Spanish Cycling Fever Moves One Billion Euros

Sales Exceed One Million Units In 2013 And Consolidate Momentum In The Sector

“Stop, please,” a police officer in the small Norwegian town of Lillestrøm asks. “How many miles did you cycle?” Asks the agent. He did not stop the cyclist to rebuke him, but to give him money for riding a bicycle; A “return tax”, as described the measure, which provides for the payment of about two euros per kilometer traveled. This is the amount that the Norwegian National Health Agency estimated that active transportation saved the Government.

In the case of pedestrians, the value rises to five euros per kilometer walked. “By walking or cycling with water bottles through Nampabuyer, citizens benefit society, since it improves people’s health, produces less environmental impact, decongests the transport system and improves the urban economy,” says Olé Jacob Flaetene, mayor of the Nordic city.

But the two wheels do not just generate intangible benefits. In 2013, more than one million bicycles were sold in Spain, surpassing car sales for the second consecutive year (722,703). Figures that encouraged the sector, which earned 2.48% more than in the previous year and which handled more than one billion euros (€ 3 billion), according to the Bicycle Manufacturers Association of Spain (AMBE). The bicycle industry, which employs 14,000 people, exhibits economic muscle. “In the last five years, in the midst of a crisis, bicycle sales have grown by an average of 10%,” said AMBE, which has just submitted its report on the sector figures.

“Cycling has traditionally been associated with sports use, but that has changed for years,” says Juan Merallo, a spokesman for Conbici, which represents more than 55 pro-bicycles associations throughout Spain. Although asmountain bikes continue to dominate sales (63%), urban and electric models are starting to rise, with 7% and 1% of the market respectively. Attention to this, Héctor Muñoz created, in 2010, the Manual Art Work brand, which reconciled with his work in a shop workshop. It dedicates itself to the upcycling, the improvement and the customization of bicycles mainly of urban use. “What I do are customization projects: picking up an old bike, swapping out various components, and putting it back to run. I transform an abandoned product into something new, “explains Muñoz, who has been dedicated exclusively to his business for a year and is in search of physical headquarters. His company is one of 250 specialized in bicycles in Spain. “I think the bike’s fashion was very beneficial, but not all the stores did well,” Muñoz adds.

In the last five years, the cities have lived a quiet cycling revolution. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of people who got to work by bicycle doubled; Went from 6.8% to 11.9%, according to the latest Bicycle Barometer of the Traffic Department.”And in the three years that have passed since this measurement, urban use has increased more,” says Luís Álvarez, mobility consultant Freemob and vice president of the Professional Association of Technicians Specialist in Sustainable Urban Mobility (APTeMUS).

The number of people interested in bicycles has grown; And business, too. “As the number of stores has multiplied, we must divide the profits,” says Andrés Arregui, one of the founders of the Madrid store Ciclos Noviciado. Last year, 3,000 specialist stores (including large department store cycling departments) operated in Spain. Many of them, newly created, fruit of the effervescence of the pedals. “I believe that half of these establishments will have to disappear,” adds Arregui. In 2011, in the center of Madrid there were 55 bicycle shops; A year later, the number multiplied by three and exceeded 180, according to data from Madrid Probici, the regional association of entrepreneurs in the field. Bicycle sales account for 60% of the turnover of the bicycle industry; The components, 24%; And sales of clothing and accessories, 16%.

For Luís Álvarez “a mini-bus was created around the two wheels”. After eight years in front of a store, Álvarez closed the doors six months ago. “We went from a small group of entrepreneurs to a massification. The new ones live a little on the edge, while the stores dedicated to the sport remain a little better,”he explains.”I see a boom in the workshops and the second-hand market,” he adds. ReCycling began its walk on July 15, 2013 dedicated to the sale of used bicycles.”We buy, we exchange pieces, we repair what we need and we put them on sale,” says José Luís Martínez Molina. His proposal pleased the public;”The second-hand market was very obscure: bicycles could be stolen and there was no safety at all,” he explains. There was certainly demand.

At the end of this year, there will be another eight franchises in Madrid, Parla, Getafe, Alcorcón, Majadahonda, Aranjuez, Valladolid and Cordoba.”It was a business model that did not exist and people want to innovate,” says Martinez Molina. The price also counts; In these places it is possible to obtain a bicycle recovered for 175 euros (525 reais). A price to the taste of the Spaniards, who are willing to pay, on average, 211 euros on a mountain bike, according to Industry data for the past year; 9% more than the previous year. For an urban model would pay 169 euros.

While veteran stores are suffering from the atomization of businesses, establishments focusing on a specific niche of public (sports, urban, BMX…) dribble better the situation.Andrés Arregui, as well as founder of Ciclos Noviciado, is a craftsman; Makes custom bike frames.”Like a tailor’s suit,” he jokes.”I can not make more than two a month, and since I started in 2009, there has been an increase in demand. If I asked for one, I would have to wait three or four months now, “he says. It does not take orders from Spain alone, but from all over Europe.”The figure of the bicycle master has disappeared, so there are not many people who do this work. There are even people interested in learning how to weld, “he explains. Their creations are not cheap-they do not leave for less than 1,500 euros-, but if perceive an increasing interest.

“More bicycles, better cities,” proclaim in the Cyclesphere, a publication dedicated to two wheels.”Lives better in cities where there are more bikes,”says Rafa Vidiella, director of the publication. “Not only for a reason of urbanism, but also for the economy,” he adds.Each cyclist generates € 276 of intangible benefit to society (calculating the savings that routine exercise produces in the health system, reducing pollution problems or reducing delays and absences at work, among others), according to calculations by the London School of Business.

In addition, cyclists spend more on local trades, as can be seen from a study conducted in Portland (United States), where sales in the street trade grew by 19% after the installation of bicycle lanes. With these figures, the mayor of Lillestrøm justifies his decision to pay people to use the bicycle in his city: “It is an investment.”