WASHINGTON, US – Lance Armstrong finished his professional cycling career on top. And he took bike sales up with him.
After winning his seventh Tour de France Sunday and shining a spotlight on the sport of bicycle racing, Armstrong’s retirement could leave the bicycle industry without a U.S. poster boy. But for now, bicycle retailers are just enjoying the ride.
“Every time Lance makes the front page of the newspaper, it reminds people to get their bicycles out of the basement and start riding them,” Dorie Clark, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition said.
Armstrong’s public bout with cancer and seven consecutive Tour de France victories inspired a wave of new cyclists across the country. Local retailers say “the Lance Armstrong factor” has driven an increase in sales.
The bike industry brought in $5.7 billion last year, which is up from previous years, according to Ash Jaising, president of the Bicycle Market Research Institute in Brookline. Jaising estimates Armstrong’s popularity drove as much as 60 % of the increase.
Pricey road bikes accounted for just over 16 % of sales by specialty dealers in 2002, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association. That surged to 28 % last year.
But life without Lance might be tough on bike retailers.
The NBA lost fans when the Michael Jordan era ended. And men’s professional tennis has never fully recovered its U.S. audiences after retirements of marquee players like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.
Still, bike retailers remain optimistic that Armstrong’s legacy will continue to generate sales in the future.