Why adult bike sales have surpassed new car sales

Man and woman riding bikes on suburban street

Tianna Nadalin

Posted October 20, 2022

After record sales in 2021, Victoria's bicycle boom shows no signs of slowing down with adult bike sales still 30 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels. 

During the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020, adult bikes outsold new cars in Australia for the first time in more than a decade. 

The latest figures from Bicycle Industries Australia (BIA) and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show that sales of new adult bikes trumped new car sales by more than 12 per cent in FY 20/21, the first time since 2011. While the sales of adult bicycles have dipped slightly, bike sales have remained on parity with new car sales during the 21/22 financial year.

When including children’s bicycles, new bikes have been outselling new cars in Australia for more than a decade, but the spike in adult bike sales is indicative of a wider shift in the way Australians are choosing to get around.

Sales of new bikes over the past 12 months also indicate that cycling's soaring popularity was not just a pandemic-pedalled fad. After a record 1.75 million bikes were sold in Australia in FY 20/21, bike sales for FY 21/22 are still up more than 30 per cent on pre-COVID levels, with Bicycles Industry Australia general manager Peter Bourke predicting another surge ahead of the festive season.  

“Bike sales are still remaining high, and we expect to see strong sales across all categories for the rest of the year,” he said. “Depending on the type of bike, there are still six- to 12-month waits for certain styles and brands.”

Graph showing bikes sales data for the last 10 years

Bike sales are continuing to boom in the wake of the pandemic.


Bourke says these figures highlight Australians’ strong interest in cycling as not only a commuter activity, but a recreational one, too, with the booming popularity of e-bikes helping to break down the barriers for many would-be bike enthusiasts. 

“Without a doubt, e-bikes are the largest and fastest-growing category in the bicycle sector,” Bourke said. “In 2017, there were 9000 e-bikes sold; last year we estimated there were 75,00.

He says e-bikes currently account for about eight per cent of total bikes sales in Australia and expects that number to reach up to 20 per cent over the coming years.  

Bike sales may have lost a little traction since the COVID-19-fuelled boom, but people’s appetite for cycling hasn’t. The latest data from Cycling and Walking Australia and New Zealand (CWANZ)’s National Walking and Cycling Participation Survey shows bike participation rates have continued to surge in the wake of the pandemic, jumping from 34 per cent in 2019 to 41 per cent by the end of 2021. 

We're riding bikes more often

The data shows that more Victorians are riding their bikes more often, over longer distances, bucking a (nearly) decade-long downward spiral in cycling rates. But it’s not existing bicycle enthusiasts driving the trend.

The survey, which is conducted every two years, has revealed a throng of new riders, many of whom haven’t ridden since childhood, are responsible for the shift, with the proportion of people new to riding now accounting for as much as 13.5 per cent of riders (up from 8.6 per cent in 2019).

The most marked increases in participation were reported among adults aged 30 to 49 and children aged under 10, reflecting the increased uptake up recreational bike riding among family units during – and post – the pandemic. 

RACV Senior Manager, Mobility, Julia Hunter says the increase in recreational bike riding related to the pandemic may translate to ongoing increases in both recreational and commuter bike riding. The bike path infrastructure across regional and metropolitan Melbourne has also improved, helping people to feel safer and more confident to jump on their bikes.

Father and child riding bike on quiet street

Bike use outside the city has doubled compared to pre-pandemic numbers. Photo: Getty


Suburban bike paths are booming

Not only are more people getting back on their bikes, a 2021 study from WeRide Australia showed that while cycling in Melbourne’s CBD dropped off due to working from home arrangements, bike use outside the city doubled compared to pre-pandemic numbers. 

Hunter says what the We Ride research tells us is that the largest, and fastest-growing, cohort of bike riders in Victoria is those who are interested in recreational bike riding but are not necessarily experienced cyclists.

“There’s a clear message being sent that people are looking for affordable, sustainable ways to not only get from A to B but also to exercise and enjoy the incredible views around the state.”

As well as an efficiency and safety benefit for cyclists, the WeRide Australia report found the Australian cycling economy supported almost 35,000 jobs and generated around $6.3 billion in industry output.

If you’re new to cycling or an experienced peddler, RACV supports cycling for Victorians of all riding abilities through a specific bike map on the arevo Journey Planning app that uses the latest cycling infrastructure, bike and road data in Melbourne to help cyclists find and plan safer bike routes.

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