16 February 2009: Cycling and the recession

CC Flickr - seaworthy With the UK mired deep in recession, unemployment on the rise, the value of the pound going down and consumer confidence at an all time low, we ask what effect this is having on the cycling business. We hear from the owners of two of London’s new breed of bicycle boutiques (Tour de Ville and Bobbin Bicycles), from bike messenger Nhatt Attack, who has swapped her bike for a Christiania tricycle and is delivering flowers, from Carlton Reid, cycling journalist and Executive Editor of bike industry magazine BikeBiz.com and from BikeSnobNYC who adds his two pennies from New York.

Play on links below, other file formats (eg. Ogg Vorbis) over here.

  • http://issuu.com/carltonreid/docs/bike_to_work_book_50_page_sampler Carlton Reid @carltonreid

    Hi Jack

    Soooo glad you didn’t use the out-takes of me fluffing my way through currency flip-flops.

    Good to have you back on the air.

  • Nick Dowling

    A couple of points to make about this show. It’s not just the recession that is making people take to their bikes it is also the sense of outrage at the continuing swingeing yearly increases to the price of fares on public transport.

    But I don’t think that the majority of people buying bikes will be purchasing designer models from boutique shops. In part this is because many people will take advantage of Bikes4Work schemes which are usually tied in with a major chain. But also people want something that is practical but not likely to be immediately stolen. For many this means a folding bike.

    I bought a Brompton just before Christmas, for a number of reasons. It is made in Britain so I felt I was supporting the British economy rather than the Chinese or German economy. I don’t need to worry about it being stolen from a rack in a public area outside my place of work as I bring it in with me. If the weather gets so bad that I cannot face the ride home I can throw in the towel and get on a train. And lastly it is a wonderful piece of design engineering.

  • Jack

    Nick, take your point on the fares for public transport – one part of the ‘perfect storm’ that is driving increased cycling.

    But in fairness to Bobbin Bicycles and Tour De Ville, they may be boutiques in style, but they’re offering bikes that are a fair bit cheaper than a new Brompton, or even a new Ridgeback from Evans or one of the chains.

    Bobbin’s Dutch bikes range from £230 (for a basic 3 speed) to £580 for a nice Azor. With lots in between. And if you’ve ever spent a day in Amsterdam, you’ll know that Dutch bikes really are built to last.

    Tour De Ville offer road bikes that are significantly cheaper than road bikes from the chains. And with quality steel frames, they are a long term investment. And by buying a restored classic you’re not only recycling but supporting the “British economy” of bicycle mechanics who do the restorations.

    The bicycles that Bobbin and Tour De Ville both sell are classics in their own way. So too, I’ll grant you, is the Brompton. But the Brompton is not a bike I’d ever ride unless I was certain to make use of its folding capabilities. I do own a Brompton and took it to Brussels on the Eurostar this week. But I don’t find it a particularly thrilling bike to ride. Practical, yes, but not uplifting. Although I always takes delight at the looks I get when folding it up – or better – folding it out.