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Sales data suggest “consumers cottoned on to the cycling revolution before the government did”

Bike sales up 65 per cent in first three months of lockdown according to market data, with sub-£1,000 bikes the star performers

UK bicycle sales rose by 63 per cent during the first three months of lockdown, according to market data from the Bicycle Association (BA) – with sub-£1,000 bikes the best-performing segment of the market, with the firm that compiled the figures saying they suggest “that consumers have cottoned on to the cycling revolution before the government did.”

The data cover the period from April to June, and Sports Marketing Surveys Inc. (SMS), which collects the data on behalf of the BA, said there was also strong growth in sales of e-bikes costing above £1,000, which rose by 150 per cent, albeit from a low base.

The period of course saw huge growth in interest in cycling, whether for exercise or travelling to work while avoiding public transport, although SMS says that according to its analysis of commuting patterns during the period “it is too early to identify any sea change in the proportion cycling and walking to work.

“What the figures will offer is a solid benchmark for the initial post-pandemic period, one against which future marks can be compared as the government’s plans turn from vision into reality,” it continues.

“At present the figures suggest a weekly proportion of up to 7 of those who are travelling for work doing so by bike, consistent with the top end of estimates for before the pandemic.”

According to SMS, however, the number of people who commute by bike – and interestingly, their profile – “could begin to shift,” thanks partly to safe infrastructure that will overcome one of the biggest barriers to cycling, the continuing wish of many to avoid public transport, and the location of jobs best suited to working from home.

“For one thing pre-Covid cycling commuters tend to be younger people living in urban areas or slightly older white-collar workers incorporating cycling as part of a commute in tandem with public transport,” SMS explained.

“However, as the lockdown in the UK eases, it is precisely these groups who are finding that office presence, and therefore commuting, is not currently required.

“Metropolitan office employers have largely been the group best able to accommodate working from home,” it said, citing research from The Centre for Cities, “with footfall weakest in major metropolitan areas with a substantial office footprint, including London, Manchester and Liverpool.”

Referring to the sales figures, SMS added: “In fact, the data suggests that consumers have cottoned on to the cycling revolution before the government.

“As commuting starts to loom large in the Autumn and into 2021, and especially as the government commitment to cycling translates to more regular and more positive coverage in the national press, the surge could be set to continue.”

 Marc Anderman, who heads SMS’s cycling business, said: “The opportunity that cycling has is nothing short of colossal. Consumer demand, environmental and public health benefits, and government support are all coming together to highlight the advantages and benefits of cycling. Most leisure pursuits would be delighted to tick one or two of those boxes, to have all three is as rare as it is incredibly exciting.”

Steve Garidis, executive director of the Bicycle Association, added. “The BA has been able to provide stakeholders in government, local authorities, and transport organisations with accurate and reliable figures from the Market Data Service.

“This is now the most authoritative source of data on the UK cycling market. Having detailed data hugely enhanced the BA’s credibility as we lobbied for a national e-bike incentive scheme, and it will be invaluable for our advocacy work going forwards.”

The Market Data Service only launched in April, but it has two years’ worth of historical data, enabling comparisons to be made across time.

According to the BA, the sales data, which are collected anonymously through point-of-sales systems, cover 50 per cent of the UK cycling market by turnover, and it aims to increase that to 70 per cent by next April.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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5 comments

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Secret_squirrel | 3 years ago
1 like

Ahead of the game is a stupid comment.   99% of the time the Govt will wait for statistics to act, especially when they are mostly lagging indicators - this is no different.     I would say that the Govt acted reasonably within the limitations of their decision/feedback loop.  (and Im no fan of the Govt)

Avatar
Miller | 3 years ago
2 likes

Well, absolutely it was the combination of empty roads, brilliant sunshine and a need to get exercise in an acceptable way that led to the cycle (and walking) explosion. For a few weeks back there cycling was blissful.

Now the roads are full of aggressive impatient drivers again. Councils need to put in proper cycling facilities and not fold weakly at the first sign of whingeing from gammony drivers.

 

Avatar
Secret_squirrel replied to Miller | 3 years ago
1 like

Can we all be a bit less doomy and gloomy please.   Roads are still quieter where I am than pre-lockdown, with no more idiots than there ever were and whole new chunk of the population less prepared to put up with said idiots.

Avatar
Rome73 | 3 years ago
4 likes

I remember one weekend in April when I was cycling back from work in Central LOndon and I have never seen so many cycles in London. Ever. And of all types. They were everywhere. They can't have just all been purchased. I was thinking at the time - where do all these cycles come from, they must be stored in sheds, garages, hallways across London and people are just too scared to use them in 'normal' times. 

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Sriracha | 3 years ago
3 likes

Savvy consumers "cottoning on" ahead of the game? Nothing to do with the gorgeous weather throughout April & May and the lockdown simultaneously mandating cycling as one of the few worthwhile escapes, on blissfully empty roads?

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