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Bikes

Finding an eco-friendly bicycle and e-bike, with ethical and environmental rankings of 32 e-bike brands and 37 push bike brands.

We look at carbon emissions, where bikes are made, recycling and repair options, cost of bikes, shine a spotlight on the ethics of the Frasers Group (owns Evans Cycles, Muddyfox and other brands), and give our recommended buys. 

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

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What to buy

What to look for when buying a bike:

  • Is it second-hand? A well-built second-hand bike will outlive a cheap new one, so seek out second-hand options first, including from local charities.

  • Is it from an independent bike shop? If buying new, support your local independent bike shop. You’re likely to get much better customer service, expertise and aftercare.

  • Is the battery right for you? If you are buying an e-bike, it’s a good idea to understand how they work and which battery and motor will be best for the way you ride. Check out the guide from Cycling UK.

Subscribe to see which companies we recommend as Best Buys and why 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying a bike:

  • Do you need to own a bike? If you are not going to cycle often, perhaps consider hiring instead of buying a new bicycle.

  • Will you use your e-bike regularly? On average, e-bikes have higher embodied emissions than mechanical bikes, so don’t buy it if you think you’ll only use it a couple of times before retiring it to the back of the shed for the rest of its life.

Subscribe to see which companies to avoid and why

Score table

Updated live from our research database

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Brand Score(out of 20) Ratings Categories Positive Scores

Our Analysis

Cycling has become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly since 2020 when the Covid pandemic prompted more people to take up cycling for leisure and transport. Following the end of national lockdowns there was a slight dip in cycling activity, but demand for bicycles and interest in cycling remains high.

Demand for e-bikes is also increasing. Currently, around 14% of cyclists in the UK own an e-bike – a figure which has doubled in the last couple of years – and growth looks set to continue.

Over a third of adults in Great Britain are cyclists, with 21% of adults riding at least once a week. However, transport in the UK is dominated by cars. According to the charity Cycling UK, in 2020 cycling represented only 1.8% of all traffic in Great Britain (cars and taxis 73.4%), though this figure was double the average between 2015 and 2019.

Compared to its European neighbours, the UK lags behind on ‘cycling modal share’, i.e. the share of people cycling in comparison to other modes of transport. The UK’s meagre 2% puts it in 22nd place when compared to the 27 countries in the EU. The leader of the pack is the Netherlands, with a cycling modal share of 27%, followed by Hungary (22%), Sweden (16.5%), Denmark (16%), Finland (13.4%) and Germany (11.8%).

How eco-friendly is the cycling sector?

All sectors of the economy have an environmental and social impact – especially those that produce physical goods – which is why we expect businesses to report on and minimise their impact. The last time we examined the bicycle and e-bike sectors, in 2018, we found very little in the way of corporate social responsibility reporting.

Not much has changed this time round, with the vast majority of brands doing little when it comes to reducing their environmental impacts and demonstrating that workers’ rights are consistently respected in their supply chains.

This is something that Trek, one of the first companies to look in depth at its carbon impact, readily admits. Its 2021 Sustainability Report begins with the following admission:

“We make a product that provides a solution to many of the world’s most complex problems – congestion, public health, climate change. But for too long, cycling has been given an environmental pass based on this assumption.”

Bicycle and e-bike brands must address this lack of self-reflection and scrutinise their environmental and social impacts, publish their findings, and lay out plans for how to reduce these impacts.

The market for bikes and e-bikes is growing rapidly, which is fantastic, but brands also need to ensure their products are produced responsibly and sustainably.

Image: bike lane

Pedalling towards a low-carbon future

Using a bike or e-bike for transport is a great way to reduce your carbon emissions. Of course, cycling still has some carbon impact, primarily from the production of the bike and the food required to power the cyclist, but it is far lower than using other forms of transport, particularly petrol and diesel cars. For this reason, increasing bike usage is an essential part of moving towards a low-carbon economy.

