The extent of the challenge facing the bike industry has been highlighted in the Bicycle Association’s Annual Market Data Report for 2022, with sales of bikes in the UK dropping to the lowest level in two decades.
Combining sales figures and other data the Association’s research suggests that mechanical bike sales fell by 22 per cent in 2022, down to 1.8 million units and 27 per cent below pre-Covid levels.
The 61-page report, titled Riding out the Storm, notes that children’s bike sales fell even further, to 700,000 units and 28 per cent below 2019 numbers.
On a more positive note, e-bike sales were reported to be more stable, even if overall volume has plateaued since 2020, while gravel bike sales are up eight per cent year-on-year and 59 per cent since 2019.
The report’s author John Worthington, who is also the Bike Association’s head of insights, said he expects the year ahead to be “turbulent” and “challenging”.
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“Once overall supply and demand return to a better equilibrium, and the economic environment improves, longer-term prospects for the cycling market are positive,” he said. “But for the next 12 months the industry will need to weather a difficult storm.”
It is not believed the problem is specifically one for the British-based bike industry either, with the report highlighting that sales in the United States are also lower than pre-pandemic levels.
However, the Bicycle Association also believes more can be done, with e-bikes sales still lagging far behind European levels. On the continent, sales of electric bikes have helped plug the gap left by falling mechanical bike sales, and growing the overall market.
“This report is not an easy read,” Simon Irons, the market data service director at the Bicycle Association accepted. “However, as an industry we have to rise to the challenges ahead of us and do everything we can to make cycling a safe and attractive method of transport for more people in the UK. Most worrying is the decline in kids’ bike sales. This is a key area of work for the BA and our industry in 2023.”
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Highlighting action to halt the sales slide, the Bicycle Association asked the government to commit to multi-year funding for Active Travel England and continued investment elsewhere in the United Kingdom, as well as more support and focus on cycling’s role in economic growth and net-zero strategies.
Along with local investment the Bicycle Association urged an increase in short journeys to be undertaken by bike wherever possible to reduce motor emissions.
Steve Garidis, the Bicycle Association’s executive director, last summer said more needs to be done in the UK to boost cycling uptake, including providing further investment in infrastructure, secure bike parking facilities, and e-bike charging networks and subsidies.
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In August, Garidis said “things are very difficult right now”, an assesment which appears to have continued into 2023 based on the report for the full year previous.
“Since May 2021 sales have been tracking at below pre-Covid levels, and if you take out the 2020 mega boom in cycling and sales, we’re now doing worse than we were before Covid hit,” he said.
“When I look at the comparison between the UK and what’s happening in Europe it’s just a bit depressing, it’s sort of stark.
“There’s a definite sense that we’re being left behind, in terms of the size and value of the cycling market, but also left behind in terms of how people are getting around, both for leisure and for everyday [trips].”