Buying a secondhand bike from his then boss turned out to be a life-changing move for Paul Corcoran.

Not only did getting a better bike cement his interest in cycling, it introduced him to the Bradford business that he was eventually to work and later own and has run with his wife Sandra for 14 years.

Paul and Sandra have successfully developed Pennine Cycles, a business started in the aftermath of the Second World War by two demobbed cycling enthusiasts, Geoff Whitaker – reputedly one of Field Marshal Montgomery’s bodyguards during the war – and leading UK cycle time triallist Johnny Mapplebeck, and it remains one of a distinct band of such specialist outlets in the UK.

The Corcorans have high hopes that 2014 will be one of their best years yet as a result of a growing interest in cycling – spurred on the recent achievements of British stars such as Sir Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy and Chris Frome at the Olympics and Tour de France.

Paul said: “We are looking forward to the launch of our new internationalised website, continuing to partner with Welcome to Yorkshire and Barclays Bank on the lead up to Le Tour.

“We have also renewed our sponsorship of VC Bradford cycle club, and new design Club clothing is being launched soon. We are also organising our second road race which will be on Sunday, June 29, leading up to Le Tour.

“The buzz which is around the shop at the moment is fabulous. There are lots of new people starting to ride bicycles for health and fitness reasons. 2014 promises to be an exciting year for the business.”

The business started in 1946 as Whitaker & Mapplebeck (Cycles) Ltd, initially in premises near Bradford City football club, later moving to the junction of Ingleby Road and Thornton Road.

Redevelopment of the Morrisons Girlington site enforced a move to its current premises in Thornton Road 18 years ago.

Ironically then working as a motor mechanic in Leeds, the young Paul, fed up with negotiating traffic jams and with a desire to keep fit, sold his car and took to cycling. He subsequently became a regular customer at Whitaker & Mapplebeck.

“I remember the first time I went in, a head appeared round the door and asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. When it came to pay for my items I also got a discount,” said Paul.

“It was the friendliness and the level of customer care that kept me coming back. I visited every week and eventually I got roped in helping out and then worked here on Saturdays.”

Paul and Johnny Mapplebeck – a leading pre-war 25-mile time trials rider – became friends, going on cycling trips across the UK and abroad before Johnny invited Paul to work full-time at the shop.

It meant giving up a decent job with a pension in the motor trade, by then in a managerial role, but by then Paul had a passion for all things cycling and jumped at the opportunity.

“To me, running a cycle shop was the best job in the world and I knew I had to do it,” he said.

Johnny continued to work in the business until, at 80, he decided to emigrate to Canada, where he still lives at the age of 94 with his daughter and offered to sell Paul the business.

“An orphan himself, Johnny had been a father figure to me and taught me a lot about business and how to take the rough with the smooth in good times and bad.

“Running a business wasn’t something I could have ever envisaged as a 16 year-old apprentice motor mechanic, but Johnny wasn’t looking for a big buyout and was happy to go with no debts and a bit of money in his pocket. My dad helped out and made it easier for me to take over,” Paul recalled.

Apart from the sale of cycles and accessories and repairing bikes, Whitaker & Mapplebeck had become a renowned maker of cycle frames and custom-built bikes. One of their earliest customers was Ken Russell, from Thornton, the 1952 Milk Race winner who helped the Corcorans celebrate the 60th anniversary of the business in 2006.

The Pennine bike remains a Rolls-Royce model, although frame manufacturing has shrunk significantly in recent years from the 500 a year that Johnny Mapplebeck made to around one a month today.

It is a part of the business which Paul and Sandra are hoping to revive as competitive and leisure cycling increases in popularity.

A typical Pennine cycle takes around eight weeks to produce from steel tubing and costs about £2,500.

Enthusiasts from as far away as the United States, Dubai and Switzerland have made a bee-line for Bradford to get their hands (or backsides) on a Pennine – the name being taken from a former cycle business owned by a one-time investor in the original W&M business. The shop also maintains a healthy trade in renovating Pennine bikes, including models from the 1950s and 1960s.

The retail scene has changed dramatically, and Pennine Cycles now caters mainly for enthusiasts as general consumers, turn more to online suppliers, and catalogue companies and retailers such as Argos and Halfords.

But Paul is dismissive of the cheap products flooding the market – branding some children’s bikes as unsafe – and laments the fact that most people now buy on price and don’t realise the cost of a quality product.

“They’ll happily spend £200 on a mobile phone, iPad or computer game, but when they want a kid’s bike and find it costs £150 from us against £50 in a catalogue, they’re reluctant to pay it. But if you want quality and a safe product you have to pay the price.

Paul laments the fact that no British bike manufacturers remain as production has emigrated to the Far East, and Pennine sells the Spanish-made Arbea range, produced by a 100-year-old co-operative in the Basque region – as its mainstream product “Selling a product made in Europe is the best we can manage. Even brands such as Raleigh are now made in the Far East,” said Paul.

Pennine Cycles has, however, benefited from soaring interest in cycling resulting from British cycling successes and the world’s biggest cycle race coming to Yorkshire in July. Last year sales jumped by 20 per cent and demand is expected to remain strong.

Sandra and Paul were among those to meet five-times Tour de France winner, Frenchman Bernard Hinault, who visited Yorkshire as a guest of tourism organisation Welcome to Yorkshire to promote this year’s event.

Paul said: “Anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit should be able to benefit from La Tour passing through our area and I’m certain the costs of bringing it here will be far outweighed by the income it generates.

He praised Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity for persuading Tour de France organisers to start the 2014 event in the region.

“Without Gary this would not have happened. I’m sure many people were involved in the bid, but Gary deserves much of the credit.”

Mr Verity is using his own Pennine cycle specially created for him to promote the Tour de France and the region.