Is cycling sustainable? Embodied carbon emissions

Embodied carbon emissions are those associated with a product before it is actually used. In this sense they are fixed and do not increase or decrease with a product’s use. The embodied carbon emissions of a bicycle are primarily related to its manufacture and distribution from factory to customer.

The cycling sector has a poor record on measuring and reducing its carbon emissions.

In 2021 one of the largest brands, Trek, looked at four models (one of which was an e-bike). It found that the average impact was 174kg CO2e per bike, though there was considerable variation between the models, mainly stemming from the different materials and components used. (See table below.)

The embodied emissions of the average car, for comparison, are 6-7 tonnes for a petrol/diesel model and 10-11 tonnes for an electric vehicle.

Embodied emissions of four different bike models
Bike type* Carbon impact (CO2e) Element of greatest impact
Entry level mountain bike 116 kg

Frame assembly (17%)

Fork assembly (15%)

Full suspension mountain bike 153 kg

Frame assembly (18%)

Fork assembly (14%)

Carbon road bike 197 kg

Frame assembly (29%)

Wheel rear (21%)

Electric bike 229 kg

Fork assembly (16%)

Battery (15%)

Source: Trek Sustainability Report 2021. *Trek chose one model from each of these categories for its calculations.

How can you be a more eco-friendly cyclist?

Mechanical bikes do not require fuel in the same way a car does, but they do still need energy generated by the rider. The source of this energy, i.e. what type of food the rider eats, greatly affects the carbon impact associated with riding a bike.

According to scientist Mike Berners-Lee, a well-used and well-maintained bike is about 10 times more carbon efficient than the average petrol car, though only if it is powered by low-carbon carbohydrates.

For example, he calculates:

  • carbon impact of cycling a mile powered by bananas = 40g CO2e
  • carbon impact of cycling a mile powered by cheeseburgers = 310g CO2e.

A meat-eating human cyclist's impact is the equivalent of driving the same distance in an energy efficient car. And if you choose to get all your energy from air-freighted asparagus then the impact of cycling a mile increases to 4.7kg CO2e!

Are electric bikes environmentally friendly?

We looked at the usage emissions of e-bikes and the implications of the battery.

The carbon impact of travelling a mile by a fully electric bike, travelling at 12 mph with no hills or stops is only 3g CO2e – substantially less than travelling the same distance on a mechanical bike. How could this possibly be?

According to Mike Berners-Lee, this is because the energy powering an electric bike is much more efficiently generated than the energy powering the cyclist. For example, solar panels are much more efficient at capturing the sun’s energy than a banana tree – and only a small amount of the energy absorbed by the tree finds its way into the banana, which also has to be transported around the world before it can be eaten. Another important factor is that electric motors are about four times as efficient as human legs at turning chemical energy into bike propulsion.

The difference between mechanical bikes and e-bikes is even more stark if we assume the electricity used to power the e-bike is solely from renewable sources. “If all our electricity was from solar power,” asserts Berners-Lee, “the electric bike would beat the conventional bike by a factor of nearly 1,000.”

There is an important caveat to Berners-Lee’s figures, which is that they are for a fully motorised bike whereas, in the UK, e-bikes must be a hybrid between pedalling and motor power. The actual carbon impact for e-bikes in the UK is therefore somewhere between these figures and those for mechanical bikes, given above.

Of course, there are other reasons to choose a mechanical bike, such as wanting a more intense work-out than you would get if you cycled the same distance on an e-bike. There are also other ethical issues associated with e-bikes, notably the sourcing of the materials used to make the batteries, which is discussed in our updated guide to cars.

Bike batteries and motors

Most e-bike brands do not produce the batteries and motors used for the e-bike, but rely on specialist electronics companies. Major producers of batteries include Bosch, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony, while major producers of motors are Bosch, Brose, Shimano and Yamaha.

Black and white image of bike bell which says 'this bike is my car'

Which brands make e-bikes and push bikes?

This guide covers push (mechanical) bikes and e-bikes. Some brands make both, but some only make one sort.

