COMMENT: Customers going off the (train) rails?

How do rail fare rises affect the cycle industry?
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Outrage! Rail fares are set to rise again. And again. And so on. Fare increases happen with such regularity, it must be tempting for the journos reporting on the news to hit copy and paste from a story written just months prior and simply adjust the figures by which the rail commuter is to be hit in the pocket. This time around increases reportedly average 4.1 per cent, but in places hit 9.1 per cent. For how many will this be the last straw?

Why should this concern us in the bike business? Because increasingly bike shops are linked to rail travel – the two modes of transport increasingly encouraged to co-exist. But need they for all journeys? With the link to rail travel comes an opportunity to advertise the cost per mile of the bicycle when compared to both rail and motorised transport.

A return train ticket from BikeBiz headquarters into the Capital now costs around £17 (and rising) to cover a distance of just under 20 miles. The very same route just so happens to also be linked via a constant cycle track passing through numerous towns en route. A reliable beginners hybrid bike costs say £300, the equivalent of one month’s train fare, with change left over for either lights or mudguards.

A rough example perhaps. Not everyone will want to cycle 15 to 20 miles each way on a cheap bike, but each to their own. Ask what journey your customer undertakes and dazzle them with a little mathematics. A bike pays for itself extremely quickly when the cost of travelling only as far as the neighbouring town is edging ever closer to the £5 mark.

Why not task the Saturday lad with knocking up a poster for the shop window with an example: Five miles by train five days a week – take out a loan to pay anually, or pay above the odds weekly or monthly. And by car? The cost of insurance alone will buy you a shiny bike, some waterproof clothing and lights for winter cycling. Add petrol at an average of £60 a week and the savings become apparent to even the most die hard petrolhead.

Five miles by bike: totally free, give or take the odd service, the first of which is free if you buy the bike in store. Your customer effectively takes home a payrise simply by choosing a different mode of getting from A-to-B. On the plus side, cycling is also far more useful than that gym membership your customer forgot they had.

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