The Cycle to Work scheme has reinvigorated the British cycle market in the last few years. Matt Lamy explains how you can make the most of it


The Cycle to Work scheme was introduced in 1999 as a way of encouraging more people to make use of the healthy and environmentally friendly mode of transport that is the bicycle.

Cycling to work can save money, drastically improve your health and reduce the strain placed on the roads by traffic. The Cycle to Work scheme lets you ‘hire’ a bike via salary sacrifice, paying for it over the course of 12 months and thus spreading out the total investment. In theory, at the end of the hire period, the employee pays a fee if they want to keep the bike – but this is rarely enforced. The cherry on top is that the payments are exempt of tax, leading to savings of up to 42 per cent – though the value of the savings will depend upon your earnings.

Cycle to Work vouchers amount to £1,000, and can be used to purchase any bike, clothing or accessories that could realistically be used to commute. All of these items can be used in leisure time, as well.

In order to make use of the Cycle to Work scheme, your employer needs to be signed up to a scheme – and the scheme they use will dictate which bike shops you can make your purchase from.

How does the Cycle to Work scheme work?

The Cycle to Work scheme allows you to get up to £1,000 worth of bike and equipment through your employer. You then pay a monthly salary sacrifice charge to effectively ‘hire’ the bike and kit, typically over a 12 or 18-month period.

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Then you’ll normally have the option of buying the bike outright at an ‘acceptable market value’, continue hiring it for free, or simply give it back.

Reasons to use the Cycle to Work scheme

Firstly, it means you can have a nice, brand new bike right now without having to fork out the full cost of the bike.

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Then, because you’re funding this through salary sacrifice, the ‘cost’ of the scheme to you is taken out in manageable monthly instalments. And, the tax you’d pay on the bike is reduced.

If you so choose, you could have a new bike every year. Or, if you want to keep the bike, you can buy it for a small additional cost at the  end of the agreement.

Cycle to Work scheme savings calculator

The amount you’ll save varies depending upon your salary and how much tax you pay.

Let’s look at a specific instance. If you’re a standard rate taxpayer wanting £1,000-worth of Cycle to Work equipment on a 12-month scheme, your monthly salary sacrifice is 1/12 of £1,000 or £83.33.

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If your gross salary each month was £2,000 you would normally pay £640 in combined Income Tax (20 per cent) and NIC (12 per cent).

However, with the £83.33 salary sacrifice taken into account your monthly tax/NIC burden is only £613.34. That means each month you save £26.66.

Over the year you’ll save around £320 (or 32 per cent of £1,000 — it’s obvious enough, that’s your combined Income Tax and NIC rate) and pay only £680 towards your £1,000 cycling equipment.

And that works across the board — if your total Cycle to Work outlay is £800 you will save 32 per cent on that, so you’ll only pay £544 over the year.

What happens at the end of the loan term?

Now it gets trickier still. So far our calculations haven’t factored in the end-of-term ‘Fair Market Value’ if you want to buy the bike outright — throughout the ‘hire’ term of the Cycle to Work deal your employers own your bike and any kit you bought.

Here’s a table explaining what the tax folk at HMRC require you pay if you want to take ownership:

Age of equipment Original price <£500 Original price >£500
12 months 18 per cent 25 per cent
18 months 16 per cent 21 per cent
2 years 13 per cent 17 per cent
3 years 8 per cent 12 per cent
4 years 3 per cent 7 per cent

So if we go back to our £1,000 bike, even in the least financially efficient scenario where you buy the bike straight after the 12-month loan period, it would cost you £680 of salary sacrifice and then £250 final market price, giving you a total of £930, saving you at absolute minimum seven per cent.

In practice, few employers actually enforce this and more often than not the new owner will keep the bike with no additional payments.

The end of hire agreement varies depending upon your scheme provider.

The Cycle Scheme, for example, lets you pay a small refundable deposit to keep the bike for a further three years, after which it becomes yours for no extra cost (and during which you can change jobs and enrol in a new scheme).

The Ride 2 Work scheme, offered by Evans Cycles, provides a similar service – it recommends you use its Tranfer4You scheme where you’ll stay in the scheme for a further 48 or 60 months, free of charge. After this, the bike belongs to you. You can instead opt to take ownership immediately, but you’ll then need to pay the Fair Market Value rate.

Hold on, you said “if you want to buy your bike outright” — are there other options?

