Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome – their bikes are the envy of Britain’s cycling enthusiasts – and it seems they have acted as an inspiration to the nation as new research from Mintel finds Britain’s cyclists trading up to better quality models. Valued at £745 million in 2013, sales of bicycles have increased an impressive 14% over the last five years from £639 million in 2008 – as the nation’s cyclists trade up to higher priced models. While the value of the market continues to soar, volume sales have declined, in 2008 Brits bought 3.6 million bikes, by 2013 this figure had dropped by 13% to 3.2 million.

Indeed, in the last year alone, the average selling price of a bike has risen £27 from £206 in 2012 to £233 in 2013. And it is good news for the future too, as over the next five years Mintel forecasts sales of bikes are set to rise 22% to reach £909 million in 2018.

Michael Oliver, Senior Leisure and Media Analyst at Mintel, said:

“There is no doubt that Britain’s cyclists have become more selective about the quality of bike they are prepared to ride, the average cost of a bike purchased rising in value. In part this is due to the decline in availability of very cheap – and usually poor quality – bicycles which have flooded the UK market in the past. However, there is little doubt that consumers buying bicycles in the UK are gradually recognising that one gets what one pays for, and that it is worth spending a little more to get a good quality product.”

“It is clear that the market is poised to see some good growth in the next five years, as consumers begin to feel better off again in real terms. The promised investment in safer cycling facilities, particularly in London but also elsewhere in the country with the Cycle City initiatives, should also help to encourage more people to start cycling or get back on their bikes. Although this doesn’t always translate into new bicycle sales, as often people already own bikes that they just need to re-commission, in the longer term, a larger base of cyclists will undoubtedly generate higher new bicycle sales.” Michael continues.

Within the market, road bikes have seen the strongest growth over the past year – with volume sales up 4.2%, reflecting the success of British riders in the Tour de France and the growth of road riding events such as sportives. Participative rides, such as sponsored rides and sportives are important drivers of bicycle purchases and use. One in ten (10%) cyclists have taken part in a sponsored cycle while slightly less (8%) have taken part in a sportive cycle ride, however, this rises to 14% of 25s to 34s.

“Interest in taking part in competitions is highest among younger people and particularly men, reflecting the fact that it meets their need for a competitive element, as opposed to just a form of exercise. There is also little doubt that riders like Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome have acted as an inspiration and role models to younger male cyclists who want to do what they do.” Michael adds.

Today, just over one in three (35%) Brits are cyclists and as many as half (49%) of 25-34 year olds cycle – making this Britain’s key cycling group. By region, London (45%) is the nation’s cycling capital, meanwhile, cycling has the least appeal in the South West and Wales (30%) and the North West and Scotland (31%).

While one in three Brits are cyclists (35%), almost the same number (31%) would consider cycling in the future, most of these (27%) are lapsed cyclists who have ridden in the past. In contrast, one in seven (15%) Brits has never cycled – this is made up of 11% who have never cycled and would not consider doing so in the future and one in twenty (4%) who have never ridden a bike and would not consider doing so in the future.

“There is still considerable latent potential in the market. If current measures to make cycling a more safe activity are successful, this could potentially open the floodgates to a significant expansion in cycling participation. Mintel’s research shows there is a substantial base of lapsed cyclists who, in the right conditions, could be encouraged to start again and this could provide a huge boost to sales of new bicycles. However, they will need to see that dramatic improvements have been made in safety before they can be tempted back and these have yet to be made.” Michael concludes.

The research also reveals substantial misgivings about the safety of cycling on the UK’s roads and it is this which is the biggest barrier to increasing participation levels. One three Brits (32%) agree it is simply too dangerous to ride on the roads – a view shared by 27% of men and almost four in ten (37%) women. Similarly, four in ten (38%) believe cycling in towns would be safer if cyclists were separated from traffic.

But while safety represents the number one barrier to cycling, not wearing a helmet is commonplace. Fewer than two in five (39%) current cyclists own a helmet, with around two thirds (27% of all current cyclists) wearing one regularly. Women are more likely to own a helmet but not wear it (14% of women versus 11% of men).

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