Bike type Brands
E-bike Adventure; Apollo; Boardman; Brompton – folding only; Cannondale; Carrera; Claud Butler; Dahon – folding only; Dawes; Elswick; Falcon; Focus; Gazelle; Genesis; Giant; Gocycle – folding only; GT; Kalkhoff; Kudos; Lectro; Li-fe – folding only; Muddyfox; Pendleton; Pinnacle; Raleigh; Ridgeback; Saracen; Specialized; Trek; Viking; Voodoo; Woosh.
Mechanical bikes Adventure; Apollo; Boardman; Boss; Brompton – folding only; Cannondale; Carrera; Claud Butler; Coyote; Dahon – folding only; Dawes; De Novo; Elswick; Enigma; Falcon; Focus; Gazelle; Genesis; Giant; GT; Insync; Kalkhoff; Mongoose; Muddyfox; Pashley; Pendleton; Pinnacle; Raleigh; Ridgeback; Ryedale; Saracen; Schwinn; Specialized; Trek; Viking; Voodoo; Zombie.

As with mechanical bikes, e-bikes can be different types such as mountain, road, trekking etc.

Who makes folding bikes?

Folding bikes are particularly useful if you don’t have much storage space or need to take your bike on packed trains. At the time of writing, the following brands offered them:

Mechanical bikes: Adventure, Apollo, Brompton, Carrera, Coyote, Dahon, Dawes, Falcon, Raleigh, Saracen, Schwinn, and Viking.

E-bikes: Apollo, Brompton, Carrera, Dahon, Dawes, Falcon, Gocycle, Lectro, Li-fe, Raleigh,Viking, and Woosh.

Folding bikes don't always mean small wheels - some brands make wheels up to 27", like a standard bike.

E-bike converter kits

If you’ve already got a bike and you’re fed up with arriving everywhere hot and sweaty – or you just want to stop lugging all those bananas around – an e-bike converter kit might be for you.

Converter kits enable you to add a motor and battery to your existing bike and can work out cheaper than buying a whole new e-bike, although there is a wide price range.

Increasing numbers of self-installation models are available, for example Woosh sells several types. Conversion means you can hang on to an old, much-loved bike and avoid the carbon costs of buying a newly-made frame and wheels.

Woman making a bike in factory
Image (c) Joe Sohm, Dreamstime.com

Where are bikes made?

It’s not always easy to find out where bikes are made. On the whole, companies are coy about it, maybe because they’d like their customers to imagine that their bikes are still made by local flat-capped artisans. In reality, it’s much more likely that they’re made in China or Taiwan as both countries are massive producers.

Giant is a Taiwanese company, and its bikes are made in Taiwan and China.

Trek are mostly made in Taiwan by Giant.

Hero bikes (Insync, Coyote, Riddick, De Novo, Ryedale Viking, Lectro) are made in India and Sri Lanka.

Accell Group which owns Raleigh stated in its annual report that its bicycles are assembled and painted in the Netherlands, Turkey and Hungary, but it has a supplier code of conduct in Mandarin, so we assume some parts at least come from China.

Halfords told us that its bikes are currently manufactured and assembled in a number of countries including Taiwan, China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Portugal. Halfords Group brands include Apollo, Boardman, Carrera, Pendleton and Voodoo.

E-bike brands Woosh and Kudos state on their websites that their bikes are made in China.

Are there any British-made bicycles?

Some brands market themselves as British made: Enigma Titanium states that it does “everything under one roof” in its workshop in East Sussex.

Pashley says that its bikes are “hand-crafted in Britain, in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon”; and Brompton states that “every Brompton bike is handmade and quality assured in our London factory.”

While it’s true that many of the bikes are made in the UK, Enigma's Titanium bikes are not, and it’s likely that many of the parts are not. We weren’t able to check this directly with the companies, but government import data showed that all three companies imported parts such as wheel rims and spokes, forks and pedals from outside the EU.

