‘Growing trend’ of people ditching cars for bikes to travel across Bristol - says Southville-based bike shop

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The pandemic saw a huge increase in bike sales across the UK and it seems that the positive uptake of cycling is here to stay in Bristol

With plans for new cycle paths being announced every month and improvements being made constantly to the biking infrastructure in the city, Bristol is seeing a bicycle boom.

In fact, Bristol was recently declared the most cycle-friendly city in the UK by international transport infrastructure firm Colas. Sam Ralton, founder of Friction Cycles in Southville, agrees about how good Bristol is for bikes but feels more could be done to attract novice cyclists.

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The pandemic certainly helped this, though. With less traffic on the roads, many newcomers to cycling got out to give it a go. Fast forward to today and the city has become something of an epicentre for the sport.

But what made the bicycle boom happen? “There are lots of factors at play, I think,” muses Mr Ralton. “The initial lockdown meant people were looking at things from a health and fitness point whereby they couldn’t go to gyms. Cycling became the obvious choice, but now a lot of people have found a real love for it.”

Sam Ralton, founder of Friction Cycles, loves that people are valuing local shops again and getting involved in the community aspect of cyclingSam Ralton, founder of Friction Cycles, loves that people are valuing local shops again and getting involved in the community aspect of cycling
Sam Ralton, founder of Friction Cycles, loves that people are valuing local shops again and getting involved in the community aspect of cycling | Courtesy of Friction Cycles

Covid-19 saw people reevaluate what was important to them, and the cycling community in Bristol has continued to grow as a result. Many bike shops are still seeing high sales and bike enthusiasts like Mr Ralton think the boom is here to stay.

“Sales are definitely still really healthy,” says Mr Ralton. “There’s more interest building for the springtime, and we’re feeling that it’s going to be another really good spring in terms of sales. We are getting lots of enquiries and lots of people looking to buy.”

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One element that makes Bristol see such a bicycle boom is because of the city’s accessibility to brilliant cycleways and out-of-city experiences. There’s also the fact that Bristol is such a green and environmentally aware city, so people are choosing to ditch the car. “The recent price hikes are helping people to reassess and consider other modes of transport,” says Mr Ralton.

“There are a lot of people who drive from one side of the city to the other and who are finding it’s nicer and faster, as well as cheaper, by bike. That’s definitely a growing trend.”

You can rely on Friction Cycles for all your biking needs, from repairs and advice to mountain bikes, e-bikes and children’s bikesYou can rely on Friction Cycles for all your biking needs, from repairs and advice to mountain bikes, e-bikes and children’s bikes
You can rely on Friction Cycles for all your biking needs, from repairs and advice to mountain bikes, e-bikes and children’s bikes | Luc Lacey, courtesy of Friction Cycles

E-bike sales have shot up across the city, with the arrival of the bikes making cycling more accessible to the masses, to different generations, and to those who are put off by the Bristol hills.

Friction Cycles sees a lot of interest in e-bikes and they sell a lot of both e-city and e-mountain bikes. Mr. Ralton thinks they have opened up cycling to people who wouldn’t have considered it before, and it’s making people stick to the sport, too.

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“There’s been a huge growth in mountain biking, as well. We’re lucky to have Ashton Court and Leigh Woods on our doorstep,” says Mr Ralton. “We’re seeing lots of people buying their first mountain bikes. In every direction, there is world-class mountain biking so it’s great for beginners through to those a lot more experienced and people are moving here for the quality of the mountain biking.”

But, due to the knowledge of Bristol being such a bike-happy city, bike theft is an issue. “It’s definitely a problem but we do have a dedicated police team that is dealing with bike theft in Bristol and they are doing some great work - we’re one of the only cities with such a dedicated team,” says Mr Ralton.

So, to continue the positive upward trend of cycling, what can people do to protect themselves from theft? “You do have to be careful. Buy good locks - we recommend people spend 10% of the value of the bike on locks,” says Mr Ralton.

“Don’t leave your bike overnight in Bristol and use good locks in public areas. We’re going to be seeing the introduction of more bikes with trackers to help reduce theft and catch the thieves.”

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