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Bike boom: Sales up 25% but increased motor traffic holding back further growth, says Bicycle Association

Bicycle Association data shows 40% growth by value against 2020, and 25% by volume - but motor traffic levels may be holding back further growth

Bikes are still flying off the shelves in the UK as the latest market data sales figures show 40% growth by value and 25% by volume, year on year, to the end of May 2021 - but increasing motor traffic and supply issues may be holding back further growth. 

For the first time sales figures offer a direct comparison with the bike boom of the UK’s first lockdown in 2020, with sales March-May 2021 up 7% by value and 25% by volume compared with the same period last year.

The Bicycle Association, whose market data service produces the figures, says while demand for cycling products and services continues to be ‘very strong’, sales are likely held back by rising traffic levels on UK roads, and capacity issues in the global supply chain.

Steve Garidis, BA Executive Director, said: “Overall, whilst we don't expect the peak of 2021 to quite reach the spectacular heights of 2020, the data shows that interest in cycling, and demand for cycling products and services, continues to be very strong. 

“It's likely that sales are being constrained by motorised traffic returning to high levels on UK roads, and by capacity issues still present in the global supply chain.   The industry is working hard to address the latter, and we hope that Government and local authorities will continue to prioritise tackling the former.”

Value sales represent the overall value of cycles sold, whereas volume is the number of units, i.e. cycles themselves. Sales of more expensive cycles could push overall value figures up, for example, without necessarily altering volume figures.

The percentage differences in volume and value sales figures aren’t necessarily driven entirely by choice, the BA says, but by people buying up whatever stock is available in stores, particularly in the stampede to bike shops from April 2020. However, a growth in ebikes could play into overall value growth across the year. The latest Europe-wide figures show ebike sales are growing apace, with 22 million of them sold in 2020, and predictions they’ll represent half of all cycles sold in Europe by 2025.

The bike sales boom of early 2020 was driven by lockdowns and quiet roads that encouraged more leisure cycling for daily exercise, and shifted key workers to pedal powered commutes, as well as emergency investment in cycling infrastructure.

Surveys show the main reason most people won’t cycle on the roads is a fear of traffic and a lack of protected infrastructure. Overall UK cycling growth from 2020 has now plateaued at pre-pandemic levels during the week, with weekend cycling seeing a residual boom.

Campaigners say urgent action to grow safe and connected cycle routes is needed to maintain the enthusiasm for cycling and avoid a car-led recovery.

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