Invisible workers within the cycling industry

Many of the manufacturing countries mentioned above are places where workers’ rights are not always respected and independent unions are weak or banned. We know this because, as well making bikes, they are significant contributors to the garment industry – a sector which has been the subject of scrutiny for over two decades.

It is now common for clothing companies to publish the names and addresses of all their supplier factories, which enables unions, NGOs and journalists to hold them to account for abuses that take place in their supply chains. It doesn’t end the abuses by itself but it is an essential first step.

We hope that, as well as taking their first steps towards acknowledging the impact of their manufacturing on the climate, bicycle companies will recognise their responsibilities to workers in their supply chains and become fully transparent about where their bicycles and components are made.

How much do bikes cost?

New bikes

According to the Bicycle Association, the average purchase price of a mechanical cycle in 2020 was £332, though prices vary greatly.

Several brands offered models under £200: Insync and Coyote (Hero Cycles), Muddyfox, and Apollo (Halfords).

Entry models are generally priced between £200 and £350, but many brands sell high-end models costing thousands – for those who are either very serious about cycling or have too much spare cash.

When it comes to e-bikes, be prepared to fork out a good deal more. According to the Bicycle Association the average purchase price of an e-bike in 2020 was £1,854. However, it is possible to find a new e-bike for under £1,000.

There are also loans and other schemes available - see the Cycle to Work scheme information further down for one example, and e-bike loans via the Energy Savings Trust in Scotland.

Second-hand bikes

Buying second-hand bicycles is a good option, not only from an environmental perspective, but because you might be able to find yourself a decent bike for cheap. Though you do need to be wary when buying second-hand bikes to ensure that you aren’t being ripped off or buying a bike that has been stolen.

For more advice, see Cycling UK’s website.

And for details of charities selling second-hand bikes, see the table further below.

If you are buying a second-hand e-bike, be aware that battery life will deteriorate over time, so you need to make sure that the battery still has a decent amount of juice left in it or be prepared to buy a new battery.

Costs: bikes vs cars

Bicycles are not only more environmentally friendly than cars, but they are also cheaper in nearly every sense. The purchase price of cars has risen greatly in recent years. A study by Moneybarn, which looked at the prices of 86 popular cars, found that between 2011 and 2021 the average price of a new car increased by 44%, equivalent to almost £11,000.

The ongoing costs of using a bicycle are also significantly less than those of using a car. Bicycles require maintenance and the occasional replacing of parts (as do cars), but in 2020 these costs only averaged £0.20 per week, compared with £8.30 for cars.

Bicycles also do not incur direct fuel costs, whereas most cars require petrol or diesel, which have seen sharp increases in price since 2020 when the average spent on car fuel was already £22.30 per week.

Cars also require insurance, which can be staggeringly expensive, especially for younger drivers, whereas bike insurance is not a legal requirement.

UK: average weekly household expenditure on transport, financial year ending 2020
 

Cars/van

Bicycles

Purchase outright or loan/hire purchase; new or second hand £25.10 £0.90*
Spares/accessories/repairs/servicing £8.30 £0.20
Fuel £22.30 £0.00
Other motoring costs £2.80 £0.00
Total £58.50 £1.10
Annual total £3,042 £57.20

Source: Cycling UK. *ONS data includes 'other vehicles', not just bicycles.

Cycle to Work scheme

The UK government’s Cycle to Work scheme, which has been operating for many years now, aims to attract more people onto bikes by making it more affordable. The scheme has reportedly involved over 40,000 employers across the country, and has contributed to helping more than 1.6 million commuters to cycle to work.

The scheme primarily works through salary sacrifice, so an employee purchases a bike plus any accessories over a long period, with payments being taken (pre tax) from their pay packet.

There are now several independent websites that help facilitate the scheme, including Bike2WorkScheme.co.uk and CycleScheme.co.uk. These claim that you could save up to 40% on a new bike through the government’s scheme.

Repairing bikes and local bike workshops

If you want to reduce waste from your bike and save money, good maintenance is essential. Keep your bike indoors or undercover. Clean it regularly with soap and water and keep the chain lubricated.

