How do brands sell their bikes?

One of the projects in our road map is to develop a global view of all of the bicycle brands competing for consumer’s attention. A consequence of this is that we get to shed light on how different brands choose to distribute their products. We’ll begin with a brief look at the US market, then pivot to show the contrasts in the Australian market.

The chart above shows just how many brands are competing in the US via DTC approaches. Keep in mind that this is the number of brands, not how many units they sell. 80%+ of the more than 900 brands in the US bicycle market sell bikes direct to consumer. Whoa, that’s a big figure! Compare that with 44% in IBD and 21% in ROM. That’s a lot of jargon we threw your way, so lets pause here and define them.

  • IBD – Independent Bicycle Dealers. These are what most people would think of as a bike shop. For the purposes of our data, we include all bicycle dealers, whether they are owned by a bicycle brand or by a local entrepreneur.
  • ROM – Rest of Market. This has been defined by the Circana (formerly NPD and Leisure Trends) as mass merchants, Amazon first party, and online retailers.
  • DTC – Direct to Consumer brands sell their bikes directly from their owed websites, with physical inventory in the united states.

Naturally, this leads to the question of how large each of these markets are in total bike units and dollars. People For Bikes is the best source for this information. They provide their members with access to aggregate Circana data on IBD and ROM. Our company, Bicycle Market Research, has been working with People For Bikes to develop DTC and Second Hand bicycle market monitors in order to clarify how large these previously unknown segments are. In her 2024 overview, Jenn Dice, People For Bikes’ CEO announced plans to release some of this data in 2024. So stay tuned, and become a member if you’d like to benefit from greater insights into the US market.

Next, lest pivot to the Australian market to show how a much smaller market compares in their distribution.

Serving the ~ 25m population of Australia are 230 distinct bicycle brands. Although this is small compared to the 900+ brands in the US market, it does represent a brand to population ratio. In the US, there are ~300,000+ residents for each brand in the country. Australia is less than half of that at ~110,000 residents per brand. This makes competition between brands more challenging.

Looking at the Venn diagram at the top of this article, we see the channel distribution choices made by Australian brands. Here we have grouped IBD and ROM into a Retail category. Overall, 31% of brands choose to distribute via the Direct to consumer channel, while 85% distribute through retail. These ratios hold steady when we filter for brands selling electric bikes. These ratios are dramatically different than seen in the US. If we look at the breakdown by category below, we can see some strong differences between DTC and Retail markets in Australia.

While ~60% of brands offer electric bikes, regardless of channel, this diverges with Road and Mountain bikes. Here, traditional retail is much more likely to offer these bikes than DTC brands. This continues to a lesser degree in other categories. As most would guess, only a small portion of brands offer folding bikes. What was a surprise is how few brands offer kids bikes. This is because there is a long tail of specialist brands who focus on one area of the market. Those would offer a wide array tend to be more established and likely take a large share of the kids bike unit sales due to their better brand representation.

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