Visiting the London Bike Show, transport correspondent Robert Wright finds cycle brands are hoping that fast-improving e-bike technology will attract new customers and give a lift to the UK’s stagnating bike sales.
Produced and edited by Petros Gioumpasis. Filmed by Charlie Bibby.
I've ridden my bike today down to the London Bike Show, one of the UK's biggest annual exhibitions of what's new and exciting in the world of bicycles. And I'm here to answer a mystery. The UK's bike sales have been stubbornly stuck the last few years at around 3 and 1/2 million a year. The question I want to answer is, is there a technology out there that can get those sales figures moving again?
Here, inside the Bike Show, as you might expect, there's no shortage of the kind of eye-catching, high-end bike that many people would associate with recent years' boom in sport cycling. Among them is 8,000 pound bike, which weighs just five kilos. But however eye-catching some of the fancy road bikes or mountain bikes are, there's two outstanding innovations, of which there are many examples at this year's London Bike Show, and are much more practical. And I'm sitting on one of them.
This is a Dutch bakfiets bike, a box bike that's designed to carry a huge amount of cargo. There are many different examples of these kinds of cargo bikes at this year's show. What they do is they transform the carrying power of a humble bicycle.
They are able to carry 100 or more kilos. And what that means is, instead of just carrying yourself, these will carry your children to school, your goods the final mile to your customer. And these are hugely growing in popularity in an increasingly congested Britain.
The even more noticeable area of growth for this year's London's Bike Show isn't bikes like this. E-bikes, bikes that have some kind of electrical assistance for the rider. These bikes are aimed at, perhaps, older people, people who aren't quite as fit, or people who are carrying a really heavy load in cargo bikes, like the ones we saw before. We've seen folding e-bikes, we've seen mountain e-bikes, all kinds of different bikes with one thing in common. That they've got some kind of electrical assistance of the kind I'm about to experience.
Riding this e-bike really is a very different experience from the bike that I rode in on, the normal pedal-powered bicycle. I'm feeling of a very definite assistance from the electric motor in the bike. But for the cycle industry, the key point is less that these bikes have electric motors in them than their cost.
Cargo bikes can cost up to 4,000 pounds with e-assist. A bike like this will easily cost 1,000 pounds. And the hope is that, after years when UK cycle sales have been stubbornly stuck around 3 and 1/2 million, vehicles like this will provide a bit of financial assist, as well as electrical assist to the industry.