If you're new to bikes, look for a local bike shop or workshop where you can learn maintenance tips and tricks. 

We've listed over 40 local bike workshops or cycling cafes which offer a range of services including drop-in or formal repair sessions, hire of bikes, second-hand bikes and a sense of community. If you know of a place currently not featured in the list let us know so more people can benefit. Email us on enquiries@ethicalconsumer.org

If you’re not the hands-on type, get the bike serviced by a professional once a year, or more often, if it gets heavy use.

Bike workshops (listed A-Z by town/city)

beCycle is a community-based workshop, which not only offers tools, spare parts and competent help to anyone who comes in, but also lends bikes out for free, and organises a weekly bike ride and weekend trips. “Starting from scratch but with plenty of enthusiasm we gather orphaned bikes, fix them up and bring them back to life.”

 

Lawrence Street Workshops sells recycled bikes and promotes cycling through organised bicycle rides.

A workers’ co-operative that recycles bikes and promotes cycling activities (including bicycle polo – see their website for more details!). It offers workshop repairs; runs courses in maintenance, cycle training, and wheel building; and operates a ‘tool club’ where people can come along and use their workshop for a yearly price of £15.

Part of Lewes Road for Clean Air community group and working in conjunction with the University of Brighton’s Student Union, the bike hub is open four days a week for free access to tools, workspace, volunteer assistance and affordable new and used parts. Also sells second-hand bikes.

A volunteer-run, not-for-profit, do-it-yourself bicycle workshop where you’ll be shown how to fix and look after your bike. It also sell recycled bikes and accessories. Its ‘Bike Hospital’ offers mechanics at public events to share bicycle skills.

Sells recycled bikes and offers maintenance courses in Bristol and Derby, as well as training all over the country.

Working with the whole Bristol community, with schemes to empower the underprivileged and marginalised, ‘Earn-A-Bike’ gives people the chance to refurbish a bike into one they can keep, and the ‘Bike Kitchen’ enables them to maintain it. The project also runs maintenance classes, women-only nights, and ‘volunteer courses’ helping people with mental health issues, learning difficulties and substance-abuse problems to volunteer in the workshop.

Recycles and sells bikes and parts. Bicycle maintenance courses offered through their parent company, Cycle Training Wales.

A friendly DIY community bike workshop. It is completely run by volunteers and open twice a week for the use of space, tools and mechanics in return for a donation. Running classes over the coming months ranging from the essentials to more advanced tinkering.

Part of the Coventry Peace House (a housing co-operative and a peace and environment centre). It is run by a small team of volunteers, who recycle and sell bikes (usually for under £50). Profits go towards the community projects run by the Peace House.

A not-for-profit Vocational Training Centre for young people struggling with mainstream education. It offers group maintenance courses on request and a free open pop-in workshop once a month with tools, mechanics, biscuits and tea.

The Wee Spoke Hub is the cycling arm of the Shrub Swap and Reuse Hub, a community-led cooperative in Edinburgh. It runs cycle training courses and a pay-as-you-feel workshop twice a week for bike repairs, with tools and parts as well as volunteers for advice. It also lends the space to Crisis charity, for its essential bike maintenance courses for those without permanent abode. Donated bikes are repaired and given to those who might not otherwise have access.

“A registered charity and successful social enterprise getting more people riding more affordable bikes more often”. Ride On provides bikes to young people who are learning to ride at school, sells recycled bikes and offers maintenance courses and Tuesday Tune Ups – explaining servicing one component at a time. The workshop is open once a week for BYOB (bring your own bike) sessions – pay-as-you-feel and with a mechanic on hand to help out.

From a small stall in Barras Market, Bike for Good now has a team of 50 that refurbish and repair bikes for sale. It also offers bicycle parts as well as maintenance classes teaching you how to use them. Its Victoria Road branch runs cycle training and a community hub with free workshops, including after school bike clubs and community rides. The Bike Academy for young people provides everything from cycle training to employability sessions and one-on-one mentoring.

