British Tour de France and Olympic glory trumped a washout summer and turned the UK into a nation of bike lovers in 2012.
That's the gist behind figures released by research analysts Mintel today that claimed four in ten UK residents now cycle, with 14 percent riding at least two to three times a week.
Up to 3.1m Brits – extrapolated from the 2,000 strong online survey group – are believed to be riding ‘most days’. Leisure riding was the most popular type of cycling for 66 percent of group, although only 25 percent said they were commuting by bike.
The figures will be music to the ears of bike shops up and down the country who should have experienced a boom year. Mintel valued the market at more than £700m a year and forecasted it to rise to £869m by 2017.
While people in the market for a bike still prefer to see the bike before they buy, - and perhaps surprisingly - general online retailers such as Amazon and eBay outperformed the specialists such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles.
The boom is the result of Olympic and Tour de France glory, rising motor vehicle costs and favourable government health and transport policy, said Michael Oliver, Senior Leisure Analyst at Mintel.
“Undoubtedly, there is considerable momentum behind bikes at the moment, driven by high profile sporting successes in the Tour de France and Olympics, rising fuel prices and higher public transport costs. As an environmentally-friendly type of outdoor exercise, cycling is very much on trend.”
He believes the industry revenues were dampened by the very wet summer, the second wettest on record.
Deeper in the data, Mintel reported that specifications and bike brand was more important to men than women, but that women were keener on value for money and styling. However, choosing a familiar brand or one that had been seen as successful in races was only deemed important for less than 20 per cent of the 1,500 people who responded to that question. Instead, value for money was overwhelmingly the most important consideration with more three quarters citing this as important.
According to the figures, customers still prefer the see-before-they-buy approach. Halfords and other general chain shops continue to be the most popular option followed by local independent bike shops and then specialist chains such as Cycle Surgery.
Laurence Boon, marketing manager for CycleScheme, which offers tax free bikes through the Government’s Green Transport Initiative, confirmed to BikeRadar that Bradley Wiggins’s Tour success and overall Olympics success had a transformative effect on bike sales in 2012.
“The majority of the trade had a quite a tough period January to June," he said "The weather was quite difficult, there was lots of rain, but from June, July onwards we significantly grew year on year to the point where the year ended up ahead. An awful lot of that came from post TdF and Olympic success and we certainly see that as a contributing factor.”