COMMENT: Despite the downturn, the bike trade is as busy as ever

It's not all roses, but creating launches at a time like this is a sign of a confident industry
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New magazines and websites launching, established companies and retailers launching bike-relevant gear for the first time, pledges from local authorities to spend more on cycling, growing attendance at cycle shows…

There’s some weird alchemy afoot in the world of bicycles. How else do you explain all this activity in the midst of this economic decline?

Whatever you made of the Chancellor’s Budget, delivered last month, it’s a bit of a mystery how the sector can be cocksure enough to create all the launches we’ve seen over the last 12 months. We’ve seen new events like the Bike and Triathlon Show and the upcoming urban cycle show SPIN London. Then there’s the forthcoming Orbital cycling festival, launching after the demise of Bike Blenheim Palace.

And there’s yet more events launching, from the growing Cycletta series to the eye-catching Ride London taking place this summer and being broadcast on terrestrial TV.

While it's hard to tell accurately how many bike shops are shutting each month (though Mystery Shopper does see some evidence of that) we do know there are many bike shop launches taking place - in fact we've got a round-up of the latest in the next magazine.

There’s been at least two major magazine launches – Dennis’ Cyclist and Wild Bunch Media’s Women’s Cycling. A hugely confident move when all we hear about print is that it is in decline. Online, meanwhile, Factory Media has created TotalWomensCycling.com....I could go on.

This isn’t me saying all is rosy in the cycle world. Far from it. Aside from the fact we’ve not had a decent summer since the Coalition came to power, competition for business from customers has been tougher than ever. Women are still in the (underpaid) minority in professional racing and are underrepresented in the trade, to the cost of the industry. Many businesses are struggling to keep afloat while shoppers shift more pounds online and we even hear that some charities have challenged the work flow of established bike shops’ workshops…And that’s just for starters.

But somehow, despite all that, the world of bicycles has managed to hold the line. Maybe the momentum behind cycling has balanced out the many negatives? 

Political will has gradually switched, with pro-cycle policies now seen as vote winners or, at best, put into practice as in Wales which lately created the Active Travel Bill that will see cycling infrastructure accommodated in plans for new roads and communities.

It’s a puzzle and something of a contradiction, but a happy one at that. As someone said to me recenty: “Count yourself lucky you’re in the bike trade.” Though as Alec Guinness once said: “In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.”

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