Gearing up

Gearing up

The trends and innovations accelerating growth in the global bicycle market

The trends and innovations accelerating growth in the global bicycle market

From addressing sustainability to going electric, the bicycle industry is embracing new possibilities to drive further growth.

The story of the bicycle

The bicycle is the most popular form of transport in the world.1 But it took an uphill route to get there.

The forerunner of the bike was introduced in 1817, when Karl von Drais debuted his two-wheeled, 50lb device. Known by a variety of names including Dandy Horse and Hobby Horse, it had no gears or pedals and was propelled along the ground by the rider pushing with their feet.2

In the 1860s, inventors started to produce bikes with pedals attached to the front wheels – known as boneshakers for their less than comfortable ride.3 The Penny Farthing came along in the 1870s4 before the Rover safety bicycle was invented in 1885. This was the first commercially successful bicycle to feature a steerable front wheel and a chain-driven rear wheel.5 

Since then, the bicycle industry ridden through numerous trends, including the US ‘bike boom’ in the early 1970s when cycles outsold cars,6 and has now reached a point where over 100m bikes are produced globally each year in an industry worth $45bn.7

How the bicycle is riding current growth trends

The worldwide market for bicycles is being tipped for further growth over the next few years, riding the wave created, in part, by changes to consumer attitudes.

One of these is the wellness trend, which is helping to push more people onto bicycles across the globe as a way of improving their health.8 Cycling was even described by Vogue India as the wellness trend of 2019.9

Also proving to be an important driver is the growing level of concern about the environmental impact of motor vehicles – both from a sustainability and a congestion point of view. This is having an impact on urban planning around the world.

France has put plans in place to triple the number of cycling commuters in the 2018-2024 period, which include expanding the country’s cycle lane network.10 The effects are already being felt. The number of cyclists in Paris increased by 54% in the year to September 2019.11 

And in Colombia, the government has enacted a law designed to promote cycling throughout the country.12 It explicitly recognises the negative impact of motor vehicles on the environment and offers workplace and other incentives to increase the amount of people riding bikes.

Another response to these broad changes in attitudes is the rapid rise of bike-sharing schemes in cities across the world. The global market size was $2.7bn in 2018, but that is forecast to almost double to $5bn by 2025.13

There is plenty of scope for businesses to benefit from these trends as new consumer markets open up and product demands evolve, with research suggesting that sustainable business models could open up $12 trillion worth of market opportunities by 2030.14

Reinventing the wheel

The manufacturing hotspots for bicycles – and their associated supply chains – continue to evolve. Whereas once individual countries would have their own bike factories with distinctive characteristics, companies began outsourcing production in the late 1980s to benefit from cost efficiencies.15

China was a big beneficiary of these shifting trade patterns, and it is now the world’s biggest bike exporter accounting for 35.5% of total exports.16 More recently, Cambodia has been another to benefit with its low-cost production helping it to become the world’s fifth-biggest exporter.17

But it’s not just in manufacturing where economic developments are having an impact. In the Asia Pacific region, rising disposable incomes are expected to lead to a boom in demand for premium and high-end bicycles.18

And the way bicycles are being sold has also undergone a revolution. The direct-to-consumer model – where manufacturers sell online straight to buyers and cut out the retail middle man – has taken hold with many established brands going direct-only and new brands emerging to capitalise on the market shift.19


Biggest bicycle producer


Bicycles produced globally per year

Asia Pacific

Fastest growing market

Pedalling ahead: what’s next for bicycles?

Future development in the bicycle industry looks set to be heavily influenced by technology, and particularly the popularity of e-bikes. These have been the growth story of recent years, and that isn’t expected to change anytime soon.

The global market was valued at $14.8bn in 2018, and is expected to grow at an annual rate of over 6% until 2024.20

The Netherlands is already selling more e-bikes each year than traditional adult bikes,21 and e-bike sales are xpected to reach 40m units globally in 2023.22 To put that into context, there are only expected to be 12m electric car and truck sales in 2025.

There are several reasons for the extraordinary growth, ranging from environmental concerns to simply making cycling easier. But it shows how adopting new technology – and aligning with changing consumer needs – can help to open up new markets for traditional products.

Tapping into the potential of global trade

There are a number of significant growth drivers in the bicycle market that have parallels in many other industries.

And whether it’s in the way the industry is evolving as consumer attitudes change, or in how new technology is being used to attract a wider range of customers, there are many lessons to learn from for businesses looking to find new ways to power growth in both domestic and overseas markets.

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