'Can we be clever and do what the UK car manufacturing industry has done, producing high volume, good quality product?'
The number of bicycles made in the UK rocketed last year – almost doubling from 23,000 in 2010 to 40,000 in 2011.
Those figures – from Euro cycle organisations COLIPED and COLIBI – are thought to be the tip of the iceberg, with London-based cycle manufacturer Brompton telling BikeBiz that it alone expects to produce 36,000 bikes this year.
The folding bike firm said it put the overall figure closer to 50,000 or even 60,000 in 2011, adding that it aims to top 40,000 alone in 2013.
Brompton managing director Will Butler-Adams told BikeBiz: “There is an upward trend. I know from talking to Pashley and Moulton at least that there is UK growth. If you make a good product you’ll see growth – it helps that international markets are more receptive to working with smaller businesses now.
“The UK is doing well with higher value, higher end products – with a certain amount of brand power too. Higher end product allows you to innovate and mass producers find that harder to replicate. It’s easier for a smaller firm to be nimble.”Article continues below
Moulton’s Steven Harvey named increased costs in the Far East as contributory reasons for the rise.
He told BikeBiz: “Wage levels in Taiwan and China are creeping up, in some places racing up, and factories over there are having to re-locate further into their industrial hinterlands, themselves looking for cheaper labour. Shipping costs, poorer after-sales care and increasing overheads, and slowing Asian economies will redress the imbalance in a number of years – as long as consumers play along!
“Quality remains high here. At the moment you have Brompton, Pashley and Moulton for example, all flying the flag, producing good product for specific markets.
“An increasing number of independent frame builders are also making a name for themselves, but I’m not sure what their current total output would be. There is a desirable range of British bicycles right across the price range, and growing markets overseas are choosing to buy more heavily into genuinely British brands.”
While a far cry from past glories – 1,200,000 bicycles were made in Britain in 2000 – the growing number of bikes made in the UK will provide some cheer. The number of bikes made in Britain hit a nadir in 2009 (20,000). 2011’s 40,000 total is the highest since 2006, when 94,000 bikes were produced in GB.
Butler-Adams added: “The question is, can we do what the car industry has done and be clever and manufacture high volume, good quality product? That depends on cost rises in Asia. Transport and wages costs are going up and if that continues then we’ll see larger scale manufacture of bicycles back in the UK.”
Brompton: 020 8232 8484
Moulton: 01225 865895
New manufacturers enter the fray
Midlands-based Eurobike has joined the UK bike manufacturing club for the first time this year, revealed to BikeBiz at Cycle Show. Designed and created alongside Vektra Composites in Stoke-on-Trent, the UK-made bike will officially launch in January. Eurobike MD Paul Stewart told BikeBiz that the firm was planning to produce many more UK-made bikes in future.
He said: “Currently we are tooling for one road frame across four sizes and hope to hit 1,000 pieces in the first year to 18 months.
“The advantages to making a bike in the UK are shorter leadtimes, more control, lower QC costs and a unique product offering that will not only be desirable for UK consumers but also open doors for export.”
Eurobike: 01332 774796