World Bicycle Day 2022: Will cycling boom continue or was it just a COVID fad?

When COVID hit, the only form of exercise for many was running and cycling which led to a surge in cycling

Jaymin ShahUpdated: Friday, June 03, 2022, 10:40 AM IST
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The COVID-surge for cycling was also fuelled in developed nations by governments and the private sector subsidising the cost of ownership and repairs by providing incentives to people who purchased new bicycles. /World Bicycle Day | freepik

To see cyclists swarming the streets of most major cities in the world is commonplace in today’s age. This has increased post-COVID as a means to stay fit and also to commute amidst harsh lockdowns that are being implemented across the world at various times across the last 24 months

When COVID first hit, the only form of physical exercise allowed outdoors by most governments across the world was running and cycling. This gave birth to a massive surge in cycling across the world. Manufacturers, Brands and stores across the world were not ready to handle this exponential increase in demand for Bicycles. This often resulted in waiting period of 6 months or more to get your hands on the brand of choice for many consumers.

This surge was also fuelled in developed nations by governments and the private sector subsidising the cost of ownership and repairs by providing incentives to people who purchased new bicycles.

United Kingdom for example, announced a dedicated 2 billion pound budget allocated to promote what they call the ‘Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy ‘which broadly covers the following

· the creation of a national cycling and walking commissioner and inspectorate

· higher standards for permanent infrastructure

· getting Doctors to prescribe cycling and exercise

· creating a long-term budget for cycling and walking similar to what happens for roads

In India as well we have seen a surge in demand for bicycles and allied accessories without really any financial incentives from the government. This has been done purely on the back of a strong will on the part of our country to get fit, stay fit and work towards a Healthier India.

The Fit India program launched by the government before COVID contributed to the general populace being more aware about fitness and importance of staying healthy and getting the message across all sections of the society that staying healthy and fit were effective ways of fighting this pandemic.

As we understand the virus better and formulate strategies to fight the virus,the emphasis on general fitness has increased by leaps and bound amongst the general population. Cycling was promoted for children of all age groups who were for the longest period have not beeneligible for any vaccines. This meant that cycling was happening across all age groups and strata of society not only to stay fit but also as a way to effectively counter the virus

As the world seems to be coming out of COVID-led lockdowns and travel restrictions we are seeing automobiles return to roads and edging the cyclists off the roads figuratively speaking. This has had some impact of overall demand of bicycles across the world. However, I believe that people across the world especially in India have become more aware of benefits of staying healthy and are committed more than ever to pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

This urge to stay fit coupled with climate goals that most governments and the private sector is adopting across the world for a greener and healthier future will continue driving more people to take up cycling as aleisure, healthy and commuting activity across India and the world. There has been a general perception that cycling fad was covid induced and shall die out soon, the facts on the ground refute this perception.

One of the biggest learnings to come out of the increase in cyclists on the road is that Indian consumers are quality conscious on par with consumers across the world. International biking brands have one big advantage over local or Chinese imports by way of superior ride quality. There is a direct correlation between the time spent on a saddle with the quality of the Bicycle. This is where international brands contribute directly in increasing the number of cyclists in the country.

It is because of the international brands that Average salaries of mechanics at stores has gone up due to the need to specialist and quality service. This indirectly contributes in uplifting the quality of life and standard of living for the mechanic who for the longest period since independence were paid meagre wages. All the above facts and anecdotal evidence leads us to be confident that demand for bicycles will stay strong in the coming years.

The world is changing One cyclist at a time and this change is permanent. The future of human mobility is leaning towards being pedal propelled to help reach your destination in a more sustainable and healthier way.

(Jaymin Shah is Managing Director, Scott Sports India-a subsidiary of SCOTT Sports SA, a Swiss producer of premium bicycles, motorsports gear, running gear, sportswear, and winter equipment.)

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