Rebecca Morley takes a look at the mountain bike sector, the benefits of electric riding and what’s behind the rise in popularity
This piece first appeared in the August edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
Cycling of any discipline and its benefits are well known across all disciplines of cycling and micromobility, particularly as we move towards more sustainable forms of transport and a healthier way of living. And one area that seems to be growing in the UK is mountain biking.
According to figures from the Bicycle Association (BA) in January 2023, total UK mechanical bicycle volumes fell by 22% to around 1.88 million units in 2022, 27% below pre-Covid levels in 2019, but gravel bikes were a rare feature. high-performance, with volumes up 8% in 2022 vs. 2021. And although e-bikes are reportedly more stable, overall volumes have increased since 2020.
This contrasts with much of the rest of Europe, where, according to 2022 sales statistics reported by national European industry bodies, sales volumes of e-bikes grew by double digits last year, replacing demand for mechanical bikes. However, market research firm Mintel predicts a return to faster growth in the market from 2024 onwards.
“The growth of e-bikes in Europe continues unabated,” said Andrew Lally, digital marketing director at Cycle Revolution BikeBiz. “This is a direct result of two very important factors that the UK seems to be struggling to address: infrastructure and culture.
“Combine this with seemingly endless waves of political uncertainty and the recent cost of living crisis, and it’s no surprise that while Europe’s figures are in double digits, we’re struggling to keep up.”
However, one area of cycling that seems to be growing in the UK is MTB and e-MTB, which present an opportunity to open up the sport to a wider demographic of riders. To quote mountain bike commentator Rob Warner: “Electric mountain bikes represent the most important thing to happen to mountain biking since mountain biking.”
Talking to you BikeBiz, Adam Browne, director of Advanced Bikes UK, said: “Mountain and e-Mountain are bucking the trend and showing significant growth (along with the whole e-bike sector), actually 8% from May to June 2023 according to Bicycle Association Statistics. This trend looks set to continue into autumn/winter.”
On the factors contributing to this, Browne said: “The fact that there are so many great riding parks in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland has seen the sport go from a fringe sport to a fully respected and respected one sport. This will be boosted by the UCI World Championships in Scotland in August.
“In fact, we at Advanced Bikes have our German UCI team coming to races. We can’t wait to be there to cheer them on.”
As far as a global sport goes, mountain biking and e-mountain biking is a “beloved sport,” Browne continued. “Massive in the US with the sport originating in Marin County in California, very strong in Australia and New Zealand and has been a strong sport in Europe for a few decades.
“The UK has a strong history in cycling and there is no difference in this sector, only growth and healthy competition between the brands competing in the exciting sport.”
A recent study, from January 2023, carried out by Edinburgh Napier University found that e-MTB riders ride “further, faster and more often” all year round compared to other cyclists, with mental health cited as the biggest advantage of e-MTB riding. .
Demographics of e-MTB riders in Britain showed that 96% of e-MTB riders are white, 15% are disabled and range mainly from 45-74 years old, with the majority of riders being male . However, the study showed that there is a higher proportion of older e-MTB riders, particularly those aged 45-74, compared to general MTB data.
Most riders (83%) were likely to avoid trails in fragile areas and the majority of riders, particularly women, sought out social rides with trail centers being the preferred location.
Commenting on the study, Forestry England’s national cycling infrastructure manager, Dan Cook, said it was “clear that the ever-increasing proportion of e-MTBers will be a critical part of the future development of mountain biking”.
“Participation in e-MTB cycling has soared in recent years and is becoming increasingly accessible to the wider population,” said British Cycling’s off-road official and leader, Ben Creed.
Creed continued: “The volume of e-bikes and e-MTBs is already significant and growing rapidly. We know they are supporting many riders to be more active, as well as being a lifeline for those who might not otherwise be able to ride.”
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Lally said: “An interesting finding from the research is that e-MTB riders tend to cover longer distances and achieve higher speeds over the course of the year compared to other cyclists. This suggests that e-MTBs can improve the overall cycling experience, with many people participating to benefit their mental health or simply for fun.”
Looking for adventure
“Cycling is not just about transportation or getting from point A to point B,” Lally said. “It’s about connecting with the world around you and your community in a way that feels right.
“E-bikes break down barriers and make cycling accessible to everyone, regardless of fitness level, gender, disability or age. When people get out of their cars and onto bikes: It’s good for the environment, good for our mental health and helps us feel more in control of our lives. E-MTBs offer everyone, regardless of age, the ability to get out and seek adventure. Enriching their lives with a multitude of experiences.”
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