Does the UK have the kind of customers found in mainland Europe? Do Brits buy because they 'have to', not because they want to?
With electric bikes very much in focus this month, much thanks to the Bicycle Association calling a second gathering of the trade to discuss the market’s future, it seems fitting to do a bit of thinking out loud on the topic.
First of all, if you’ve yet to read the summary of the meet, perhaps head here first to read what the professionals had to say during the late November meet.
Now, let’s not beat around the bush – the evolution of the market in the UK has been like watching paint dry, thus far, at least. In my opinion, the UK's demographic will never really change, no matter how flashy the bikes and technology to back them becomes. The electric bike is largely suited to the over 50s rider with creaky knees and anyone who requires that little extra bit of push up a hill, whether it be down to disability, or simply bought as the first stepping stone in a regime to get in shape.
So is it worth marketing the product beyond these perimeters? Is the aforementioned market a large and affluent enough body to sustain rapid growth of the market in the UK, as there is claimed to be in mainland Europe? After all, there’s no avoiding the fact that electric bikes cost a fair bit. I was shocked to learn years ago, when the market had begun to emerge beyond the catalogue bikes that scared so many early adopters off, that a battery, should the original need replacement, is in the region of £200 to £400.
Knowing that figure is often not too dissimilar to what the Average Joe spends on their first bike, that fact has never quite sat right with me. For a long time now we’ve been wondering whether the cost of batteries will gradually decline as the market broadens and thus shave retail prices. As yet, prices are yet to hit a reasonable level and as such, £1,000 for a bike remains the benchmark for a level of quality that will do many years service without fault.
It has been said that £1,000 is considered high-end in the UK for the e-bike newbie. Across the channel the same figure is considered entry-level. How do we get a slice of that pie here? Perhaps no new thought processes need be applied.
My inkling is that the reason the elderly don’t cycle as often as they should like is down to the lack of infrastructure and training to give them the confidence to safely do so. Whether assisted with a battery or powered solely by elbow grease, to see this target market cycling we must first make it easy to do so. Pricing barriers can be overcome, if well justified.
Look out for an interview with Cycling Made Easy's Ray Wookey in the February edition of BikeBiz. Wookey is an expert on the market and the front of a growing business dedicated solely to power assisted cycling.