“After a summer of sport in 2012 and an increased number of cycling heroes for the nation, Britain’s love of cycling has been riding high. Proving this point, new research from Mintel reveals that British cycling is riding a wave of positivity, asa in the last year alone the number of British cyclists has risen from just 34% of the population in January 2012 to a wheel spinning four in ten (41%) in November 2012. Today, an impressive one in two (50%) British men are taking to their bikes, while London (53%) is the cycling capital of the nation.

Furthermore, as the number of cyclists continues to rise, Mintel’s research shows 6% of British consumers (amounting to 3.1 million Brits) are taking to two wheels “”most days””. While almost one in ten (8%) Brits cycle 2 or 3 days a week, the same number cycle on a weekly basis. Indeed, in terms of weekly participation, the figure rises to more than one in five (22%) consumers – adding up to over 11 million bike loving Brits. In terms of increased participation, most of the growth in cycling has occurred among those who cycle 2-3 days a week – numbers increasing from 6% of Brits in January 2012 to 8% in November 2012.

Michael Oliver, Senior Leisure Analyst at Mintel, said:

“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.””

Valued at £705 million in 2012, the market for bicycles recovered slightly in 2012 increasing 8.5% from £650 million in 2011. While sales of bicyles have risen, the market has not performed as well as might have been expected by some in the industry, due to adverse weather in the second half of the year. Despite slower than expected growth, value increase in the market reflects a continued shift towards the more premium-priced road bikes, as well as a recovery in sales through the Cycle to Work.

But while recent growth has been somewhat staid, the wheels are in motion for a boom in sales as Mintel forecasts that the bicycles market will grow a spectacular 23% in the next five years, to reach £869 million by 2017.

“”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. 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.”” Michael continues.

While the cycling bug grips the nation, previous Mintel research has found that one in two (49%) Brits agree that it is too dangerous to ride a bicycle on the road, those living in London being the most likely to agree with this statement (58%). A further 41% of Brits say having a dedicated lane or routes would encourage them to cycle more often (peaking at 46% in London) while 40% say that dedicated bicycle lanes and routes would encourage them to cycle more often (London showing the highest level of agreement at 47%).

“”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. 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.”” adds Michael. “”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.””

Leisure riding is the most popular type of cycling, with two thirds (66%) of cyclists riding at the weekends, either alone or in a group. General purpose riding, such as going to the shops or visiting friends, is also extremely prevalent with four in ten (40%) cyclists riding for this reason. Meanwhile, 25% of cyclists use a bicycle to commute and 13% use a bicycle to go to their place of education. Off-road riding is a comparatively minor branch of the sport at 13%.

While different types of buyers look for different qualities in a bicycle, the biggest differences are evident between genders. Men are notably more likely than women to attach importance to the specification and equipment on a bicycle (36% vs 27%) and the brand (24% vs 18%) is also important to them. In contrast, women are much more concerned than men about a bicycle being an affordable price (80% vs 74%), its styling, colour or décor (29% vs 19%) and the quality of after-sales service (17% vs 12%).

“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. 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. 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.”” Michael concludes.

However, its not all Brits going wheely mad for cycling. And while a third (33%) of Brits who have ridden in the past would consider doing so again, one in five (18%) ex cyclists are resigned to a bike free future. “

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