Naturellement, mes braves! Many schemes allow you to continue hiring the bike for up to another three years simply by paying a token refundable deposit (typically a small percentage of original cost). There will be no more salary sacrifices and you can continue to enjoy the bike. Or you could just give your bike back and start again.

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Who can take part in the Cycle to Work scheme?

Pretty much any employee of a participating company can benefit — there is no means testing involved, so everybody is able to take advantage.

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All you need to do is find out if your employer is signed up with a Cycle to Work scheme. Some companies may run their own system. Some may have teamed up with one of the major retailers — like Evans Cycles or Halfords. Or some companies may have partnered a third-party, Cycle to Work-specific organisation like Cyclescheme

Who are Cycle to Work providers and which retailers accept which vouchers?

In a pledge to help inspire growth the Government offers a range of tax cuts to business that provide additional benefits to their employees. Cycle to Work scheme is one of the way that these employers can reap the benefits of these tax cuts. There are a variety of schemes and different retailers accept different ones so we provided a list of Cycle to Work retailers and their various schemes:

  • Evans Cycles – Ride to Work (Evans Cycles own brand), CyclesScheme, Bike2Work Scheme, Bikes for Staff and CyclePlus.
  • Halfords Cycles/Cycle Republic – Cycle2Work (Halford’s own brand).
  • Cycle Surgery – Cycle to Work, Bikes for Staff, CyclePlus, Cycle Solutions, EnjoyBenefits, Bikes2Work Scheme, SalaryExchange and Cycle2Work (Halford’s own brand).
  • Wiggle – Cycle to Work, CycleScheme, Bike2WorkScheme, CyclePlus and Gemelli
  • Chain Reaction Cycles – CycleScheme and Chain Reaction Cycle’s Ride 2 Work.

I want to enrol in the Cycle to Work scheme – what should I do first?

There are slight variations between different schemes so you’ll probably have to speak to your human resources department and find out exactly what the situation is in your particular case.

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Typically you’ll be told which retailers you can start window-shopping with. When you know what you want, you can then apply for a certificate or vouchers to cover the cost. Once your employer has signed off your request you’ll get your vouchers, you’ll go into the shop and, hey presto, a gleaming new pedal machine will be yours.

Have I got to use it for work?

No one will check how often you commute on your Cycle to Work scheme bike, but it should be a bike you can ride to work on

No one will check how often you commute on your Cycle to Work scheme bike, but it should be a bike you can ride to work on

Officially the deal is that you must use your Cycle to Work kit at least 50 per cent of the time for work-related journeys, but nobody is going to be following you with a clipboard and a time sheet to check.

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However, let’s play the game fairly, so whether you decide on an mtb, a hybrid, a tourer or a road bike, make sure it’s something you can commute on.

What can I buy with a Cycle to Work voucher?

There is a £1,000 (including VAT) ceiling on what you can spend, but so long as the participating retailer has it in stock and it’s less than a grand, it’s yours. If your bike comes in under £1,000 and you want to make up the difference on accessories you can do that too. You can even use your £1,000 to buy accessories only.

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Again, the ‘Cycle to Work’ nature of this deal comes into effect — so no handlebar tassles and spokey-dokeys please. Accessories have to be safety-orientated, such as reflective clothing or helmets.

Dress to impress

What if my employer isn’t signed up to a Cycle to Work scheme?

If the company you work for doesn’t have an in-house capability to run its own Cycle to Work scheme there is no end of external agencies who will run the administration needed for such a scheme free of charge to the employer and employee. It’s probably worth pointing out that employers will also typically save 13.8 per cent of the total value of salary sacrifice due to reductions in Employers’ National Insurance Contributions too.

Cycle to Work scheme calulator

Cycle to Work isn’t the only way cyclists can put one over on the taxman — fully above board, of course. Any work duties you use your bike for — other than commuting to your usual place of business — is liable for tax relief of 20p a mile.

Self-employed folk are probably well aware of this already, but even those on PAYE can take advantage of it. Also, don’t forget to ask if your employer offers a travel allowance for cycling. They can only say no.

Everyone’s different, so before you decide you want to take part it is a good idea to get an understanding of what you’ll pay and what you’ll save. CycleScheme have a handy calculator that can give you an idea of what the scheme will save you. Otherwise, we have compiled the savings a standard rate taxpayer would incur with a gross salary of £2,000 a month below:

Monthly salary sacrifice £83.33
Savings per month £26.66
Savings per year £320
Total payment towards £1,000 bike £680