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Bike boom set to continue beyond pandemic, according to Halfords survey

Retailer believes there has been a “permanent change in the market” as people switch to two wheels for daily journeys and exercise

A Halfords survey of 2,000 people across Great Britain says that the bike boom seen since the first national lockdown started last year is set to continue once the coronavirus pandemic ends – with the retailer saying that it believes it reflects a “permanent change in the market” with people switching to bikes to get around.

The findings of the survey are summarised in a report from Halfords called The Great Bike Boom Continues, which road.cc has been told will be published on its website shortly, and which also includes insight from cycling experts at the business, as well as its sales data.

The key findings of the report reflect trends that we have seen over the past year, including a boost to uptake of the Cycle to Work scheme and sales of e-bikes, plus more key workers using bicycles to commute, plus people in general getting into the saddle for daily exercise during lockdown, including gym members who have found their usual venues closed. 

Here's what Halfords has to say about the results:

CYCLING THROUGH THE PANDEMIC

Changes during the pandemic, such as the Government recommending cycling as a daily form of exercise, avoiding public transport, more investment, being housebound, and an increase in leisure cycling, have fostered an environment where cycling has thrived.

Halfords reports that sales of adult bikes were up 193 per cent compared to last year and research shows that 40% of Brits have cycled more frequently over the past 12 months. Cyclists also revealed what will motivate them to keep the cycling revolution going.

WHAT DOES THE PANDEMIC MEAN FOR THE FUTURE OF CYCLING?

Last year rusty bikes were dusted off in garages and sheds and Halfords carried out over 300,000 free bike checks and performed over 750,000 repairs and services.

An increase in anxiety over public transport and a surge in exercise meant that there was a well-documented bike boom.

33 per cent of UK adults said they plan on using their bike even more once the lockdown ends, with 37 per cent planning on buying a bike – either for themselves or a family member – within the next six months.

Halfords also reports that kids and junior bike sales are up 47 per cent and 65 per cent respectively at Halfords.

WHEELS OF CHANGE

The way we live, work and keep active has transformed during the last year and Halfords predicts that the daily commute has changed forever due to more home working.

Despite the nation working from home, Cycle to Work has seen huge growth during the last year, with demand for Halfords’ own Cycle2Work programme up 89 per cent.

However, the Cycle to Work rules currently state that half of journeys taken using the bike should be for work related purposes. As the way we work changes, so must the way we exercise and travel, and 45 per cent of those surveyed said they want the rule to be modernised.

AN E-BIKE REVOLUTION

Great for fun, fitness and commuting, electric bikes have continued to grow in popularity and – with many benefits to the environment – Halfords predicts the demand will continue to rise.

Of the 36 per cent of people who bought a new bike since the start of the pandemic, almost a quarter (24 per cent) opted to go electric. Top reasons for choosing an e-bike include: it’s a useful mode of transport for longer journeys (67 per cent), they are fun (46 per cent), I want to arrive fresh for work (46 per cent) and I have an injury which means I can’t ride a mechanical bike (37 per cent).

SUPPORTING KEY WORKERS

The growth of cycling commutes has been driven by key workers who have been keeping the country going through the pandemic.

Halfords research shows that almost half of key workers (43 per cent) have used their bike to cycle to work during the pandemic and 12 per cent said they would not feel safe getting to work without their bike.

Halfords has helped those emergency workers and has performed over 300,000 free bike checks in the last 12 months and had 180,000 NHS, teachers and emergency forces staff use Halfords’ bike repair discounts.

WHY THE GREAT BIKE BOOM CONTINUES

The pandemic has driven a huge spike in cyclists, but what are the motivations behind this new wave of two-wheeled fans? Over half (58 per cent) of those surveyed saw cycling as a way of keeping fit, followed by those who saw cycling as an opportunity to spend more time outdoor with their family (48 per cent) and just simply to have fun (41 per cent).

The marked reduction in traffic on our roads is also a contributing factor, with a third (32 per cent) of those asked citing the quieter roads as their reason for embracing cycling.

Paul Tomlinson, the retailer’s Cycling Director, said: “The cycle market has seen demand continue to soar.

“As soon as stock arrives in our shops it is snapped up straight away. We’re working night and day with our suppliers to increase availability.

“We think that we’re starting to see a permanent change in the market – this marks a change in how people are moving and underlines the importance of bikes to health, fitness and as a viable alternative to public transport.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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