Bikes for bonuses as China's wealthy reminisce
By Donny Kwok and Yimou Lee
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Rich Chinese are buying bicycles that cost more than the average citizen makes in three years, motivated by nostalgia for the days when two wheels were the primary means of transport.
China is now the world's biggest auto market, but high-end bike sales are expected to grow by 10 percent a year as they become a status symbol for wealthy executives.
Yu Yiqun, the creative director at an advertising company in the Chinese capital, cycles to work on his favorite bike - a 100,000 yuan ($16,000) hand-made Alex Moulton.
"It might be the only one in Beijing. It's like the Rolls-Royce of bicycles. Very classical, purely hand-made," said the 40-year-old Yu, who has about 35 high-end bikes.
"I remember my father used to ride me to the city in the winter - about 40 km and minus 30 degrees centigrade. Back then, it was a means of transport that fulfilled your dream of travelling afar, which was relatively cheap but required brawn."
Yu symbolizes a new bike culture in China, where wealthy, health-conscious executives are upgrading their lifestyle, in some cases abandoning flashy cars and taking to the road on high-end bicycles that can cost more than a car.
"Demand for mainstream luxury items such as premium cars, watches has come to a point of saturation. High-income groups now turn to high-end bikes to show off the uniqueness in taste and healthy lifestyle," said Zhou Jiannong, general manager of Rbike Networks Ltd in China.
Analysts estimate about 10 percent annual growth in the Chinese bicycle market over the next few years, with the high-end segment forecast to grow by as much as 15 percent a year. Continued...