It is amazing to think that there are, today, over three hundred million bicycles in China. A far cry to their popularity as late as the 1940’s when there were only around half a million bicycles in the whole of that country.
What is peculiar is that the Chinese bicycle industry, according to Internet research, seems to have begun in the same way that the British bicycle industry finds itself today. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the bicycles on sale in China were of high quality and imported from Britain, Germany and the U.S., with British bicycle producers exhibiting their machines in China. The early production lines set up by the largest Chinese importers were all from imported components and in very small quantities compared to the numbers of bicycles being ridden and sold in Europe and America.
Today, we have gone full circle. Where Britain and Europe used to supply all of the Chinese market, China is now producing around a staggering 64 million bicycles a year. Surprisingly, though, their export rate is showing some signs of decline. The largest manufacturer of bicycles is Taiwan. Where Britain used to be the supplier of high-quality bicycles into China, it is the imports back into Europe that are high quality, with prices to match. In years gone by, anything imported was always considered of inferior quality and price premiums could be expected on British-made products. While cheap bicycles less than 100 GBP can be purchased online, or within high-street catalogue shops, most high street bicycle shop prices are far and away above this. A recent search of both independent and high street chain bicycle shops showed bicycles priced between 400 GBP and 1,000 GBP, nearly all of which originate from Taiwan, or America.