The rise in the popularity of cycling in the UAE has led the regional manager for the bicycle designer and retailer Boardman Bikes to alter his business plan.
Jason Bryan only brought the Boardman brand to the country in January last year and started trading in April. Boardman bikes are a stalwart of the United Kingdom’s cycling scene, branded eponymously with the Olympic gold medallist and breaker of Eddy Merckx’s 28-year-old record for the longest distance raced in one hour – Chris Boardman.
While the gold medal assured Boardman of national fame in the UK, Mr Bryan was not sure of his standing in the international arena and set about a conservative plan to build the brand and the business. But that has now changed.
Cycling has become one of the most visible pastimes in the UAE over the past few years, with The National launching its Cycle To Work initiative and tracks opening in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Private tracks such as the Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit have opened their doors for free for one or two nights a week, respectively, for cyclists of all ages to use in a safe, regulated arena.
“I could not have hoped for a better first year,” said Mr Bryan. “Dubai’s Al Qudra cycle track, Al Wathba in Abu Dhabi and Yas Marina’s Sunday and Tuesday cycle sessions have boosted cycling’s profile in the UAE. I was expecting to sell 25 bikes in the first year as I built knowledge of the brand and the performance of our bikes, but in only nine months of trading I have sold nearly 200 bikes across the GCC.
“While we are significantly cheaper than our competition in what we offer, we still have some very expensive kit – our elite bikes can go for Dh52,000 and higher – but the market has been incredibly receptive.”
While Boardman offers two types – its aluminium bikes start at about Dh4,000, while the carbon fibre range starts at about Dh8,000 – 65 per cent of his sales have been close to the Dh15,000 mark. Boardman’s range was being sold online through the regional e-commerce platform Souq.com, but the margins it demanded meant its own website, Boardmanbikes-me.com now carries the full range of products instead.
“I have taken over a shop behind the Mall of Emirates, formerly ProBike, that will be the home of Boardman Bikes,” says Mr Bryan. “The possibility for people to see the cutting-edge designs, carbon-fibre styling and weight of the bikes will give the brand a visibility we were lacking.”
The reason cycling has become a challenge to the more sedate game of golf is summed up by a former professional cyclist who is now a manager at ProBike.
“Cycling is more than a sport. It’s a lifestyle that offers fitness, community and competition,” says Paul Cheetham. “Cycling is a brilliantly healthy way to meet and mingle with other like-minded people, and the range of bikes and accessories means you can always strive for something better.”