Since 2008, sales of new bicycles in Europe has remained flat at around 20 million. The biking landscape has however changed, both from a sales as well as production point of view, with as it stand 8 million units imported from outside the European Union. In the UK people continue to buy more and more bikes – sales have grown by 10% since 2008 to 3.6 million units last year.
Over the past six years the number of new bikes sold in the European Union has remained relatively flat, at around 20 million, reveals an analysis by Consultancy.uk based on data from Conebi*. Europe’s largest economies – Germany, UK and France – are by a distance the largest markets, accounting for a 53% share last year, compared to 54% back in 2008. The new bike market has shown volatility in sales, with an 8% difference between the periods’ high (2008; 20.4 million) and low years (2013; 18.8 million), while last year sales picked up by 7%, taking the volume of bicycle sales to 20.2 million.
The number of bikes bought in the UK has increased strongly between 2008 and 2014, up from 3.3 million in 2008 to 3.6 million last year. Relative to population size however, the Netherlands remains the country in which the most bikes are sold, with 1 million sold in 2014 – although sales have dropped more than 300,000 units compared to 2008.
While bike sales have stayed stable, the production of bicycles in the European Union dropped by roughly 1 million pieces to 12 million. The contraction can for a large part be explained by restrictive capacity strategies by manufacturers in the light of the economic crisis and its aftermath, as well as growing outsourcing of production to lower wage countries outside the continent. Italy and the Balkan states Bulgaria and Romania stand at as clear winners in the landscape, while Portugal lost the most terrain when it comes to manufacturing bikes, producing 400,000 less units in 2014 compared to 2008.
The UK manufactured just 52,000 bicycles last year, up from 20,000 in 2008, implying that 99% of the 3.6 million new bikes sold in the country last year were imported from abroad. It is not merely the UK that is importing the majority of its bikes, when looking across the difference between sales and manufacturing, few countries in Europe produce more bikes than they consume. Germany for instance, imported more than 2 million bikes in 2014, while France imported more than 2.3 million bikes. Slovakia is one of only a handful of countries that produced more than they consumed, 210,000 versus 38,000, while Romania produced 820,000 and consumed 370,000.
An analysis of eBike sales across the EU reveals the growing popularity of electric bikes. Last year approximately 1.2 million eBikes were sold, with the UK representing a 5% share (50,000 eBikes), significantly trailing its market share across the full biking landscape (18%). The French are slightly more enthusiastic about the devices than the UK, buying 78,000 new electronic bikes last year. The Netherlands and Belgium are the second and third largest eBike markets, with small populations but sales of 223,000 and 130,000 respectively. Germany is the largest country in terms of total sales, with more than 480,000 electrical bikes sold.
* Conebi = The Confederation of the European Bicycle Industries.