10 August 2010

Mid-life crisis fuels bike boom - not cycling?

The Telegraph puts an interesting spin on Mintel's new report on the UK bike market.

The paper, which seems quite keen on cycling these days, portrays this as a boom time for bike sales, driven by middle-aged blokes splashing out on £7,000 road bikes to recapture their youth.

It also ends on the cheery figure of 10 per cent of the population cycling 'almost every day'.

There are a couple of less optimistic notes in Mintel's abstract of the report, though. The rise in the value of sales was caused by a weak pound: the number of bikes bought - despite the popularity of cheap bikes under the Cycle to Work Scheme - was down 10 per cent.

(Electric-assist bike sales are on the increase, but that's not real cycling.)

Mintel report that "Cyclists can be divided fairly evenly into the one in eight adults who ride regularly (once a week or more often) and the similar proportion who ride occasionally (less often than once a week).

"Non-cyclists are most likely to be deterred by the perception that it is too dangerous to ride a bicycle on the road."

Ah, those damn perceptions again. Nothing a blue line can't paint over!


  1. Why don't electric assist bikes count as real cycling?
    Their users are out in the open, travelling at similar speeds and are not trying to be trendy or imitate pro-cycle riders.
    I have a slight bias here, a few years ago a knee injury led me to consider buying an electric bike.
    Thankfully physio got me back on my bike but since then I have always viewed electric bikes as an option.



  2. By "electric assist bikes", do you mean the type that require the user to turn the pedals? I tried one of those once, but most of the electic bikes I see in Cambridge aren't like this; their riders whirr down my street with their legs immobile. I think this doesn't count as cycling, never mind real cycling.

    However, apart from the need to pedal, electric bikes do have much in common with real cycling. Whenever I've spotted them they're being used on ordinary, short-distance, slow journeys around town, the rider is wearing normal clothes, and there's usually a shopping bag in the front basket. There's always one outside my local Tesco. Buying your weekly groceries on a bike is definitely real cycling...

  3. If 10% of the UK population cycles almost very day, why do they remain invisible for the modal split statistics? Are they cycling in some secret place?

  4. "Non-cyclists are most likely to be deterred by the perception that it is too dangerous to ride a bicycle on the road."

    This really is the main barrier. I almost had an argument with the inlaws recently as they had seen a person cycling with a trailer (they'd assumed there was child in it but didn't actually see one). They were saying how this was stupid and irresponsible mainly because of the pollution. This from people that will drive 500 metres to visit us. I had to bite my tongue. I can't get my wife out on the road on her bike and am going to have marital arguments to get my son on the back of mine (still not quite old enough).

    We won't see large increases in the number of cyclists without people thinking it is normal (and safe) behaviour. Not really sure what I'm saying but thought I'd rant a little.

  5. Pollution is always other people.
    Traffic is always other people....

  6. Reading the Telegraph article, I love how they still measure the value and spec of a bike by the number of gears, like my Granny used to: "ooh look it's got 16 gears, very modern!"

    What would they say about the single-speed trend?

    "New report shows rise in number of young people with shoulder bags riding budget bikes. Recession to blame says Mintel"

  7. Electric bicycles may not be real cycling, but it is a form of cycling and a damn site better than driving!!

  8. And actually on reflection I don't think you can even argue that electric cycles are not "real cycling", which you say is - "the best way in London of commuting, shopping, sightseeing, socialising, partying, and generally just getting from A to B every day: by bike.".

    I can't see how adding electric assist goes against your description of "real cycling".