2012 sporting success encourages more Britons to get into the saddle, says Mintel

Consimer research firm that coined the term MAMILs publishes its latest report on cycling market

by Simon_MacMichael   April 5, 2013  

Dani King leads GB women's Team Pursuit at London 2012 (copyright www.britishcycling.org.uk)

New research from Mintel has found that Great Britain’s success at London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins’ victory in the Tour de France – as well as the impact of higher fuel costs for motorists – has translated into more Britons getting into the saddle, with four in ten people (41 per cent) revealing that they ride a bike when surveyed last November, up from a third (34 per cent) at the start of the year.

Overall, the UK bicycles market was worth £705 million in 2012, an 8.5 per cent increase on the previous year, and it is forecast to grow to £869 million by 2017.

The consumer research firm, which gave the cycling world the phrase MAMILs – Middle Aged Men In Lycra – to describe new converts to more sporty side of cycling, revealed the growth in cycling in its latest Bicycles report, published today.

While that figure of 41 per cent covers anyone who rides a bike, however occasionally, Mintel has also identified a rise in the number of people cycling post the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which ties in with figures previously announced by British Cycling.

More than one in five people (22 per cent) now cycle at least once a week – 6 per cent to so on “most days” – with the biggest growth seen in those who cycle two or three times a week, up from 6 per cent at the start of the year to 8 per cent at the end of 2012.

Leisure remains the main reason for people getting on their bike, with two thirds of cyclists, 66 per cent, saying they ride at the weekend, whether on their own or as part of a group. Four in ten riders, 40 per cent, use their bike to visit shops or friends, while 25 per cent ride to work and 13 per cent to their place of study.

According to Michael Oliver, Senior Leisure Analyst at Mintel, “Interest in cycling continues to grow, with a combination of factors contributing to consumers seeing cycling in a different light.

“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.”

Mintel’s report, however, confirms the findings of other research in perceived danger of riding a bike on the road being the biggest barrier to getting people to take to two wheels – have of those surveyed, 49 per cent, share that opinion, rising to nearly six in ten Londoners, at 58 per cent.

Dedicated cycle lanes or routes would encourage around four in ten people to cycle more often, rising to nearly half of residents in the capital.

The period between the publication of Mintel's last report and the latest edition have seen cycle saftey receiving greater attention from the media and politicians, with the launch of The Times newspaper's Cities Fit For Cycling campaign building on existing work by cycling advocates and helping lead to a parliamentary debate and inquiry, and cycling was also a key point of debate in the London mayoral elections.

“The tide appears to have turned in central and local government in terms of their attitudes towards the provision of cycling facilities and this could result in making cycling a lot safer, particularly in towns and cities,” said Oliver.

“If this happens, the evidence from several trial schemes around the country shows that there will be strong growth in cycling usage and this can only be good for sales of new bicycles in the long term.

“The recent announcement by London Mayor Boris Johnson of a 10 year £913 million plan to make cycling in the capital safer – including an east-west ‘Crossrail for cyclists’, backroad ‘quietways’ and a ‘grid’ of central London cycling routes – is a bold statement of intent and has been positively received by cycling bodies and London cyclists.”

According to Mintel, growth in the monetary value of the cycling market represented a recovery, but it was still hampered by the poor weather experienced for much of last year.

What growth there was is attributed to a continuing shift towards higher-end road bikes – partly due to those MAMILs again, we suspect – as well as more sales through the Cycle to Work scheme following the ending of uncertainty regarding the rules.

“While there is a lot of positive sentiment surrounding cycling at the moment, there has yet to be a significant jump in sales of new bicycles,” explained Oliver.

“There are several factors contributing to slower than expected growth, a weakness of the economy and consumer confidence, the poor weather in the second half of 2012 and anecdotal evidence which suggests that a lot of people taking up cycling in 2012 were re-commissioning old cycles that they already owned and not buying new,” he went on.

Mintel’s report also highlighted the different things men and women look for when buying a bicycle – the former, unsurprisingly, are more enticed by specification and technical features, at 36 per cent versus 27 per cent, as well as by brand, important to 24 per cent of men against 18 per cent of women.

Women are a little more concerned about affordability, at 8- per cent versus 74 per cent of men, the styling, colour or décor of the bike, influential to 29 per cent of females against 19 per cent of males, and quality of after-sales service, at 17 per cent versus 12 per cent.

“Overall, perhaps the most surprising aspect is the lack of importance attached to brand, with price, specification and styling, colour or décor being seen as more important than whether a bicycle is a brand that the potential buyer is familiar with,” said Oliver.

“To a certain extent, this reflects the lack of investment in branding by the major suppliers and indicates that there is the potential for a supplier to really make itself the brand that stands out, perhaps through capitalising on its association with one of the big British cycling stars of the moment” – Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy, of course, have already launched their own ranges.

“It also provides encouragement for new brands because it demonstrates that a well-priced, well-specified, well-designed bicycle will always sell, regardless of whether it is a brand people have heard of,” he added.