Fewer kids are riding and buying bicycles, and the industry is worried

Bicycles produced in China are lined up for sale in a Target store in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By Jacob Bogage
June 4

Children’s bicycle manufactures and retailers are bracing for rough times ahead as market research shows fewer kids are riding bikes, while prices for cycling equipment are almost certain to increase because of the Trump Administration’s tariffs on Chinese-made goods.

The number of children ages 6 to 17 who rode bicycles regularly — more than 25 times a year — decreased by more than a million from 2014 to 2018, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. That includes both casual rides around the neighborhood and more serious cycling for fitness or competition.

And from 2018 to 2019, children’s bicycle sales decreased 7 percent in dollars and 7.5 percent in bikes sold, a drop serious enough that retailers have already goosed prices to make up for lower demand, according to market research firm NPD Group.

It’s all caused the American bicycling industry — worth $5.6 billion, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association — to hunker down in preparation for things to get worse.

The Trump Administration has imposed a 25 percent tariff on $250 billion of Chinese goods, and has threatened to more than double the duties. Those tariffs impact almost every component that goes into a bicycle, from metal frames to fabric seats, plus entire bikes shipped to the U.S. after being assembled in China. Retailers largely pass those costs off to consumers, said Brian Nagel, managing director and research analyst at investment bank Oppenheimer. That could substantially raise the prices of items on the shelves, including bicycle accessories such as helmets, lights and gloves..

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