Is cycling the 'new black'?

Makis Karteros

Posted: September 25, 2014

Tagged: cycling / economy / fashion / trends

During 2010 cycling contributed £2.9b to UK economy, through cycle sales, purchase of cycling accessories and bike maintenance, wages, and reduced absenteeism. This is a big amount for a humble object as bike or bike is not so humble anymore?

Value of bicycle sales in UK in 2013 was £745 million. This is an impressive increase of 14% over the last 5 years. From £639 million in 2008 to £745 million in 2013, while business reports forecast that value of bicycle sales will reach an amazing £909 million over the next five years, this is a 22% increase compared to current sales. These numbers sound like heaven to any business manager, especially during unstable financial times, and we have not reached to the good part yet. Sales are driven by the 35- to 45- family men and people who cycle at least once a week, are well educated, read broadsheet newspapers, and have an annual income of at least £55.000 per year.

Based on these numbers roads of UK should be floated with men and women dressed in multi-coloured Lycra bibs and tights. There are keen cyclists who dressed like that, because this how you should be dressed when you are out there for a 4 hours ride. But these days, cycling is much more than just a good exercise. People are using their bikes to go to their £55.000 per year work, or to go out and meet their well-educated dynamic mid 30’s friends. Eventually, cycling has become a statement of a certain lifestyle and there is a specific segment in this market who wants to ride high-end bikes equipped with hand-made accessories and to look smart while cycling. More important, it has the money to do that. It is not about cycling clothes anymore, it is about cycling friendly clothes.

Not surprisingly, the first industry which saw the opportunity was the fashion industry. Recently H&M announced its collaboration with Brick Lanes Bikes, a well know shop in East London, if you are member of the urban cycling community, for a cycling friendly clothes collection, and magazines like GQ welcome the news. Fred Perry has a special collection signed by Sir Bradley Wiggins, focused on cycle fans and fans of the first British to win the Tour de France.

Furthermore, Ted Baker presented this summer his cycle friendly collection named “raising the handlebars” while Levi’s has its own commuter collection, and the cycle friendly trend does not stop here, but aims to the most eclectic cycling-fashion aficionado.  Paul Smith the legendary British designer introduced his cycling friendly collection of clothes and accessories and designed a bike in collaboration with Mercian Cycles, a company in Derby which builds bespoke handmade frames. While Rapha, a British company specialised in cycling clothing, shocked the cycling community few years ago, when produced a cycling suit in collaboration with Saville Row which cost £3.000. Ralph Lauren took a different approach on cycling. They did not produce any cycling friendly clothes but they associated themselves with the “Tweed Run” an extremely stylish bike ride, hosted in many cities around the globe, where participants are wearing tweed and brogues and also signed two special editions bikes for the event produced by the iconic brands Pashley Bikes and Ascari.

So, is bike the new black? If cycling is Britain’s most fashionable sport as “Esquire” described it in a recent article, probably yes and that means a completely new market with huge potentials and an amazing growth rate is arising.


About Makis Karteros

Makis is currently writing a PhD on investment in human capital and its impact on football club’s performance.  He has been involved in the sports industry in many ways having worked for professional football clubs, media organisations and IT companies, in Greece and India.