This weekend's Financial Times analysed the recent growth in cycle commuting and reports on anecdotal evidence that the economic downturn has added further impetus to the growing numbers of people riding to work in British cities.
However, the paper also says that this isn't necessarily filtering through into more bike sales, or if it is they are for lower priced models, £600 rather than £1800. Apparently London bike shops may end up having to deal with a glut of unsold high end carbon fibre road bikes…
However, Central London bike shops might not be the best barometer of what is happening in the rest of the country where there aren't large numbers of people working in banking and the financial services industry who were flush with cash and now aren't. Outside of London top we'd say that top end bikes tend to be bought by enthusiasts whereas city wages brought them into the range of less experienced cyclists.
Another big contributor to the growth in urban cycling cited by the paper is the government's Cycle to Work Initiative which effectively gives individuals a tax break on buying a bike and paying for through deductions at source by their employer. The Cycle to Work Initiative caps the amount an individual can spend on a bike at £1000.
From what we have heard, talking to the manufacturers, trade at the higher end has been less affected than expected – demand has dropped off for really cheap bikes as people trade up using the government tax break through the various cycle to work schemes. According to Cyclescheme – the largest of the companies operating the initiative – the average cost of a bike they sold through their scheme last year was £600 and that figure shows no sign of falling this year as more companies see the value of the initiative as an employee benefit.
The FT also reports that urban bike shops are seeing a rise in servicing and repair trade as people dig out old bikes that have lain unridden in sheds and garages for years – or even decades. Part of the reason given for this is thrift and part is fashion with the London “fixie” scene influencing many returning cyclists. Whatever it is, London bike shops are experiencing unexpected demand for 27in tyres such as the Continental Ultrasport as born again cyclists find that their old bike's tyres have perished. Fewer bike sales and more servicing and repair is not necessarily bad news for the shops as there is more margin in repairs and servicing than in selling a bike.
As you would expect from the Financial Times the article is a thoughtful and well researched one with contributions from the great and good of the cycling world and it must have made a refreshing change for a paper that reports on matters financial to get to talk about something that is doing well and which looks set to do even better in the future too.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.