UK bicycle imports lowest since the turn of the century, e-bikes hit 12% of market’s imports

Imports of bicycles into the UK are significantly down by volume, but less so by value, new data from the Bicycle Association GB has revealed.

The buoyed value of imports is, as expected, down to the proliferation of the electric bikes, now worth over 12% of the value of all combined imports.

A worrying trend of decline hasn’t eased in recent years and for the first time this century it is entirely possible that if numbers don’t pick up in the remaining quarters that the UK’s shipments in could dip below 2.5 million units for 2017.

Imports have been in decline since 2014 when north of 3.5 million bikes landed on UK shores. Emphasising the market shrinkage, in 2010 that figure was closer to 4 million.

This year’s second quarter imports , excluding e-bikes, declined by 11% year-on-year, representing around 170,000 units. That figure is a 30% decline on Q2 2015 figures and a quarter lower than the average for levels between 2010 and 2016.

Tracking the year to date, imports are down 13% on the same 2016 period, representing around 210,000 units.

The trend is however not too dissimilar from the rest of the EU, with Eurostat data showing an overall decline in regular bike imports of just over 10% in 2016 on 2015 levels. Given the UK’s large market for bicycles, the contribution does however weigh heavily on these figures.

The Bicycle Association attributes some of the decline to the value of Sterling falling, with the unit trends mimicking the USD exchange rates. The Association has however called on its members to offer more insight and encourages new members to further contribute.


Total values for pedal cycles landing in the UK for the second quarter saw a 4% decline on 2016, equating to around £3.8 million.

Meanwhile, year-to-date imports are 3% down on the same 2016 period, valued at around £5.4 million. This further represents a 15% dip on the 2015 peak in value.

The average unit value has however continued to increase, supporting CI.N research set to be published in our Q4 Trade Journal. The average unit value at the end of Q2 2017 comes in at £144 per unit at the time of landing, some 17% higher than 2016’s like-for-like figures. The Bicycle Association attributes this in part to the fall in the £ sterling, making imports around 16% more expensive over 2015 levels. 10% of this is since the Brexit vote.

Electric Bikes

A silver lining to a downward trend is the electric bike movement within the data.

Improved coding in the way HMRC documents electric bike shipments makes up for what was widely believed to be erroneous data in the past. This makes comparison a touch harder, but putting aside the late 2015/early 2016 spike, there are positive signs.

Imports of e-bikes were similar to 2016 levels, which is assumed to be in part bolstered by the ambiguous HMRC coding. Around 21,000 e-bikes landed in Q2 of 2017.

Confirming the prior year’s data to contain errors, the value of bikes landed hit over £13 million in Q2 of 2017, up from the prior year’s disputed sub £5 million. Imported units average value has increased from under £300 in 2016 to around £650 in 2017; much more in line with expected costs of an e-bike.

Members of the Bicycle Association can now access the full dataset, including graphs. Simply apply to become a member here.