Belfast Telegraph

Chain Reaction on Fast Track to top

By Heather McGarrigle

A Co Antrim bike shop is the only Northern Ireland company to feature in a UK league table of top-performing companies.

Chain Reaction Cycles, based in Ballyclare, features in the 15th Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 which ranks the 100 privately-owned companies in the UK with the fastest growing sales.

Last year, there were no local firms on the list, but this year the bicycle company joins big names such as Cath Kidston, Jack Wills and Patisserie Valerie.

Sales at Chain Reaction have grown 66% a year, from £23.9m in 2007 to £109.4m in 2010. It has the second highest profit level on the league table, at £13.3m.

The company offers a range of 90,000 different bikes and accessories and its online store processes 6,000 daily orders for customers in 100 countries.

The firm was founded as Ballynure Cycles by the Watson family in 1985. Today, managing director Chris Watson employs 365 people; 265 of those employed within the last three years.

Chain Reaction Cycles Retail has now been set up to manage Chain Reaction shops, with the first opening in August on Boucher Road in south Belfast.

The company has enjoyed several positive headlines this year. In May it featured on the Sunday Times Rich List for the first time, with a family fortune of £75m.

Chain Reaction Cycles was listed in the Belfast Telegraph's Top 100 Companies list for 2011 and later in the year revealed a £5.3m leap in pre-tax profit to £13.3m for the year ending December 2010.

Sir Richard Branson said: "2011 has been another challenging year for the UK. Against this economic background the strong performance of the Fast Track 100 companies is to be especially applauded."

The full league table will be published in a 10-page supplement within the business section of The Sunday Times this weekend and at