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Decathlon: UK bike market ‘has gone berserk’ during pandemic

Consumers “like piranhas on a fish” says retailer’s head of cycling here

The UK bike market “has gone berserk” over the past year due to soaring demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the head of cycling at Decathlon.

Pete Lazarus told the Guardian that stock of new bikes selling out almost as soon as shipments arrive in the UK, with customers setting up alerts on the retailer’s website to be told when sold-out products are back in stock.

“The cycle market has gone berserk,” he said. “The minute you get stock in they are like piranhas on a fish. Demand is huge.”

The boom has been driving both by key workers and others who are unable to work from home switching to two wheels for their commute, as well as people turning to cycling during lockdown as a means of getting out of the house for exercise.

In both cases, many new cyclists have been encouraged to take to two wheels by the rollout of infrastructure such as pop-up cycled lanes put in place by councils in response to the pandemic.

Decathlon, which trades from nearly 50 stores in the UK, has seen 170 per cent growth in sales of e-bikes, while sales of road bikes are up 65 per cent, and hybrid and commuter bikes are also seeing year-on-year growth.

Across the industry as a whole, the boom experienced in 2020 when sales rose by 41 per cent has continued into the New Year, with growth of 41 per cent in January according to trade body the Bicycle Association.

Repair and maintenance is also up, helped in part by the government’s Fix My Bike voucher scheme, as are sales of second-hand bikes – something Decathlon hopes to capitalise on with the forthcoming launch of its Second Life Marketplace offering refurbished bikes.

> Decathlon to launch "Second Life Marketplace" selling refurbished bikes in stores

The UK is far from the only country where bike sales have boomed in the past 12 months, of course.

Unprecedented demand combined with disruption to shipping as a result of the coronavirus as well as soaring container costs are having a major impact on the supply chain worldwide – compounded in the UK’s case by the end of the Brexit transition period.

The Guardian highlighted shortages of Shimano components, with lead times lengthening. In response, the company is expanding production capacity.

According to Dominic Langan, the chief executive of Madison and Sportline, the UK distributor for the Japanese brand, worldwide demand means it is “challenging for manufacturers to react whilst they too are trying to operate in a pandemic and all the associated restrictions.”

He added: “We do not know how long the demand will last for which is why many producers are reluctant to invest more in machinery and production capacity if they don’t expect this level of demand to continue indefinitely.”

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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