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Wheels of fortune: luxury and high-end bikes

October 28, 2022

The bicycle. Arguably one of the most versatile vehicles that offers a flexible, environmentally friendly and healthy form of transport.

The global pandemic and the cost of living crisis has brought about a dramatic increase in bicycle sales which has also led to a steep increase in price.

Increased anxiety over public transportation and a surge in exercise meant more people switched to using one of the most basic forms of mobility, leading to a "bike boom".

Between April and September 2020, the UK cycling market enjoyed a 27% rise in sales volume and a 26% increase in average prices compared with the same period in 2019.1

During the pandemic, cycling also broadened its market penetration, with Sport England survey data showing participation rising from 16.5% to 18% of the population: an extra million cyclists on the road.1

Retailers saw an influx of first-time customers, some reporting a new-to-existing customer ratio higher than 70-30.

Trend-setting wheels

Putting the health and transport benefits of cycling aside, bikes are increasingly becoming fashion accessories. Brands such as Stella McCartney2 and Kenzo3 are tapping into the luxury bike market. Last year, Louis Vuitton released its Dodge Charger, for an eye-watering £25,070.4 Featuring top-of-the-range French craftsmanship, with handcrafting and assembly carried out by bicycle handcrafter Maison Tamboite. Who said riding a bike couldn't be luxurious?

Of course, while these designer bikes may look stylish, more practically-minded cyclists will look for functionality, comfort, performance and convenience. A niche market has developed in portable cycles, dominated by the Brompton bike.5 The folding two-wheeler efficiently transforms into a briefcase. Dubbed the "Swiss Army knife of bicycles", commuters can take their Brompton on the train or in the back of a cab and neatly store it under their desk at work.

Positioned as a top-end commuter bike, the Brompton is exported to 47 countries. A bicycle that costs anywhere from £640 ‒ £2,800 can be classed as a luxury good.

Bicycle evolution

The traditional two-wheeler style of the bike has remained unchanged for decades. However, the range of functions high-end and specialist bikes offer is extensive; triathlon models are furnished with "wind-cheating" technology for an aerodynamic ride, while BMX road bikes benefit from stainless steel chainstays and unique tyre treads.

The most recent “kid on the block” is the e-bike. Electric bicycles still require peddling, but riders are assisted with a small, battery-powered motor. It promises an alternative to fuel-guzzling vehicles, an opportunity to encourage new riders, and a way to revolutionise inner-city travel. The e-bike can travel up to 45km/h (28mph),6 potentially replacing fossil-fuel-powered mopeds and motorcycles, with implications for recreation and possibly even the daily commute.

The global high-end bicycle market is undergoing significant technological advances. Manufacturers are not only developing smart bikes, but they're also developing ways to incorporate smart features into their existing ranges. Most e-bikes are fitted with intelligent assistance techniques allowing users to connect their bicycles with their smartphones.7

Want to go up a gear in price?

Over the years, there has been some serious money spent on bikes. Back in 2009, if you had a spare £443,022, you could have cycled away on a special edition Trek Madone. Ridden by Lance Armstrong in the 2009 Tour de France, the Damien Hirst design was commissioned by U2's Bono. However, the bike caused controversy as the butterflies that Hirst lacquered onto the frame were found to be real.8

For a lower-budget option, you might fancy the Aurumania. £101,000 will buy you a gold-plated frame, wheels, spokes, and 600 Swarovski crystals. Auramania also sells a crystal- and gold-adorned wall rack for more than £5,300.9

Protecting your wheels

If you've invested in a luxury or high-performance bike or have a collection in your household, we understand how much it will mean to you. And with the cost and value of luxury bikes on the rise, our Private Clients team can ensure your wheels are protected. We can also help by giving you access to industry experts that carry out regular valuations to ensure you are always best protected. Get in touch with the team or find out more here.


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