The Easter weekend may be short on sunshine but one tribe of Britons will be out in force regardless - the cyclists, ready for a countryside cruise on everything from folding bikes to the fastest and sleekest models.
Both the market research group Mintel, in its latest report on the cycling market, and British Cycling, the national governing body, say there has been a huge growth in the number of sportives - organised events where riders are set a time to cover a certain distance.
Last year, 380 sportives were registered with British Cycling, with more than 100,000 people taking part. That represents a 240 per cent increase in such events over the past five years.
More than 76,500 people have entered non-competitive events such as sportives so far in 2015, suggesting a record-breaking year ahead.
Mark Trott, who organised cycling events for a charity for several years, oversaw his first sportive as a solo enterprise on Good Friday just outside Folkestone. "All sorts" had registered to take part, he said. "There's a contingent that just want to go round as fast as they can, but for most it's a social event."
Mintel says the popularity of sportives has boosted the market for road bikes, many of which come with high price tags and expensive add-ons such as disc brakes and electronic gears.
Although the road bike market comprised less than 10 per cent of total sales by volume in 2014, the market report noted, it made up as much as 25 per cent in terms of value because the average selling price of road bikes was higher than other types.
The total number of bikes sold has changed little over the past five years. In 2014, Britons bought about 3.25m bikes, roughly the same as 2010 though a 10 per cent increase on the previous year.
Overall value has jumped by 42 per cent over the past five years, however, to reach more than £950m in 2014. "Rising average selling prices reflect recognition on the part of consumers that they get what they pay for," said Michael Oliver, Mintel's senior leisure and media analyst.
The tabular content relating to this article is not available to view. Apologies in advance for the inconvenience caused.Jonny Clay, cycle sport director at British Cycling, said the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Laura Trott and other successful athletes, as well as the popularity of events such as the London Olympics and the British stages of the Tour de France, had spurred thousands to clamber on to two wheels.
At the beginning of 2012, British Cycling had 42,500 members; by the end of January 2015 it had surged past 100,000. Cycling events across the board, including road races, mountain bike events and BMX contests, are on the rise, up by more than 50 per cent since 2008.
Indeed, some areas such as the New Forest and parts of Surrey now have so many sportives that local residents have taken to protesting against the volume of cyclists.
Mintel says more than a third of UK adults are classed as "current riders", people who ride a bicycle, regardless of the frequency with which they do so, while that rises to more than half among 18 to 34-year-olds. Eighteen per cent cycle weekly or more often.
"All the ingredients are in place for market growth" over the next few years, said the report, noting increasing costs of other forms of transport and investment in cycling infrastructure.
Edward Bonham-Carter, vice-chairman of the fund manager Jupiter, which runs an annual cycling event in London, has been commuting by bike in the capital for more than 30 years. He said the experience has become safer and "much more pleasant".
But after his Cannondale hybrid bike, which he had "blinged up" with expensive components, was stolen, he extolled the virtues of borrowing his wife's more traditional "sit-up-and-beg" model. "If you're hunched over on a road bike you can't see the cars and the car doors opening," said Mr Bonham-Carter, who like almost 1 in 10 UK cyclists surveyed by Mintel has been knocked off by another vehicle.
Two-thirds of British Cycling members spend less than £1,000 a year on their cycling but a few, about 4 per cent, will spend between £3,000 to £5,000 annually. A fully customised carbon-fibre or titanium bike can cost much more, however, and a five-figure price tag is no longer unusual.
"It's like golf," said Mr Clay. "You can spend a lot of money if you are so inclined."
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