Trends & Features

The UKs love of cycling is providing plenty of potential sales opportunities for sports retailers

By Louise Ramsay

According to Sport England’s latest figures, over two million of us now regularly use two wheels – up from just over a million and a half in 2005. Lloyds Bank data released in August shows that bikes are one of the most in demand products when it comes to requests made for personal loans.

The reasons for this rise in interest are manifold. John Nelson, head of sales at CYCL, which manufactures directional indicators for bikes called WingLights, says: “The 2012 Olympics gave the sport a massive boost and figures such as Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome have also helped to popularise it.

“Concerns about the environment have also made an impact and in terms of getting to work, the cost of public transport has encouraged people to get on their bikes. Cyclescheme has also had a positive effect on the cycling boom.”

Tax-free incentive
Established in 2005, Cyclescheme provides tax-free bikes for the government’s Cycle to Work initiative. It allows people to buy high quality bikes for at least 25 per cent less than they would normally have to pay. Once accepted onto the scheme, an employer buys a bike an employee has chosen and then rents it to him or her for 12 months. The rental fee is taken at source from gross pay, thus reducing tax and national insurance contributions for both employer and employee.

The rental fee pays off the bulk of the cost of the bike and at the end of the hire period the employee can buy the bike outright by paying off the remaining balance. The scheme has proved popular, with over 2,000 cycle retailers signed up in the UK and 559,000 bikes sold so far.

“In my opinion the market will keep developing,” Nelson continues. “More bike lanes are being built and the statistics detailing the positive effects of cycling for health and the environment are hard to ignore. The growing cycling industry has also created thousands of jobs and the access to technology has allowed start-ups to contribute innovative products to the market.”

An area of the market that is quickly expanding is ebikes. “There are more and more ebikes and ebike companies emerging – and some of them are great,” Nelson says. “Clunky designs are a thing of the past – now you can buy slick, cool-looking electric bikes that are great alternatives to mopeds and motorcycles. As well as becoming more affordable, companies are now creating ebikes that appeal to extreme sports enthusiasts as well as fashion conscious city slickers.”

Set up eight years ago, UK ebike brand VOLT is testament to the growth of the market. Company director Lyle Metcalfe says: “We’ve seen a huge increase in interest and the sale of ebikes over the past four years. Prior to this, the market was growing slowly, though the UK is still well behind continental Europe, but I think we will catch up by 2019.”

VOLT bikes are in the mid-range price bracket, providing good value for money and high quality design and build. The company has recently launched a new ebike brand called Wallerang.

Metcalfe explains: “It’s a partnership between ourselves and Sweden’s biggest ebike manufacturer. In fact, we won an award at the Eurobike show in August for it. The design style is very different to VOLT, but will appeal to the European market.”

Exercise level
The advantage of ebikes over conventional bikes is that they allow riders to choose their own exercise level. “You can opt for assistance or not, it’s your own choice,” Metcalfe says. “You can arrive at work effort and sweat free in your suit, then ride hard all the way home to burn off calories. If you can’t quite make it up a hill or there are strong headwinds, you don’t have to worry about keeping going. It means cycling is always fun and you’re unlikely to be put off.

“A lot of our customers had already given up cycling, but have come back to it because of ebikes. We’ve also found that people who previously didn’t want to cycle with friends or family because they were worried they’d be left behind are now happy to cycle with them, as the ebike allows them to keep up. Ebikes also attract commuters as an alternative to existing transport options, most of whom would never opt for a standard bike.”

VOLT’s most popular products are the Pulse and the Metro. “The Metro is a folding bike that’s ideal for commuting and riding around the city, while the Pulse is a great rider’s bike for men and women and is good for both the city or longer rides,” Metcalfe says. “Accessories that do well include padlocks and panniers, as well as rain capes, baskets and pumps.”

Cycle accessories make great cross sales

• WingLights have been brought to market by UK-based CYCL and consist of indicator lights attached to a bike’s handlebars, which turn on and off when the handlebar is tapped.

Simple to install, users screw magnetic mounting units into the handlebar ends, to which the WingLights magnetically attach. After use, the lights clip together to form a neat key ring on a carabiner hook. Shockproof, they won’t accidentally come on or fall off if you go over bumps in the road and are waterproof. Constructed from high quality aluminium, they have 360-degree visibility and are both sleek and tough.

CYCL head of sales John Nelson says: “So far, WingLights have proved popular with safety conscious urban commuters, as well as ebikers and tech enthusiasts. Currently they’re not a product for race cyclists or triathletes, but we’re in the process of designing a version for drop handlebar bikes.”

• The Pebble is a rechargeable cycle braking and indicating warning system due for launch in April 2016. The brainchild of Brighter bikes, it uses the latest wireless technology and, fully waterproof, comprises a 30cm x 12mm flexible LED strip that fits easily around any helmet, backpack or other item of cycle clothing.

Consisting of eight red central LEDs for lighting and braking and five amber LEDs either side for indicating, it’s activated through communication with a matchbox-sized front handlebar controller/indicator module. The indicators are activated by flicking the appropriate button for left of right on the controller, while the brakes use a patented brake lever wrap that guarantees the brake light is activated and deactivated only when the rider actually uses the brakes.

The front controller is easily removed from the handlebars and, like the helmet strip, can be recharged via a standard USB2 PC port. For added safety, the helmet strip beeps when indicating left or right and gives a short continuous beeping when the battery is running low. Battery life is around 25-30 hours continuous use.

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