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May 6, 2022

America's Shifting Interest in Bikes

By Pattern Data Science / Amazon, Data Insights

Did you know May is National Bike Month? The League of American Bicyclists chose this month, one which signals warmer weather and a return to the outdoors for many Americans, to celebrate getting outside and on a bike.

The third week of the month is designated as National Bike to Work Week, with that Friday holding the title of National Bike to Work Day, which is meant to encourage Americans to keep the car in the garage for their commute and instead take the bike out for a spin.

As the leader in global ecommerce acceleration, we’re constantly curious about the forces that shift in consumer behavior, which helps brands know how to forecast demand for their products, inform product design, and influence marketing strategy.

So, to celebrate National Bike to Work Day, we decided to do a deep dive into the online demand for bicycles and bicycle supplies to answer:

  • When does the most online shopping for bikes and bike gear happen?
  • Which types of bikes and bike gear see the most online demand?
  • Did COVID-19 impact demand for bicycles and bicycle gear?

To find the answers, our data science team analyzed Amazon market demand for bicycles and bicycle gear over the past three years.

Key Findings for Brands:

  • Demand for bicycles and bicycle gear is highest during spring and early summer
    • Mountain and road bike demand is highest during early spring
    • Bike trainer demand is highest in January (resolutions season)
    • Demand for e-bikes surged by 106% during Amazon Prime week 2021
  • COVID-19 had a huge impact on demand for bicycles and bicycle gear
    • Demand for new bicycles of all types was up big in 2020, but returned to at or below pre-pandemic levels in 2021
    • Since the pandemic, demand for bike tires has increased year-over-year
    • Bike jersey demand spiked by 86% during the Tour de France

Let’s dig into the data.

When is Market Demand Highest?

To start out, we wanted to see when Americans are most often shopping for new bikes, helmets, tires, etc. So we examined weekly demand for bicycles and bicycle gear in 2021 and the first few months of 2022.

Demand is low to start the year, and then quickly picks up in early spring. It stays consistently high from April through June, before it starts a slow decline, hitting a low point during the winter months.

The holiday shopping season may be huge for all sorts of items, but clearly not bicycles and bicycle gear.

2022 has brought an even sharper climb from February to March, although that’s more due to January and February of 2022 being much slower than those months were in 2021.

But, do all types of bicycles and gear experience the same seasonal demand? Let’s dig a little deeper.

In 2021, mountain bikes were far and away the most popular item in our analysis. They’re so popular they drew more than twice as much demand last year as road bikes, the second most popular type of bike in the analysis.

Unsurprisingly, universally important types of bike gear are also extremely popular, with bike racks, bike pumps, helmets, and bike shorts all landing the top five most in-demand items.

E-Bikes, a popular new type of bicycle which offers a pedal-assisted electrical boost, fell behind road bikes and just ahead of tricycles.

Next, let’s compare some of these items to see if and how seasonal demand might differ between them.

When is Market Demand Highest by Type?

Let’s start by comparing changes in demand for different types of bicycles:

Springtime is significant for most of the types of bicycles in our analysis, with the major exception being bike trainers, which saw the bulk of their demand come during New Year’s Resolution season early last year.

E-bikes, meanwhile, relied heavily on Amazon Prime Day to drive the bulk of their demand last year, with demand spiking by 106% during the week of the shopping holiday.

Demand for mountain bikes peaks a few weeks earlier than their road bike counterparts, peaking in mid-March as opposed to early April.

Mountain bike demand drops below average a bit earlier in the year than road bikes, but it does see a brief resurgence around New Year.

Tricycles saw the most consistent demand throughout the year, and, unsurprisingly, was the type that saw the biggest holiday shopping bump.

Now let’s take the same view of some popular types of bike gear.

Bike pumps see the first big spike in demand, with a huge surge coming in the final weeks of February.

The rest of the gear in our analysis saw demand steadily climb in early spring, but there’s clearly a more consistent level of demand throughout the summer months for bike gear, as opposed to the bikes themselves, which definitely rely more on early spring.

Bike racks and bike shorts both experienced their biggest weeks of the year during Prime Day, while cycling jerseys clearly rode a huge wave of popularity during the Tour de France.

