Bicycle sales have been booming across much of the world amid the coronavirus crisis, with many local and national governments either starting or accelerating plans for catering to cyclists. Many bicycle sellers here have struggled to keep pace with demand as the pandemic has driven surging interest in pedal power to get around the city and keep fit.
The Covid-19 pandemic is giving the retailers a boost as consumers avoid public transport because of the risk of catching the infection. It has turned out to be a boon for the cycle industry. Owing to such increased demand, bicycle companies in the market are launching innovative bicycles and accessories, which will lead to significant market growth.
The humble bicycle has emerged as an unexpected victor as countries around the world learn to live with the coronavirus. Whether it is for a daily dose of exercise, or as a means to get to work, the bicycle sales have surged and witness twofold jump on the national level.
Back home, bicycles had almost vanished from roads here with mostly few older people seen riding them. Now over the past few years, young people are pedalling sporty and trendy bicycles and sales have seen a jump with more people taking up cycling.
“So, you have this current generation of young kids and they're not particularly interested in walking around slowly. There is a rat race among children of different economically versatile families in buying expensive cycles,” says Iqbal Majeed, a parent.
Cycling has become very popular among professional runners as well. “I have been doing cycling for a long time and when lockdown started all gyms were closed and I started riding very regularly and it helped me a lot in maintaining my physical fitness and at the same time I also enjoy it.
“Now I see so many kids taking up cycling I believe soon we’ll see a lot more professional cyclist here soon,” says Uzair Fayaz Khan, a professional marathon runner.
“I am a mountain biker. I have started cycling from a very young age. In today's world cycling has become a trend in today's generation. People do on-road cycling. They do ride bicycles for recreation, enjoyment and to keep themselves healthy as well,” says Farhan Mushtaq Mir.
However, he cautioned kids to wear safety gear and adhere to traffic norms when riding a bicycle.
“A person needs to take care of his safety. He should have all the safety gear.
“Cycling in traffic is not difficult but you should always keep to your left on the road and follow all the safety and precautionary measures as your safety depends only on your own self,” he said.
With more bikes, motorcycles, mopeds and scooters on the road, experts say the moment is primed for a transit upheaval. All of this combined is called micro-mobility. Here is how having more bikes on the road could change the transportation system. There are two groups of people who have picked up biking during the pandemic, those who use it to commute to work or get around, and those who use it for fitness and recreational purposes.
Muskaan Beigh falls into the first bucket. She started cycling last September. “Using the bike for me right now is basically just getting myself from one place to another. I was not biking before the pandemic, just because riding a bike in Srinagar seemed so scary. People looking at you as they are not used to seeing an adult girl cycling and cars are just all over the place, it seemed a bit awkward and dangerous too.
“I just avoided bikes. But now the reason why I changed is because that there are lesser cars and I just feel much safer on the bike as I continue it.”
Muskaan represents the growing number of women in the traditionally male-dominated activity.
"A big reason behind the gender difference is fear and concerns about personal safety, in addition to traffic safety. And so, in this environment where more women are riding bicycles, and lesser motor vehicle traffic, it certainly has the potential for getting more women out there riding.”
Mehran Hilal, a professional footballer, wasn't riding bicycles before the pandemic, but now he bikes around for hours daily.
“During the pandemic, the gyms closed. And so, I tried doing some home workouts but it wasn’t helping me a lot. I was looking for another way to get some exercise and keep my endurance level up to the mark. I think cycling just for fun and for exercise is something that might hold on.”
But as many people switch from public transport and cars to two-wheelers to get around, only time will tell whether the surge in cycling will last or just fade away. But it could reveal solutions with far-reaching benefits long after the coronavirus crisis ends. After all, an urban centre with more cycling encourages healthier lifestyles, safer communities, cleaner air and better connectivity.
Recent developments in bicycle industry
In 2018, Accell Group launched a new haibike and lapierre e-bike range under the Raleigh brand. The new Haibike Sduro e-bike is designed for sports and leisure activities.
In 2019, Trek Bicycle Corporation launched its new Madone SLR 6 Disc Speed Aero Road Bike with removable aero bars. The new bike is ideal for part-time triathletes and anyone who trains and races on the same rig, especially in hilly regions.
In 2020, the Indian consumer bicycle brand, Alpha Vector, launched a new range of KTM bicycles in the Indian market. Alpha Vector became the exclusive distributor of KTM bicycles in the Indian market.
Sales in India
There has been a 100 per cent year-on-year increase in retail demand for bicycles across tier-1 cities in India, while demand has increased by 50 per cent in tier-2 cities and tier-3 cities from April 2020 onwards.
Alpha Vector is currently selling about 15-20k cycles per month, compared to 4k cycles per month during pre-Covid times. In order to be precise, Alpha Vector registered a massive 300 per cent increase in ARR (annual revenue rate), growing from Rs 50 crore ARR to INR 200 crore ARR in ten months (Apr-Jan 2020).