WHERE CYCLING was once a necesarry form of transportation, now it is seen as a hip, environment-friendly hobby and a trend that bicycle shop owners are happy about.
Pedalspot managing director Ben Tan agrees that the business these days is better than it has ever been in the last 10 years.
Most of his customers cycle as a hobby and to exercise.
“Being green is the trend now and cycling is an environment-friendly sport.
“There is a 10% to 15% increase in sales every year,” he said.
The Tan family has been in the bike business for decades.
“When we first started, it was not a very profitable business as the volumes were low and not many people were interested in buying bicycles. We only had one or two employees then.
“During the 1985 economic crisis, there was recession and it was hard on business. Later in 1988, it was the rise of the BMX bicycles, partly due to the popularity of the movie E.T.,” he said.
Back then, it was a need, now it is a want.
“During my grandparents’ time, people rode bicycles to get to work, it was their only mean of transport.
“Now, cycling is a lifestyle. It is also a symbol of status: what bikes you own and how many. Some hobbyists can own up to 20, each costing RM30,000 to RM40,000,” he said.
Mountain bikes appear to be the most popular style of bicycle in Malaysia.
Often, beginners start with a mountain bike and later progress to a road bike.
The most expensive model (a limited edition road bike) in Tan’s shop is priced at RM43,000.
He has been operating for 19 years in SS2, Petaling Jaya and also has a branch in Sri Petaling.
It costs him RM130,000 per month to run both his shops. This goes to salary, rent, utility bills, and yearly travel to reward employees.
“We need to earn double the amount to cover costs. Twenty years ago, our monthly nett profit was between RM5,000 and RM6,000; now it has risen to triple that,” he said.
His employees are cycling-enthusiasts too.
“This makes it easier for them when communicating with customers, especially those who are into the sport.
“There are more competitors, so you need more variety to offer customers. Before- and after-sales service is important, too,” he added.
The Star photographer Shahrul Fazry later told me that his friends from Shah Alam, Banting and Klang who are avid cyclists, would travel all the way to Pedalspot’s outlets in Petaling Jaya because of the after sales service.
He recently returned from the Taipei International Cycle Show and there is the Europe Bike Show 2013 to look forward to.
He attends such bike shows to look for new models.
Tan, an avid cyclist himself, advocates cycling as a healthy hobby.
“Done properly, it is definitely good for health. My friend who used to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, is healthier now after taking up cycling as a hobby,” he said.
Well Tan, the owner of Folding Bike Trading, also feels that the increased interest in cycling is has been good for his business.
“When I first started the business three years ago, we had to market our products extensively. Now people will Google and seek out foldable bikes.
“The market is new and growing. According to statistics from various cyclist associations, for 2010 to 2011, there is a 35% increase in overall sales for folding bikes,” she said. Prices start from RM1,200 to RM12,000 at Folding Bike Trading.
“The foldable bikes are just like normal bicycles, but with the added value of easy storage.
“Our clients are from different age-groups; some use bikes for leisure while some use them to compete in races,” she said.
“We are not just selling bikes, we are also into green living. We have been working with shopping malls to prove parking facilities for bicycles.
“Bicycles are not cheap and it is important for cyclists to have a safe place to park their bikes,” she said.
She feels that there is much room for improvement in the infrastructure for cyclists in Malaysia, noting the lack of bicycle lanes or secure locations to park bikes.