Trendspotting 2022: Gravel, a transport revolution, and the Olympic legacy

BikeBiz editor Alex Ballinger gets insight from industry leaders on the hot trends for the coming year

Cyclists are a fashionable bunch.

Whether it’s the latest downcountry innovations in mountain bikes, an additional gear on road bike groupsets, or the ever-blossoming e-bike category, there is always a new trend for the cycling industry to watch closely, but how can you tell which fashions will truly capture the imagination of cycle consumers?

To help you cut through the noise, BikeBiz has grilled industry leaders, from bike brands, to kit manufacturers and retailers, to see which trends are most likely to define the industry in 2022.

E-bikes and transport
As the bike industry hopes to see the continued benefits of a surge in cycling during the pandemic, there is a wave of new bike riders who have discovered all the joy of two wheels.

These emerging consumers may only just be testing the waters when it comes to bikes and accessories, but we are likely to see a clear trend as more people opt for the bike as their means of transportation and enjoyment.

Matthew Atkinson, head of cycling strategy at Frasers Group, parent company of high street chain Evans Cycles, said: “Lockdown is over and people are continuing to return to the office. We’re seeing more people choose pedal power as their preferred mode of transport, giving them the freedom to move about easily and also avoid any congested crowds on public transport.”

This surge in popularity will also boost the number of people riding bikes who would not consider themselves ‘cyclists’ – everyday riders using their machines to meet friends, enjoy the landscape, and reduce their carbon footprint, but without commitment to buying all the gear.

New technology is also likely to be a significant factor in the buying habits of these more casual consumers, particularly in the e-bike market, as power assisted bikes get lighter, with longer battery life, and as the price points continue to become more accessible.

Symon Lewis, head of UK PR at Specialized, said: “We are very excited to be talking to new riders in the leisure and transport space. It is very important to help provide those seeking to replace their short car or public transport journeys not only with a bike but with such an amazing riding experience that it becomes a life-changing moment where they can’t think about using anything else for shorter journeys.

“Specialized Turbo [e-bikes], especially in the active space, have been really making an impact to new and existing riders. The motor and battery is part of that story but the innovation in the systems that we use helps for a far better riding experience. From better security with Turbo System Lock, road user awareness with tech like Garmin Radar, to the Mission Control App, these all help riders get the best from their bikes, whether that is bike care, tailoring the bike to you, or safety.”

Discipline is key
Along with the new cyclists, there are a number of trends that industry leaders expect to continue to grow for core consumers – most notably in more niche disciplines.

Indoor cycling is expected to be one of the key disciplines with huge room for growth, with new additions to the indoor-specific clothing market, new turbo trainers on offer, and the continued rise of virtual racing.

Atkinson explained how Evans expected the area to boom: “Indoor training has so many benefits as it’s not just about the weather but also convenience and the comfort of riding in your home. It’s also accessible to all, so whether you’re a complete novice or hardened Zwift racer, you can go it alone or join online communities from around the world.”

Following on from British success in the Olympics, Evans is also anticipating a resurgence in the BMX market, both in the racing and freestyle disciplines, while the success of Team GB in the Tokyo Paralympics could also inspire authorities to build a network of inclusive cycling facilities, Atkinson said.

Gravel riding, a hybrid of performance road cycling, touring, and off-road riding, has recently emerged as a mainstream discipline and continues to appeal to consumers from across the markets.

While it’s easy to dismiss gravel as an industry marketing trick, off-road riding is clearly appealing to consumers at a more existential level, offering safety away from the roads, a new opportunity to explore, and replacing performance-focus with a more simple enjoyment.

Specialized has been one of the bike brands at the forefront of innovation in gravel, with its Diverge and revamped Crux ranges, for longer and shorter adventures respectively. On Specialized’s focus on gravel, Lewis said: “Gravel as a category is only going to get bigger with riders wanting to explore more than just their local and conventional roads.

“Riders are seeking adventure and want to ‘Diverge’ from the norm. Not only in the sense of escaping busy roads but the pressure to go hard or perform all the time. Gravel/Adventure as a category seems to allow more riders to enjoy all aspects of cycling (group riding, the outdoors, skill, fitness) and the ‘Crux’ of it, even the seasoned roadies want to have a bit of that too!”

Fashion for the future
Simon Mottram, the outgoing CEO of cycling apparel leader Rapha, believes there are some shifts in clothing we might see in the bike trade in the coming year, influenced both by consumer tastes and by some big-name additions to the market.

In clothing, Mottram said gravel will be a focus for many kit manufacturers, as consumers and brands continue to define the aesthetic. Mottram also foresees innovation in footwear and helmets, as there has been little change to those aspects of the market in recent years: “In footwear, it’s interesting to see Nike and Adidas coming back in.

“It makes everything else look a little boring. So I think there’s some fun to be had with footwear, as well as some technology changes.” Mottram says the current tightening systems on cycling shoes need to be revamped, with speed laces a potential option for innovation.

He added: “I think with helmets, we have the age-old problem of how do you make a helmet look good and how do you make it smaller but safer? I think if somebody cracks that and gets into the mind of a consumer – I’m looking forward to that.”

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