The UK bicycles market has continued to grow in the past year, despite the tough economic conditions and the squeeze on household incomes. Most of this growth has come from consumers trading up to slightly more expensive models of bicycle and in fact in volume terms the market has declined as many cheap, poor quality machines have been filtered out through anti-dumping measures in recent years.

There is still considerable latent potential in the market: 35% of adults currently describe themselves as cyclists but a further 31% would consider cycling in the future. Most of these are lapsed cyclists who have ridden in the past. Mintel’s research also reveals substantial misgivings about the safety of cycling on the UK’s roads and it is this which is the biggest barrier to increasing participation levels at the moment.

This report examines the factors influencing demand for bicycles, looks at innovations, sales volumes and values, how the market segments, market shares, profiles some of the leading suppliers of bicycles and assesses consumer behaviour and attitudes when it comes to cycling.

Mintel last reported on this market in Bicycles – UK, February 2013.


Defining what actually constitutes a bicycle is something on which the cycle industry has difficulty agreeing, depending on the focus of each company’s business and particularly where the children’s market is concerned.

Some suppliers have a significant presence in the children’s toy cycle market and include sales of these types of machines in their figures, whereas other companies define anything with a wheel size of less than 12” as a toy and do not include them within their statistics.

One way of differentiating cycles and toys is to say that a bicycle must have a chain, which therefore excludes items such as toy tricycles. It is this definition Mintel has sought to adopt, although a general shortage of detailed information means grey areas will always exist.

For the purposes of this report, bicycles are defined as including the following types:

  • All-terrain bikes (ATBs) or mountain bicycles are characterised by their robust, lightweight frames (which are usually smaller than sports frames), straight handlebars and smaller, sturdier wheels with fatter tyres. They usually have a wide range of gears to enable them to tackle all types of terrain and many now sport either suspension in their front forks or dual suspension at the front and rear.

  • Sports/road and touring cycles are full-size, usually lightweight bicycles with drop handlebars. They incorporate multiple gearing, 26” or 27” wheels and narrow tyres.

  • Conventional adult bicycles are of the traditional ‘roadster’ design with large wheels, straight or swept-back handlebars, and heavier frames and usually have comparatively sturdy tyres. Many have three-speed hub gear systems.

  • Hybrid bicycles are a cross between a sports/touring and an ATB/mountain bike. They look quite similar to a mountain bike in terms of configuration of the frame but tend to have a more upright riding position and narrower tyres with less rolling resistance.

  • Traditional or comfort bicycles are a new type of hybrid bike that has emerged in recent years, designed – as their name suggests – to feel very easy to ride, with extra-comfortable saddles and bar grips, smooth tyres and an easy riding position.

  • Small-wheel bicycles are mainly intended for short-distance journeys. This category includes folding bicycles, which are popular with consumers who want to take their bicycle on trains or pack it neatly in a car.

  • BMX bicycles are primarily intended for children, although they are now quite popular among young adults, who use them to perform tricks and stunts. They are of a sturdy design, colourful or eye-catching (eg all-chrome) and do not normally have gears.

  • Children’s bicycles come in all shapes and sizes. Most have small wheels and a basic non-suspension frame, although some of the higher-end children’s ATB-style bicycles now come with this feature. Some are termed as learner bicycles and are sold with permanent or removable stabilisers.

Electric bicycles are excluded from the coverage of this report although, as a competitive sector, some reference is made to sales levels for the purposes of comparison and attitudes towards electric bicycles are covered in The Consumer sections.

Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen’s Printer for Scotland.


AIM Alternative Investment Market
APS Active People Survey
BAGB Bicycle Association of Great Britain
BEBA British Electric Bicycle Association
BMX Bicycle Moto-Cross
CTC Cyclists’ Touring Club
DfT Department for Transport
GB Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland)
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