton to get his mechanical mojo on (he’s a mechanical fitter by trade) and a chance for Dennis to add to his list of ‘real jobs’.
In 2004 the pair was joined by a mate from their teens, Matt Blackwell, otherwise known as Mop (Pom spelled backwards for anyone out there who, like me, may be a little slow errr… clipping in). Matt, whose family immigrated to Perth from the UK, first got into bikes when at the age of 15 (a clear winner ahead of Dennis and Hilton in the ‘real job’ stakes!) he started a job with a local bike shop in Geraldton. Mop reunited with his mates from the UK and joined the Glen Parker Cycles team as a bike mechanic. Not only has Mop remained on board, but he became a partner about two years ago.
Step inside Glen Parker Cycles and you feel like you’ve been transported back to the way real bike shops used to be.
Forget polished showroom floors, white walls and bedazzling lights. This place is no frills (well, apart from the product, that is) and bursting at the seams with character. From Dennis and Hilton’s many trophies and plaques to yellowing newspaper clippings, photos and money-can’t-buy racing memorabilia, this place is brimming with charm and full of stories to be told.
Over there is Wiggo’s time trial bike from last year’s World Championships. Only two in the world and one of them just happens to be hanging in all its white, red and blue Pinarello glory up on a wall in one of the shop’s many rooms. Over in that nook is a photo of Dennis and Sir Christopher Hoy, signed of course. In this cranny here there’s a series of ‘thank yous’ from elite cyclists, and over there is more signed paraphernalia from this world champion or that stage winner…. Glen Parker Cycles is not just about the bikes, it’s about the history and culture and passion of riding.
Not that the bikes themselves aren’t enough to impress.
Pinarello, Willier, Cervelo, Focus – this is where the top-shelf call home in WA and indeed, Glen Parker Cycles’ clientele includes some of the deepest pockets in Australia who only want the very, very, very best, to those of us with more modest backgrounds who just don’t want to skimp on quality when it comes to their two-wheels. When you walk through the Glen Parker Cycles door it doesn’t really matter who you are – you can be in the BRW Top 10 or a shift worker – as long as you love bikes you’ll feel right at home.
Sure the bikes themselves are fancy, but the attitude isn’t. This place is run by pros, but it’s ultimately a rancho relaxo ambience. You can lose yourself in everything there is to check out, or you can chat to the guys as they run bike maintenance and repairs at the very back of the shop (the bikes suspended from the ceiling, allowing plenty of floor space for the guys to move around). Dennis likes to say there’s no serious rules here; they own the business so they make the decisions. If someone comes in last-minute needing urgent repairs, then the guys will work hard to accommodate them rather than to tell them where they’ll need to wait in the queue.
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There’s six staff here and everyone knows bikes inside and out – everyone’s a rider. Hilton’s still averaging around 400km a week and Dennis has cut down to a neat century or there abouts. He says he’s lazy. Mop, who used to race as a kid, still gets out there and gives it a nudge and likes to ride at least a couple of times a week.
Come summer and Glen Parker Cycles becomes a bit of a stomping ground for the who’s who – name drop a pro cyclist back home for holidays and good chances you’ll find them hanging out the front waiting for the ride to the hills. This is a place where old meets new, where bling meets down-to-earth and where everyone’s on common, no-airs-and-graces ground. If you love everything about riding, then a visit here is an experience not to be missed.