CAR parts and bike firm Halfords is creating 500 jobs as it looks to keep up with the UK's growing passion for cycling.

The firm, which employs 12,000 staff across the country, said its recent quarter saw cycling sales increase by 21.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis, with premium bikes up 35.1 per cent.

Bosses say it has benefited from demand for bikes designed by former world champion Chris Boardman, and a range from Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton.

Loading article content

It has also received a lift from the Tour de France, which held its first two stages in Yorkshire, and featured stars including Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish.

The rise meant like-for-like sales at Halfords shops rose 7.9 per cent in the 13 weeks to June 27, with the "exceptional performance" in cycling coming at a time of broadly flat sales in Halfords' car categories.

Last month, the retailer bought out the bike business of Mr Boardman, who has designed cycles for Halfords since 2007, for an undisclosed sum.

Halfords is in the middle of a three-year investment programme that will see it spend £100m by the end of 2016, upgrading many of its stores and Autocentres garages.

The firm reported its annual results in May which saw it beat expectations with pre-tax profits up 1.1 per cent to £72.8m.

Halfords people director Jonathan Crookall added the firm was keen to increase its cycling expertise at its stores.

He said: "Cycling is at the heart of Halfords, and we're enhancing our team with the biggest ever recruitment of cycling gurus for our stores."