Following China’s rapid and drastic urbanization, what was known as the “Kingdom of bicycles” has seen many people discarding their bicycles in favor of cars or motorcycles. However, following China’s environmental issues and traffic jams, many people have decided to use their bicycles again. These past few years, some companies have even specialized in shared bikes. With a young generation that is conscious of environmental damages as well as concerned about their health, the bicycle industry is a promising market and has a lot of potential for foreign brands that want to enter the Chinese market.

China: Manufacturer of the World

Chinese workers on their way home, a decade ago

For a long time, China was only known as the manufacturer of the world, exporting tons of goods worldwide thanks to its large working population. We all have seen those pictures ten years ago, with hundreds of workers coming back to their dormitory using bicycles. However, China has changed a lot during this last decade, becoming the second economy in the world after the U.S. China is not only the manufacture of the world anymore, but it has become a whole industry of new technologies and futuristic innovations.

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According to the data published by the United Nations Statistics Division, China accounted for 28.7% of the world’s manufacturing output as of 2019. It places China 10% ahead of the U.S, which used to have the world’s largest manufacturing sector until China overtook it in 2010. Nowadays, the manufacturing sector accounts for more than 30% of China’s total economic output.

The Bicycle Industry in China

‘Flying Pigeon’, one of the most popular bicycles at the time

Back in the 1970s, owning a bicycle like the “Flying Pigeon” or the “Phoenix” (two of the most popular bicycle models at the time) was a synonym of high social status and pride. However, following China’s rapid growth over the years, wages have increased in Chinese have a higher purchasing power than before. Thus, instead of buying bicycles, luxury cars have become more popular and more affordable. Therefore, during a few years, the bicycle industry was in decline, as consumers didn’t want to use bicycles anymore.

Recurrent traffic jams in China (© Quartz)

However, the Chinese population is now conscious of China’s environmental footprint and pollution. Thus, a lot of Chinese citizens are now more inclined to use bicycles. According to China’s Cycling 2020 Big Data Report, China’s population continues to grow, but the growth rate is slowing. The growth of the population scale has increased the potential user base of the bicycle industry to some extent. The data shows that in 2019, China’s cycling population accounted for only 0.3%, far lower than the 5.0% level in developed countries. This means that China is a little bit far behind other countries, but it also means that the cycling industry has a huge potential for growth.

Meituan Bike (© istockphoto)

Commuting by bike became the most popular way in early 2020 when companies in China’s major cities just resumed work. The big data of Meituan (sharing economic bikes in China) shows that since the resumption of work and production in Shenzhen, the order volume of Meituan bikes in Shenzhen has increased by 49% compared with that before the resumption of work. From the perspective of travel distance, the average cycling distance of users has increased by 60% compared with before, and the average cycling time has reached 25 minutes. This shows that more and more commuters are using bikes to make longer commutes. Nowadays, it is estimated that 19.4% of the Chinese population uses a bicycle to commute from home to work.

Covid-19 impact on the Chinese bicycle industry

Like in many countries in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped industries, business models, and habits. Thus, it has fueled the demand for bicycles in China and has also propelled exports all over the world. As a matter of fact, Chinese citizens wanted to avoid public transportations because of the virus, which contributed to the boom of bike-sharing for example. These bike-sharing companies are extremely profitable as they are using AI technologies in order to offer more tailored services. Thanks to AI, they can put bikes only where they are needed so as to reduce their overall number. It also means that it is easier for users to find a bicycle using geolocalisation.

How the industry has adapted to Chinese consumer’s new habits?

Following Chinese citizens’ news habits in terms of living and purchasing power, the bicycle industry had to innovate in order to attract the younger generation for example. It led to a lot of innovations, from bike sharing to e-bike. Companies were able to follow the overall digitalization of the Chinese market by putting new technologies within their bikes.

Bike Sharing in China

Over the years, Chinese consumers seem to be embracing the sharing economy to a larger degree than the citizens of many Western countries. For example, if we look at the percentage of Chinese citizens that are ready to use shared bikes, it represents 24%, compared to only 6% for the U.S. Only 43% of Chinese consumers were rejecting the idea of a (long term) rental outright. 

China E-Bike Market

Driven by several initiatives and laws from the Chinese government encouraging green technologies, the Chinese e-bike market has been in a constant growth these past few years. What we call e-bikes, or electric bicycles, are in fact equipped with an electric motor which makes it easier to pedal. They are really popular among Chinese consumers, as they are energy-efficient, cost-effective and less expensive than fuel-powered cars and motorcycles.

Hellobike connected bicycles in China

Nowadays, e-bikes are gaining popularity in China, especially among the younger generation that wants to use them for activities and sports. They are equipped with smart batteries and linked to applications using big data. They were mainly popularized by shared bikes’ companies such as Hellobike (from Alibaba), Meituan Bike (formerly Mobike), and Qingju Bike (from DiDi).

China’s Cycling Tourism

Even though cycling tourism is quite popular in many countries in Europe for example, you know that China is one of the largest countries in the world, so it means that the distances are way longer than here. However, following the Covid-19 pandemic, many Chinese people who weren’t able to travel outside of China were able to do cycling tourism within China.

Most popular destinations in China for cycling tourism

Cycling in Yangshuo (© China Discovery)

According to a report, scenic routes in the suburbs of China’s first and second-tier cities, including Miaofeng Mountain in Beijing, Longquan Mountain in Sichuan, Yuelu Mountain in Hunan, Three Hill steps of Gele Mountain in Chongqing, and Longjing Climbing in Zhejiang, have become the most popular cycling routes in their respective provinces and cities. Cycling around Taiwan Island, Chongming Island in Shanghai, Hainan Island in Hainan Province, and Huandao Road in Xiamen, Fujian Province, became the most popular cycling routes in China.

Advertising your bicycle’s company

You have to know that if you want to sell your bikes in China, you shouldn’t use the same marketing strategy as in Western countries. In fact, the Chinese market is a little bit different from what you might be accustomed to, so it’s important to understand it beforehand.

In China, the most popular way of discovery is the word-of-mouth. Thus, you can use social media platforms to attract Chinese consumers and promote your brand. If they are satisfied, they’ll talk about it with their friends through social media like WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, etc.

If you want to know how to do advertising in China, you can read our full article:

We will help your business thrive in China

Over the years, we were able to enhance our services and strategies in the Chinese market. We have had multiple experiences in a diversity of fields, as well as many successful collaborations. However, all companies are different and require a specific approach. So, do not hesitate to contact us so that we can discuss your projects to give you the solutions that you will need. Our experts will do the best they can to help you enter successfully the Chinese cycling industry.

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