Although the UK bicycles market is a very mature one, it is potentially on the verge of a new era of growth. Central and local government are investing in cycling infrastructure to make riding on the roads safer, and have committed to giving more prominence to cycling and walking in the transport planning process from now on. Combined with the ‘feel good’ factor which has arisen from multiple successes in major cycling events by British competitors and multifarious factors which have stimulated cycle commuting, this has led in recent years to a steady increase in the number of people cycling.

There has not always been a direct correlation between participation and sales – anecdotal evidence suggests that many people returned to cycling with existing machines, at least initially, but it seems that the improvements in the UK economy and corresponding gains in consumer confidence and household spending power have boosted demand for new bicycles in 2014.

Looking ahead, all the ingredients are in place for market growth in the coming five years, ranging from improved attitudes among consumers to paying more for a quality bicycle, to the positive economic outlook and promised investment in cycling infrastructure. The only potential ‘fly in the ointment’ could be recent exchange rate fluctuations, which are likely to lead to price increases in 2016 just when consumers might be feeling a little better off and more disposed towards making larger purchases.

This report looks at the factors driving demand for bicycles, examines recent innovations, provides sales volumes and values for the industry, how the market segments, market shares, profiles of the leading suppliers, and assesses consumers behaviour and attitudes when it comes to a variety of different elements of cycling and purchasing bicycles.

Mintel last reported on this market in Bicycles – UK, March 2014.


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 definition.

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 and Mintel has applied that to this report. In addition, foreign trade classifications make the distinction between bicycles which have ball bearings and those that do not. It is the former (those with ball bearings) that Mintel has sought to adopt.

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. Traditionally wheels have come in a 26 inch size, but in recent years a larger 29 inch wheel has grown in popularity, while a new 650B wheel (27.5 inches) has emerged which is quickly becoming the de facto standard wheel size at the expense of 26 inches. They usually have a wide range of gears to enable them to tackle all types of terrain and many feature either suspension in their front forks or dual suspension at the front and rear. A recent sub-sector of this market to emerge is fat bikes, sporting extra wide tyres.

  • 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 and sometimes have front suspension, but tend to have a more upright riding position and narrower tyres with less rolling resistance.

  • Traditional/classic 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.

  • Road bikes are full-size, usually lightweight bicycles with drop handlebars. They incorporate multiple gearing, 26” or 27” wheels and narrow tyres. Traditionally, they have featured caliper brakes, but more recently disc brakes (which first emerged in the mountain bike sector) have increasingly found their way onto road bikes.

  • Small-wheel bicycles are mainly intended for short-distance journeys. This category includes folding bicycles such as the Brompton, which are popular with consumers who want to take their bicycle on trains or pack it neatly in a car, but also, so-called ‘shopper’ bicycles.

  • BMX bicycles are a sub-segment within small wheel bicycles and are primarily intended for children, although they are also 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. More recently, several manufacturers have also sought to introduce junior road bikes – scaled down versions of popular adult models. Some children’s bicycles are termed as learner bicycles and are sold with permanent or removable stabilisers.

Electric bicycles, better known as e-bikes, are excluded from the coverage of this report although, as a competitive sector, some reference is made to sales levels and innovations for the purposes of comparison and context.

Value market size figures are inclusive of VAT unless stated otherwise.

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


ACT Association of Cycle Traders
APPCG All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group
APS Active People Survey
BAGB Bicycle Association of Great Britain
BEBA British Electric Bicycle Association
BMX Bicycle Moto-Cross
CAD Canadian Dollars
C2W Cycle To Work
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