I speak to a lot of people about electric bikes because I visit businesses where they’re sold, and also talk to cyclists at exhibitions and shows. One thing that strikes me is that there isn’t a typical electric biker. There are enthusiasts and they tend to be a male between the age of 50 and 70, usually, with a bit of an engineering background, have enjoyed cycling all their life and since retirement has combined those interests into electric bikes. But I’ve also met teenagers who love electric bikes, as well as 70+-year-old ladies (I didn’t ask their exact age, didn’t like to be rude!).
Electric bikes are for people who like cycling or would enjoy cycling but want a bit of help with the pedalling part, or for techy folks who want to play around with one of the latest bits of leisure technology.
According to industry stats (COLIBI and COLIPED’s annual joint BIMP report – the European Bicycle Industry & Market Profile 2016), the UK sold about 20,000 new electric bikes in 2016. It was considered a slow year, and sales are expected to increase year-on-year into the future as people become more aware of electric bikes, and trends toward spending holidays in the UK increases. How many ebikes are there already out there though? Estimates sit around 250,000+ based on previous sales figures on conversion kits and electric bikes (including electric scooters). Who owns those bikes? Well, unfortunately, I’m yet to uncover market information breaking down the demographics and socio-demographic profile, however, talking to Leon Ollerton, Director of All Seasons Electric Bikes (one of the UK’s leading suppliers of electric bikes online and via retail networks) the core ebike market is 50-70-year-old AB (upper and middle class on the socio-economic scale) class males and females. Compare that to push bikes and it is a very different market. This more mature buyer is choosing an electric bike over a push bike because the electric bikes gives them so much more freedom.
It’s no surprise that motorhome and caravan dealers, as well as garden centres, are starting to sell electric bikes because the customer profile is very similar. Post 50 years of age more of the monthly budget is available for leisure activities, and holidays and leisure activities tend to be closer to home. This is when people tend to start looking at purchasing a caravan or motorhome and spend more money on their gardens. According to a survey done by YouGov in 2015 UK households spend 15% of income on leisure, creating a £8.3bn pot of cash to be spent on activities, meals, holidays, and socialising. According to the Office for National Statistics in their “Family spending in the UK: financial year ending March 2016” report “aged 65 to 74 spent the greatest proportion of their budgets on recreation and culture when compared with the other age categories. This age group spent 18% of their total expenditure on recreation and culture, whilst the under-30s spent 9%…aged 65 to 74 spent a higher proportion of expenditure on the majority of recreation and culture sub-categories when compared with other age groups. This includes major durables, leisure classes and package holidays. This may be down to this age group having more time to spend on recreation and culture after they have retired.”
So there you have it the ideal buyer for an electric bike is someone who’s just retired and wants to spend more of their time and money on leisure. Their electric bike gives them the ability to enjoy cycling with the confidence they can take on hills and longer trails.
Let’s not forget inner-city commuters though too. A recent report by the BBC told us that “regular cycling cut the risk of death from any cause by 41%, the incidence of cancer by 45% and heart disease by 46%”. One of the commuters interviewed pointed out that her commute by bike was faster than getting the bus because of congested roads. While the UK still has some infrastructure work to be done to better accommodate cyclists, there is an increasingly better network of cycle paths to help cycling commuters.
Many commuters have adopted electric bikes because let’s face it, you don’t want to do all the hard work yourself every day. Particularly if there are a few hills on your journey or after a long day at work the thought of cycling 20-miles isn’t your idea of fun.
As stated earlier ebikes are for anyone who would like to cycle but needs some help. There’s nothing wrong with getting some help every now and then. I mean just ask Batman!