The cycling industry has had something of a shake up in the past 18 months, to understate matters. The pandemic brought huge positives for the cycling industry, with more cyclists, improved infrastructure and more established retailers. However, since the pandemic boom, cycling brands have struggled for financial stability, as stock inventory levels rose and demand waned. We even saw hugely successful global suppliers such as Wiggle Chain Reaction enter administration, and Scott Cycles recently receive a £137 million loan to help improve its financial structure.

BUT…are we finally seeing a bounceback in the bike industry, or is the turbulence still a widespread problem? We look into the data and offer up some key facts to know about the industry as it stands today.

10 key takeaways

1. Cycling participation remains high

While the number of people participating in cycling in England decreased in 2023 over the previous year, it still remains high. In 2023, approximately 7.4 million people participated in cycling, either for sport, leisure or travel in England, while in between 2017 and 2021 the number of cyclists plateaued at around 6 million. (Statista, October 2023)

With the Tour de France and the Paris Olympic Games around the corner – will we see inspiration and a new generation of cycling enthusiasts?

2. But sales reach a low

2023 saw a continuation of the post-COVID downturn in the UK cycling market, with the lowest level of bicycle volume sales experienced in the 21st century. Total market value for the year fell a further 6%, following a decline of 18% in 2022. (Bicycle Association report, 2023) The key drivers of the downturn continued to be a combination of two factors: a drop in consumer demand following the COVID ‘boom’ period (April 2020-April 2021), intensified by the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

3. Average selling prices

Despite many retailers and brands offering sharp discounts, bicycle average selling price is still on the rise – with the average cost of a bike increasing 3% last year. This may be partly explained by a shift in the sales mix towards higher value products, with dedicated cyclist and experienced customers ‘trading up’ to take advantage of discounts and deals.

4. A greener option

Cycling remains one of the most cost-effective and eco-conscious modes of transport.

Swapping your car for a bike saves about 150 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre (that’s about 240 grams of CO2 per mile), according to the UN Environment Programme.

5. Bike sharing

Bike-sharing programmes are also proving wildly popular for commuters and those unable to buy a bike outright or without storage space to own one. In 2023, 156m trips were taken on Lime’s e-bikes and scooters in 2023, with more than 9.2m new riders using the platform last year.

By 2027, the revenue from the bike sharing sector in the UK is expected to reach 78 million euros, a 50 percent increase compared to 2022. (Statista, October 2023)

6. The growth in alternative bike transport options

With statistics showing that cycling has become a popular way to commute and run errands, the cargo bike sector is on the rise. Cargo bikes offer an alternative for those looking for short-distance transport options, especially in areas where emissions/congestion charges may be in place for traditional motor vehicles. The revenue generated by cargo bike operators has increased year-on-year since 2019, and now surpasses well over £500,000.

7. Gravel – a new contender

A big storyline across the industry last year – touching both racing enthusiasts and recreational cyclists – was gravel. The discipline is on a rapid upwards trajectory, and looks set to continue to grow in 2024, with world champion Matej Mohorič already competing in gravel events this year.

Gravel bike sales increased 11% in 2023 versus 2022, the only cycling sector to see growth. (Bicycle Association report 2023)

8. We are still seeing brands enter liquidation

Unfortunately, 2024 continues to see a large number of bicycle companies struggling and going out of business, including industry stalwart distributors as well as household names. British bicycle distributor Moore Large closed in 2023, with their auction of £35 million stock of bikes and accessories happening earlier this year, in March.

This year has also seen the closure of frame builder Mercian cycles, after 78 years in business. Even cycling livestreaming and video platform GCN+ closed at the end of 2023.

9. A change in approach?

Other brands are avoiding their closure through implementation of new sales techniques. North American cycling brand Kona was put up for sale in April 2024, eventually being bought back by two of its founders, Dan Gerhard and Jake Heilbron.

Since the acquisition and return to being rider-owned and operated, Kona said it was doubling down on its unique brand legacy and getting back to some basics, including more retailer focus and a pause on all D2C.

10. The rise in Chinese cycling brands as competitors

China remains the world’s largest producers of bikes. Chinese cycling brands such as Magene Technology are finding their way into the global market, with increased exposure to Western cyclists as a result of YouTube reviews and social media content. Thes brands are challenging the high price points of established brands and increasing their market share.  

What’s more, these brands come with huge experience in cycling manufacture, having been original manufacturers for upwards of two decades – selling to Western based companies to rebadge and redistribute. This follows the trend of OEM (original equipment manufacturers) increasing their market share in the white goods industry, and we’re also seeing similar occurrences in the EV market.

While the industry is certainly still facing difficulties, there are signs of recovery throughout. This leaves opportunities for smart brands with unique offerings to capitalise.

Written by Sam Begg, Aspire Account Manager

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