COVID-19 Impact on Demand for Bicycles and Bicycle Gear

It’s clear that there are significant seasonal trends when it comes to bikes and gear alike, but one thing we noticed in all of the graphs above is that spring 2022 so far has had a slower start than the same time in 2021.

That naturally led us to wonder if 2021 was a particularly big year for biking, and if that was something the pandemic might have driven.

Let’s start by examining the weekly demand once more, but this time starting in January 2020.

The earliest weeks of the pandemic fell during what we now know to be the busy season for bicycles and bicycle gear, but this is clear evidence that demand was particularly high as Americans found themselves staying at home and avoiding public places.

COVID-19 Impact Month over Month

Taking a monthly view allows us to go back even further, so here’s how each month compares starting back in 2019:

Here we see even more evidence that the pandemic brought a massive surge in demand for bicycles and bicycle gear. The first few months of 2020 saw demand at levels nearly identical to 2019, but May and June saw monthly demand increase by 28% over the same months in 2019.

Naturally, we wanted to see if different types of bicycles and bicycle gear experienced different pandemic-related changes in demand.

Bike wheels saw the biggest increase in year-over-year demand from 2019 to 2020, with bike tires also not far behind.

Hybrid bikes and mountain bikes both experienced the largest increase for a specific type of bike, while bike trainers weren’t far behind.

Just about every category saw higher annual demand in 2020 than in 2019, with only bike racks and training wheels seeing demand decrease.

For a clearer picture, let’s wrap up with a closer year-over-year view of some of these categories.

Mountain bikes and road bikes both had a huge 2020, with demand surging in the spring and remaining comparatively high throughout the entire year.

2021, meanwhile, saw demand fall behind pre-pandemic levels for road bikes, while mountain bikes enjoyed a strong spring in 2021, but saw demand return to match pre-pandemic levels.

Bike trainers, meanwhile, saw a massive early spike in demand, leaping to a 120% increase in April 2020 vs. April 2019, as millions of people looked to sort out in-home training options during the beginning of the pandemic.

Demand stayed high throughout 2020, but once again we see 2021 with demand falling at or below 2019’s levels, and 2022 has seen demand reach new lows.

This all suggests that when it came to big-ticket purchases like a new bike, people splurged during the first year of the pandemic, and so we’ve seen an increasingly lower demand for those items each following year.

Although, one big ticket item has had a strong start to 2022:

E-bikes, which didn’t get nearly as huge a bump during the early pandemic, are enjoying a relatively strong start to this year, with demand in March of 2022 outpacing that month from any of the previous years.

COVID-19 Impact on Demand for Different Types of Bicycle Gear

While most types of bicycles saw demand surge in 2020 and then dwindle each following year, that doesn’t mean that cycling is dwindling in popularity. So let’s take this same view for types of bicycle gear.

Here we see more evidence that people are still biking plenty, even though they’re not necessarily in the market for a brand new bike.

The pandemic clearly brought a surge in demand for bike tires, although it didn’t pop up until later in the summer, some months after that initial pandemic surge in demand for new bikes.

2021, meanwhile, stayed consistently ahead of pre-pandemic levels throughout the year, while so far 2022 has seen monthly demand at its highest levels of any previous year.

Bike shorts have also seen demand remain high each year since the pandemic, with demand reaching an all-time high in summer 2021.

The year-over-year view of demand for bike jerseys serves to reinforce the relationship between the Tour de France and demand for this item, as the event was postponed from its usual July date to late September in 2020, which is when we see demand peak that year.

Not all types of gear have enjoyed year-over-year growth, however. Bike helmets, which aren’t as much of a frequent replacement item as tires, have seen trends match closer to the demand for bikes themselves.

A Lesson for Brands

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

Our data shows bicycles and gear surges in popularity as the weather gets nicer, but different types of bikes and bike gear hit their high points at different times of the year.

There’s also very clear evidence that people invested in new bicycles during the first months and year of the pandemic, which has seen fewer and fewer people in the market for an expensive new bike. However, many of those people are still out riding their new bikes, which means more people are in the market for new tires, a new helmet, or other types of cycling gear.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.

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