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UK Cycle Show: Will More E-Bike Technology Keep Market Growing?

Shows & Events

BIRMINGHAM, UK – Last week’s Cycle Show, held in Birmingham, UK, boasts a growing array of e-bike brands and e-bike tech each successive year. In particular its e-bike test tracks are always busy and are split between the Bafang E-bike village for road and trail going models and the Bosch e-MTB test track, expanded this year to be bigger than ever. Clearly there’s great consumer demand for seeing e-bikes up close and getting to ride them.

UK Cycle Show: Will More E-Bike Technology Keep Market Growing?
Are MAMILs (middle aged males in lycra) turning into e-MAMILS; recent shows see more e-roads. – Photo Richard Peace

Recent government import and arrival stats have shown that the quantity and value of e-bikes coming into the UK are up significantly, measured on a per month basis, compared to 2017. One big question is whether the arrival of evermore sophisticated new technology and it’s inevitable price rises for top end e-bikes (combined with the potentially destabilising effects of Brexit) will push e-bikes into the unaffordable category for potential e-bike buyers.

Of course, pricey new e-bike tech could work in reverse by having a ‘trickle down’ effect; previous years’ new tech could now be helping open up affordable yet technologically advanced e-biking to ever more UK customers.

Are MAMILs becoming E-MAMILs?

One perhaps surprising aspect of recent cycle shows has been the steadily growing number of e-road bikes on display. Previously the UK market has been associated with fitness and road riding – so called MAMILs (middle aged males in lycra), who might be expected to be one of the last groups of consumers to buy an e-bike. But e-road bikes from the likes of UK manufacturers Wisper and Ribble plus cleverly-designed lightweight retrofit system from Cytronex indicate this could be a strong undercurrent in the UK market and maybe not a passing trend.

Chains, IBDs and e-bike specialists

The decline of the independent bike dealer in the UK over recent years is a widely reported topic but the Birmingham show was the scene of what will hopefully be the start of a welcome, online inspired fightbike.

BikeZaar was launched at The Cycle Show and is a new website that aims to support local bike shops by selling products online on their behalf. It combines the inventory of independent bike shops, brands and distributors into one website. The idea is to give online shoppers greater choice by comparing the offerings of many IBDs then proceeding to a single transaction checkout. Customers will be able to collect their purchases in-store, or order for delivery depending upon the store’s policies. The idea is laudable – to give the smaller bricks and mortar outlets a platform from which they can fight back against online-only sellers.

Absentees Halfords and Decathlon

Chains such as Halfords (and their high street offshoot Cycle Republic) and Decathlon were notably absent from the show but there were a handful of smaller UK specialist manufacturers and retailers present like Cytronex and Ribble. But there were also the likes of Shand and Dolan present. The sole representative of the bricks and mortar chains was Calibre – own brand bikes from the GoOutdoors chain of outdoor retailers, themselves owned by UK leisure retail giant JD Sports (who acquired it in 2016 for GBP112 million). They are known for making regular (ie non electric) bikes that blend good quality with attractive prices. Was their presence here a sign they are wanting to step up their presence in the UK cycle market and start to take on the likes of Halfords perhaps?

E-bikes no longer ‘specialist’ items

One question yet to be answered is where does the increasing popularity of e-bikes in with both the UK chains and IBDs leave the e-bike specialist retailers? Years ago, they largely pioneered the UK e-bike market at a time when other more traditional cycle retail outlets felt unable to commit to the genre. But e-bikes are no longer ‘specialist’ items in the UK as more and more competitive events (like the Wales 360 mountain bike event that launched at the Cycle Show) have e-bike classes for entrants and e-bikes are simply becoming more of an everyday sight on the streets. How they seek to stand out in an increasingly busy marketplace will be interesting to see.

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