The Great British bike boom: Brits bought over 3 million bikes in 2020

June 18, 2021

Following several years of relative stagnation, COVID-19 triggered a major gear-change in the UK cycling market. According to the latest research from Mintel, bicycle volume sales rose an estimated 22% in 2020, as the number of bikes sold reached an estimated 3.3 million, up from 2.7 million in 2019.

Over a fifth (21%) of cyclists have bought a bike for themselves in the past 12 months* up from 17% over the previous year. The fact that the number of cyclists who intend to buy a bike in the next 12 months* has risen from 37% in 2020** to 42% in 2021 shows that demand triggered by COVID-19 has yet to run its course.

Approaching half (45%) of cyclists have cycled more since the start of the pandemic.  Brits are also both discovering and rediscovering the joy of cycling, as one in four adults (25%) who bought a bike in the past 12 months* were either new first-time cyclists or people who used to cycle in the past and returned to the saddle during the pandemic. Overall, just under a third of adults (31%) in Britain currently cycle and around a fifth (19%) of all Brits cycle at least once a week.

Meanwhile, the value of the bicycle market rose an estimated 44% to reach almost £1.2 billion in 2020, up from £825 million in 2019, as a surge in demand and global supply constraints pushed up average prices and made bicycles one of the most sought-after UK consumer items of 2020.

John Worthington, Senior Analyst at Mintel, said:

“Cycling has been one of the clear winners during the upheaval of the past year. The perfect set of circumstances for bike sales, which the pandemic created, is likely to be a one-off ‘black swan’ event. However, there is now a solid platform for sustained growth, provided the industry can manage the supply chain challenges that have been the one major spoke in the wheel during the recent bike boom.

“Consumer engagement will be stimulated by a rising focus on health and wellness. If 2020 has largely been a renaissance of leisure cycling, cycle commuting will offer a further growth opportunity as a new band of ‘COVID cyclists’ return to the workplace. Ongoing improvements in infrastructure such as new bike lanes, pavement-widening,  and cycle-only corridors, accelerated by the pandemic, are helping to make cycling a safer activity. As the UK seeks to decarbonise its transport system, active travel now has strategic importance.”

Going for green – surge in second-hand bike sales

Almost a quarter (23%) of those who bought a bike in the past 12 months* used second-hand sellers, a six-point rise from the previous year when it was 17%.

John Worthington, Senior Analyst at Mintel, said:

“Given the spike in demand seen during the pandemic and the supply chain challenges experienced across the industry, it is no surprise that the second-hand market has seen such a boost. With these supply issues likely to continue over the next 12 months*, there is an opportunity for local bike shops to move into the second-hand market – offering deals on servicing, enhancing and repurposing existing bikes, either for the owners themselves or to buy and sell on to new customers. Shops can enhance their green credentials by ‘upcycling’ old bikes into new improved models.”

E-bikes power ahead

Mountain bikes remain the most popular type of adult bicycle, with one in three cyclists (33%) currently owning one. While all types of bicycles have seen strong growth in 2020,  hybrids*** have seen the biggest rise in ownership over the past 12 months*, up from 15% of owners in 2020 to 22% in 2021. Meanwhile, e-bike ownership has steadily risen from 7% in 2020 to 9% in 2021. Although an estimated 170,000 e- bikes were sold in 2020 (a rise of 70%), they still account for only one in 20 (5%) bicycles purchased in the UK. However, they already account for around 23% of all bicycle expenditure.

John Worthington, Senior Analyst at Mintel, said:

“The popularity of mountain bikes and hybrids reflects the type of new customer created by the pandemic – mainstream leisure cyclists, rather than the cycling ‘hard core’. Growth in e-bikes has also been rapidly gathering pace since 2018, and ownership is now expected to start increasing at a rapid rate. There is huge potential in this high-value segment. The possible introduction of government subsidies for e-bike purchases, if they go ahead, would help to further stimulate sales.”

Notes to editors:

Mintel commissioned consumer research among 2,000 internet users aged 16+ in January 2021.

* Jan 2021

** Feb 2020

*** A mix of a road bike and a mountain bike, capable of riding on a variety of surfaces.

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