In many Chinese cities, more and more people are heading out by bicycle. This cycling fever is exactly indicated by data on mid- and high-end bicycle sales recently released by multiple agencies.
According to China Bicycle Association, total revenues from Chinese bicycle enterprises above the designated size, or those with annual turnover of at least 20 million yuan ($2.75 million), increased 3 percent year-on-year to reach 210 billion yuan in 2022. Their profits exceeded 10 billion yuan, up more than 20 percent from a year ago.
Road bikes are the bestselling type as indicated by statistics released by Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com. The sales of road bikes priced between 1,000 and 2,000 yuan jumped by 180 percent year-on-year on the platform of JD.com, and the figure stood at 530 percent for road bikes above 5,000 yuan. Besides, transactions of cycling apparel priced over 2,000 yuan surged 11-fold.
Why is cycling appealing for consumers? Especially with shared bikes readily available everywhere in China, why are Chinese consumers still opting to purchase pricey bikes?
Some value bikes for convenient commute. Zhu Yifan who works in Shanghai recently bought a 2,000-yuan bike for daily commute. Her office is only 10 kilometers away from home. For her, the subway is uaually unbearably-crowded and the taxi costing too much. Instead, the lightweight folding bike could offer convenience for work travel.
Some buy mid- and high-end bikes for fitness exercise. For “cycling buddy” Li Zhi in his fifties, biking is a great way to stay fit. “Cycling is a full-body workout and is helpful for vulnerable joints like knees. It also helps improve cardio and overall body function,” Li said.
Taking fitness as the main aim, Li has high requirements for bike frames. As he often cycles across hilly terrain, the man needs lightweight, rigid frames with outstanding climbing performance. “They offer greater comfort during rides though they are more expensive,” he said.
Hu Muquan from Changsha, central China’s Hunan province rides every week, logging over 100,000 km in the past decade. His high-intensity cycling requires high standards for bike quality. Hu says quality bikes could provide better performance and avoid breakdowns or delays from repairs.
Meanwhile, many see cycling as a novel social activity. Cao Yu, who runs a cycling club in Beijing, said the club currently has 300 to 400 active members and boasts monthly revenue of hundreds of thousands of yuan. Beijing has nearly 10 similar cycling clubs mixing social and retail aspects, he said.
“Many people born in the 1970s and 1980s have become cycling enthusiasts, who often ride in groups to explore the nature or cruise in cities at night, immersing in the urban energy and crafting their own scenery,” Cao told People’s Daily.
The swing in demand toward more costly and advanced bike models comes from the improved supply capability, in particular, better materials, manufacturing, quality and after-sales support.
Xu Qiang, manager of a store in Beijing’s Tongzhou district under Chinese bike manufacturer XDS, noted that most mid- and high-end road bikes now use disc brakes over rim brakes for better feel and brake force, and they also look better with internal cable routing.
He said these bikes come with carbon fiber frames, which are both rigid and lightweight, and they also boast better after-sales services and technical support.
According to him, his store has an inventory of relevant products that triples that from a year ago.
Zhang Wenzhong, researcher at the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, believes mid- and high-end bikes can satisfy people’s diverse mobility and fitness needs, providing new opportunities for the bike industry’s transformation and high-quality development.
“Now the fitness and sporting attributes of cycling are more pronounced, and the ethos of green transportation more deeply-rooted. It reflects China’s rapid economic and social development and improvement in people’s living standards,” Zhang said.
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