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From lycra-clad cycling enthusiasts to leisurely family bike rides, Britain’s streets have been rammed with cyclists during lockdown. According to Mintel, the roads could get even busier, as new research reveals a potential doubling in the number of British cyclists.

As of February 2020, a third (32%) of Brits cycled to some extent, but Mintel research reveals huge untapped cycling potential, as a third (32%) of adults who don’t currently cycle say they would consider doing so in future. Women and those under age 45 could well be jumping on their saddles as 59% of potential cyclists are women, while under 45s (55%) outnumber those aged 45 and over (45%).

Following an initial boost to bike sales as a result of the lockdown, consumer spending is likely to drop as the UK’s expected recession begins to bite. This year Brits are expected to spend £842 million on bikes. When the crisis begins to abate, Mintel forecasts this decline is likely to be followed by recovery and release of pent-up consumer demand through 2021/22. By 2023, Mintel estimates that value sales will exceed £1 billion.

Around 2.5 million bicycles were sold in the UK in 2019, at a value of £940 million, with the average bike priced at £381.

John Worthington, Senior Analyst at Mintel, said:

“The COVID-19 crisis and its economic impact have ushered in a period of unprecedented volatility in the cycling market. The crisis has provided a boost to demand in the immediate term, but bike sales are likely to fall later in 2020 as an anticipated deep recession bites. The likely repercussions of COVID-19 on cycling participation are complex. The UK lockdown is disrupting patterns of behaviour, which initially resulted in lower levels of weekday cycle commuting overall, but a boost to weekend leisure riding.

“As lockdown restrictions ease and Brits return to the workplace there is likely to be a shift from crowded public transport to crowded streets. The fact that at the beginning of the year a third of adults who didn’t currently cycle said they would consider doing so in the future suggests there is huge potential to double cycle participation rates.Once spending recovers from the impact of the recession, the long-term market potential is strong. Cycling is uniquely placed to benefit from growing health, wellness, and environmental trends – all of which may be boosted by the COVID-19 crisis – and a broader urban mobility revolution which includes e-bikes and e-scooters.”

E-bikes really take off

A little less challenging for tired legs, Mintel estimates that around 100,000 e-bikes were sold in the UK in 2019, up from an estimated 73,000 in 2018 – an increase of over 40% year-on-year. While impressive growth, the overall base is small, roughly 4% of all bike sales by volume.

As of February 2020, 17% of cyclists intended to purchase an e-bike in the next 12 months, up from 14% in January 2019. Meanwhile, 7% of cyclists today own an e-bike. Amongst the group of regular cyclists (those who cycle once a week or more), e-bike ownership has risen from 8% to 11% over the past 12 months.

John Worthington, Senior Analyst at Mintel, said:

“The e-bike market has been growing rapidly over the past two years and consumer interest is high. While accounting for a fraction of bike sales, the scale of potential growth for e-bikes is huge. In European countries with much higher rates of cycling participation than the UK, e-bikes are becoming as popular as standard bikes. However, while interest today is strong, e-bike sales could take longer to recover from the impact of the looming recession than standard bikes, as they’re significantly more expensive.”