Bicycle races: Manufacturers struggle to keep up with the boom

Riding a bike has become so popular that shops are running out. Susie Mesure caught up with the tribes of British converts to two-wheeled transport

Europe is running out of bikes thanks to a British cycling boom that has caught the world's biggest bike manufacturers on the hop.

Bike shops are struggling to meet demand, which has tripled in the past 12 months despite massive price hikes. And that was before yesterday's start of the Tour de France, usually an annual sales trigger for armchair cycling enthusiasts.

The bicycle bonanza, which saw annual sales surge more than 20 per cent in June, comes as the rest of the UK high street struggles, with retail sales tumbling. Two-wheeled commuters are fuelling the surge, as more people embrace pedal power instead of battling with the Tube or driving.

From besuited commuters on folding Bromptons to Lance Armstrong-wannabes on sporty road bikes, Britain, it seems, is dividing into cycling tribes. Even fashionistas are in on the scene, following the lead set by the likes of model Agyness Deyn and the actress Chloë Sevigny.

Business for bike shops is booming partly because of the good weather: bike sales track ice-cream sales when the mercury rises. But bike experts also point to the popularity of the Government's "Cycle to Work" scheme – which uses tax incentives to entice employees onto two wheels – to explain the sales surge. The scheme is estimated to account for as much as half of all sales in some bike shops. One of its biggest operators, Cyclescheme, said it had doubled the number of vouchers, which are exchanged for bikes, it issued in the past 12 months.

Mark Brown, director of the Association of Cycle Traders, said: "Cycle to Work has been really important as it reduces the cost of cycling and means it's no longer just for enthusiasts. It has reached a tipping point, which is getting more people on to their bikes."

If they can get hold of them, that is. Carlton Reid, executive editor of the trade magazine, BikeBiz, has warned that shops are running out of the most popular models, especially £500-plus road bikes and commuting-friendly hybrids. "They're running dry. There will be nothing left by August," he said.

The US brands Giant, Trek and Specialized are the worst affected, testament to their popularity with the new breed of two-wheeled commuter. Many shops are also low on certain British-made Ridgeback models, especially the £350 Ridgeback Velocity. Chris Compton, of London's Compton Cycles, has warned: "The shortage of road bikes and quality hybrid bikes is quite a problem, but there are gaps across the board."

Jeremy Persad, Cyclescheme's operations director, said: "Manufacturers are running out because they have been caught out by the expansion of the Cycle to Work initiative. More employers are turning to employee benefits like the bike scheme to incentivise staff because of the economic climate."

A recent ACT poll showed that 95 per cent of specialist bike retailers were struggling with shortages. Half of the local bike shops which respond to its monthly sales survey said sales, which include accessories and workshop servicing, had soared by over 20 per cent in June, with 83 per cent reporting an increase compared to last year.

"Europe is running out of bikes. There aren't enough to meet demand," one staff member at On Your Bike, a cycle shop in south-east London, said.

To plug the gaps, exacerbated by the long lead times that come with manufacturing in South-east Asia, dealers are pulling in stock from other European countries, with bike-makers bringing forward the launch of 2010 models normally in the shops in the autumn. But even these steps might not make up for last year's overcautious ordering, observers warn. There are even long waiting lists for bikes that are made in Britain.

Although the UK bike industry is a rare manufacturing success story, outperforming every other sector of the UK economy over the past five years except weapons production, we produces barely 5 per cent of the one million machines that Raleigh, our best-known bicycle maker, was producing in the 1950s.

One-gear wonder

Rafael Powell, 23, Musician

"This bike is a custom job. I had it made for me at a shop on Brick Lane. It's a fixed gear. People will tell you they get the Aerospoke because it makes you go fast. That's rubbish. They get it because it looks good. I think this bike says creativity. I thought long and hard about the colours."

Old-schooler

Viktoria Westin, 37, Gallery manager

"I ride a Swedish bike called a Kronan. It's based on a Swedish army design. It's safe, it's heavy, and it doesn't have any extra gears. It just goes. It's a proper bike, an old-fashioned kind of bike. You can't draw a sweat on a bike like this – it doesn't go fast enough. If a hill is just too steep, I simply get off and push."

Lance wannabe

Amire Fukuta, 29, Investment manager

"This is a Condor Fratello. I used to do triathlons, and when you're used to riding road bikes, you want something that gives you a little acceleration. There's always a competitive side to it, even when you're commuting. Sometimes I race people, but I tend to race cars."

Girl meets boy

Annick Benningen, 27, Interior designer

"I'm on a Pashley Classic. It belongs to my boyfriend. I ride to work and back, from Notting Hill to Soho – the bit through Hyde Park is beautiful. For me, riding has nothing to do with speed; it's just a much better way to experience the city."

Just like Dad

Matt Selby, 40, and daughter Liberty, 6, Casting director

"My bike's a Giant hybrid and we've just bought the Tag-A-Long. It's a safer way for Lib to ride and we can go further, too, although you can really tell when she's not peddling. I don't commute, but we take the whole family out for leisure – we often take the towpaths by the Thames. It's a nice way to spend a day out that's not based around shopping."

Unfold it and go

Les Spiro, 50, Software engineer

"I ride a Brompton: it's the best folding bike out there. It's not a proper bike, but it's quite light, so it can go quite fast. For my commute I used to have a bike at each end of my train journey and I had to worry about locking them up. Now I can just carry this with me to the office or to a meeting."

Cycling in numbers

£350m the value of the UK bike market

354m trips on National Cycle Network in 2007, up 5 per cent

12,000 total miles cobered by the NCN in Britain

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit