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Chain reaction: Cycling gets a luxury pricetag

Cycling has become part of the urban landscape as a convenient and environmentally-friendly alternative to public transport in congested cities. But as more professionals take to two wheels, cycling accessories have become a boon market with enthusiasts spending more on clothing and fixtures than they did on the bikes themselves.

Various companies have stepped into the high-end market: Brooks England sells specialist saddles which can cost as much as €290 ($318) while clothing brand Mr Porter recently sold a dress suit designed by Incotex specifically tailored for cyclists at a price of $1,195.

Kent International bicycles.
Source: Kent Bicycles
Kent International bicycles.

According to research by Mintel, the U.K. market for bike accessories (including parts, accessories and clothing) was valued at £1.25 billion ($1.94 billion) in 2014, compared to £956 million ($1.48 billion) spent on bikes.

The market for accessories has also grown faster, by 28 percent since 2010, compared to 23 percent for bicycles, according to Mintel.

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Michael Oliver, Mintel's senior leisure and media analyst, thinks this indicates that at least some of the U.K.'s 15.8 million cyclists are treating cycling like a high-end, luxury product.

"Cycling is no longer regarded simply as a cheap means of transport, a bicycle is now regarded as a lifestyle accessory, an expression of an individual in the same way as driving a premium sports car or belonging to a golf club," Oliver said in a press release.

"This is positive news for accessory suppliers, because it means that many of their potential customers are not buying on price alone, instead brand, quality and product features are also key factors influencing purchase."

Andreas Kambanis, founder of the website London Cyclist, has also noticed this trend.

"A lot of the traffic on our site is from people comparing high end accessories and clothing," Kambanis told CNBC via email. "In particular people want to know what sets one item apart, so they can see if it's worth investing more."

For example, Rapha, which has developed gear for Team Sky's cyclists, sells a wide range of clothes and equipment at premium prices: a Pro Team softshell jacket from the company costs £200.

"Rapha has certainly seen an increase in sales which corresponds to the Mintel report on accessories spend - last year our turnover was £39m with a 35 percent growth and our year on year sales have increased by over 30 percent every year since 2011," Simon Mottram, founder and CEO of Rapha, told CNBC.

"Customers who love riding and appreciate quality, luxury and comfort are willing to pay for the resulting products," added Mottram.

And it seems that cyclists want to look their very best while out on the roads. High end fashion and cycling have also crossed over.

"When you are spending an hour a day or more on your bike, you start to explore clothing and accessories that are going to make the ride more comfortable, fun and stylish," explained Kambanis. "That's why we've seen such a growth in companies that sell the cycling lifestyle, in particular with clothing that combines style with practicality.

"People are willing to spend a little more, as there's an understanding that the clothes they are buying are going to last longer."


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