Bike sales hit new historic low as cost of living crisis bites

Current sales volume below 20-year nadir, indicates Bicycle Association

A custom bike shop
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sales of bicycles in the UK have plummeted further in 2023, according to market data from the Bicycle Association shared exclusively with Cycling Weekly

Between January and October this year, sales volumes of bikes fell 6% below 2022 levels, when the market hit its biggest slump in two decades.

The latest data - which does not include e-bikes - represents a fall of around a third from pre-pandemic levels. 

“The dip in consumer demand, following the Covid boom period in 2020-21, continues to be compounded by the impact of the cost of living crisis,” said John Worthington, head of insights at the Bicycle Association, the UK's national trade association.

“The post-boom decline has impacted most heavily on the more mainstream parts of the cycling market. The enthusiast-oriented segment has been more resilient and shows some signs of revival, but even here demand remains well below 2019 levels,” he added.

While road bike sales are up in the first three quarters of 2023, sales in the entry to mid-level range - road bikes costing between £1,000 and £2,000 - have been particularly hit. 

Speaking to Cycling Weekly, David Ward of Giant UK said the bike manufacturer does not plan to release any new aluminium road bikes in the next 12 months, barring updates to its Contend and Avail models. 

“Sales are down on aluminium bikes,” Ward said, “And I don’t think anybody in the industry is going to tell you anything different." 

Last month, Giant recorded a 49% fall in profits in the US and Europe, citing a "weak demand" for entry and mid-level products. 

“We’re not necessarily getting any new people in [to buying bikes] at the moment," Ward said. "That’s down to interest rates, fuel, the cost of living. Something’s got to give.” 

This sentiment was echoed by Mike Rice, director of bike shop chain Balfe’s Bikes, who told Cycling Weekly the industry “has had more turbulence than I’ve seen in 30 plus years” following the pandemic. 

“[Covid] brought forward lots of people’s purchases, who may otherwise have bought bikes over a period of time,” he explained. “Now there’s an absence of buyers in some of those sectors.

“While there was a significant boom during Covid, it has definitely come back down to earth with a significant bump, and we’re still seeing the challenges.” 

Carbon still in vogue

Three cyclists aboard the new Giant Defy Advanced road bikes

High-end carbon road bikes are continuing to sell well in the UK. 

(Image credit: Giant)

The industry has, however, seen a sustained demand for high-end carbon road bikes, with sales volumes still “very, very strong” at Giant, according to Ward. 

“The TCR is historically the strongest seller, the Defy is phenomenally strong, and with the new generation Propel, because it’s a bit lighter and better-looking than it was before, that’s shot up as well,” he said. 

Ward added that the current market situation could just be a “temporary blip”. 

“I don’t want to play it down by calling it a blip,” he explained, “but we’re seeing it as a temporary situation. The bike trade always bounces back.”

Sales of gravel and e-bikes are both ahead of 2019 levels, according to the Bicycle Association. E-bike sales have, however, dropped in each of the last two years. 

The Bicycle Association’s full year report for 2023 is due to be published in February 2024.

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