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Updated: June 5, 2012 09:23 IST

Feeding the cycling fad is a pricey products line

Deepa Kurup
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This imported bicycle costs a little under Rs. 5 lakh.
This imported bicycle costs a little under Rs. 5 lakh.

Rise in import duty leads to up to 25 p.c. hike in cycle prices

Outside a popular, high-end, multi-brand cycle store near Commercial Street, two men in their late 20s are window-shopping on Sunday evening. One works in a leading investment banking firm and the other is “between jobs” in the technology sector.

The techie says he owns a “decent and hot” pair of wheels, while his friend is a newbie to the world of adventure cycling. The cycles they're eyeing are priced a little under Rs. 1 lakh, but there are other imported geared bikes that can cost up to Rs. 1.9 lakh, the shopkeeper lets on. Prodded further on why cycling, as opposed to other sports or hobbies, and the newbie concedes that he's “inspired” by some colleagues who have started cycling to work. “It's environmentally friendly,” he says, while the old hat nods, throwing in words like “saving energy” and “fitness”. The shopkeeper quips that the way petrol prices keep rising, “very soon” there will be no option but to cycle.

While some cycle to reduce their carbon footprint and others are simply driven by their passion for the sport, the fact is that cycling today is an expensive hobby, or option, especially if you are serious about it. Prices of geared cycles start around Rs. 7,500, and can go over a few lakhs.

Global brands

The entry of global manufacturers — with many major brands retailing here or operating through tie-ups with Indian companies — selling advanced and high quality bikes has, perhaps, fuelled a surge in interest in cycling.

Of course, a whole new swanky product line has sprung up around this, and yes, there's a small, niche but loyal clientele for it. Locks, for instance, shopkeepers point out, are essential and sometimes are “hi-tech” and digital, and can cost up to Rs. 2,000, two-thirds of the basic, no-frills bike. Helmets too can be expensive, with the more sophisticated ones coming with light bulbs for night vision. Browsing through the line of accessories, it's very much like any other serious sport — specialised kit bags, cleaning equipment, branded cyclist's attire, masks (with filters to beat pollution) and cyclometers (that can cost up to Rs. 15,000, depending on how much detail it can record and display).

Import duty

At the high-end, foreign-made bicycles are now pricier by up 25 per cent. The falling value of the rupee is likely to take this hike up to 50 per cent in the coming months. But it is not just imported cycles that have become expensive. Parents complain about digging deeper into their pockets for children's models also.

Since last March, after the import duty on bicycles (10 to 30 per cent) and bicycle components (10 to 20 per cent) were increased, Indian cycles also have got pricier. While high-end bicycles saw a 10 to 25 per cent price surge, depending on the type of cycle, the regular gearless cycle — the common man's mode of transport — is costlier by nearly 20 per cent.

Up, up and away

Maqsood Khan, whose family has been in the cycle selling business on Dispensary Road for over seven decades, says the simple cycle has become costlier by almost Rs. 1,000.

While these are not imported, local manufacturers tend to import components or spares. Many spare parts, mostly safety-related ones, are imported. His manager says sales in the high-end segment have remained flat, no doubt impacted by the price hike, low-end cycles continue to do well.

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