“This summer, cyclists crowded in each lane along Chang’an Avenue [Beijing’s main axis road]. It looked like a big pot of dumplings jostling in the water,” Alex, a cyclist in Beijing who likes to cycle at night, told NewsChina. He said the cycling club he joined last year has seen its membership rocket from four last year to currently over 100.
“More and more people now enjoy taking in scenery and pushing themselves [to go further] when they go cycling,” he added.
In January 2022, a survey from cycling site Biketo.com revealed that China’s user rate of mountain bikes, which are more versatile and cheaper than good quality road bikes, dropped from 65 percent in 2017 to 48 percent in 2021, while the user rate of faster and lighter road bikes surged to 74 percent in 2021, ranking first, followed by mountain bikes and folding bikes. Meanwhile, the survey showed that a growing number of middle-aged people are taking up cycling, while 91 percent said that they cycle to keep fit and healthy.
The demand change means people are spending more money. The Biketo. com survey showed that following the pandemic, the number of people willing to spend more than 15,000 yuan (US$2,200) on a bicycle had grown, and a quarter of those surveyed had spent between 15,000-30,000 yuan (US$2,200-4,400).
“A several thousand-yuan bicycle is only for beginner cyclists, and those priced at 30,000-50,000 yuan (US$4,400-US$7,350) are mid-market. High-end bicycles often sell for more than 100,000 yuan (US$14,700) and really luxury ones for around 200,000 yuan (US$29,400),” Alex said.
“Bicycles represent one’s individualism like other fashionable products... That’s why British brand Brompton with its bike-matching outfits is so hot in the domestic market,” Zhixi, a cycling blogger, told NewsChina.
While Brompton’s range of city folding bikes is popular, US brand Trek, which sells a range of expensive sport bikes, is selling out too. “We have too many buyers this year,” Ikona, a salesperson in a Trek store in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, told local paper Qianjiang Evening News in July. “Buyers now need to wait nearly two years to get a 6,000-7,000 yuan (US$880-1,030) road bicycle and more than three years for a 20,000-yuan bicycle (US$2,950),” he said.
“We’ve ordered 1,500 bicycles below 60,000 yuan (US$8,820) from Trek’s headquarters, but those orders are all backed up. Many of these orders have been pending since the beginning of 2022,” he added.
Taiwan-based Merida, which manufactures in Germany, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, is also selling out. Fang Chao, manager of a Merida store in Hangzhou, told the same newspaper that their store’s best-selling road and mountain bikes were out of stock and new buyers have to wait for at least three months.
Other high-end mainland brands like Heilongjiang-based Pardus are in the same position. Kong Lingman, Pardus’s regional manager in charge of the northern China region, told NewsChina that their sports bicycles are in short supply and that their plants have racked up back orders through 2023.
“We could only take pre-orders since the end of 2021 for both domestic and overseas markets since we have nothing in stock. Buyers have to wait two to three months on average,” Liu Zhiquan, brand marketer for SEKA Bike, a Shanghai-based sports bicycle brand, told NewsChina.
The surge in demand, according to media reports, has even seen used highend bicycles from renowned brands like Brompton change hands for much more than their original price.
Despite the supply crunch, manufacturers are eyeing more development in what they deem is a market ripe for expansion.
“Leisure cyclists account for less than 1 percent of the total Chinese population, much lower than the 40 percent in the US and European countries. It means the market in China has vast space for development and expansion,” Wang Chunqing, general manager of Shandong Taishan Pardus Composite Materials told NewsChina, who predicts the supply shortage may last three years.