Gloucester Bike Project is a not-for-profit social enterprise selling refurbished bikes, from racers and vintage to mountain, town and Dutch-style, as well as children’s bikes. Free workshops teach Gloucestershire residents bike maintenance. Free bike building workshops provide bicycles to around 50 young people each year, and the free bike loan scheme lends fully equipped (helmet and lights included) bicycles out for eight weeks to those who want to try out cycling.

Bike Lab is a free-to-access, volunteer-run, weekly community bicycle workshop. Fostering a “DIY skill sharing culture”, it sees around 15 DIY-ers a week in the winter months and 25 in summer.

Velocity is a social enterprise based in Inverness and has been running since 2012. It is a bicycle workshop, a vegetarian café, and also runs a range of projects to promote health, wellbeing and sustainability. Bikes can be dropped off for servicing and repairs. Pre-pandemic it was open for people to fix bikes themselves with help from the qualified mechanics. It hold courses, 1:1 sessions and events where you can learn new skills.

It is the accredited service centre for Inverness & the Highland region and assesses organisations working towards achieving the Cycling Friendly Award, a nationally recognised award for workplaces, schools, colleges, universities & community groups that are helping more people to cycle.

CycleRecycle sells recycled bicycles. Offers a part-exchange on donated bikes.

 

Pedallers' Arms is a co-operative of volunteers, which runs drop-in sessions for people to learn how to repair their bike. It asks for a small membership fee from those who can afford it, and accepts donations, “but no one will be turned away due to lack of funds. The emphasis is on anyone can fix their bike. We have tools, books and time for you.”

Re-Cycle Engineering is a walk-in workshop, selling refurbished and (occasionally) new bikes, parts, and components.
 

The Bikes College is a not-for-profit social enterprise that recycles unwanted and abandoned bicycles. They give them to local community groups, use them to teach maintenance and sell them at highly discounted prices. For those buying, it offers part exchange on donated bikes and a MUNS (Make Up No Story) warranty: “...if you do not like your bike then come down and replace it with another one or get your money back. No need to make up a story!”

A Salvation Army social enterprise, Re-cycles Merseyside offers bike mechanic courses to local people, with a focus on those who are experiencing homelessness. Open three days a week offering bike servicing and repairs, and selling refurbished bikes.

Used Bicycles UK sells recycled bicycles. Offers part-exchange on donated bikes.

Bikespace, a not-for-profit, community-run space based in the Infoshop Social Centre. Volunteers run a workshop for repairs, with tools and spare parts. Also sells second-hand bikes.

Bikeworks, a social enterprise offering cycle training, repairs, bicycle recycling, travel planning and sales of new and refurbished bikes. It reinvests 100% of its profits into its community cycling programmes, with all-ability cycling clubs taking place on 4 days of the week. Also offers beginner and intermediate maintenance, and wheel building courses. In August 2018, it will be its first employability course, teaching maintenance and skills around teamwork and health and safety to young people with learning disabilities or mental health issues. The main space is about to move to the Olympic Velodrome, but the repair shop will stay at Bethnal Green as its first social franchise.

A collaboration between Transition Town Stoke Newington and Hackney Cycling Campaign, Hackney Bike Workshop is a volunteer-run maintenance workshop takes place twice a month at Hackney City Farm. Tools are supplied, but bring your own parts.

London Bike Hub sells recycled bicycles and offers maintenance and cycle training. Donated bikes are also reused in its projects, such as programmes training people with learning disabilities and ex-service personnel to repair bikes.

A not-for-profit social enterprise with an open DIY workshop, which has a full tool library, mechanics on hand to help, and courses to build bike skills. These include Intro to Bike Maintenance, Wheel Building and Build your own Bike. Also holds women & gender-variant nights. Any income subsidises classes and shop time for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, allowing them to gain access to bikes and bicycle education.

A Salvation Army social enterprise, Recycles-Ilford assists previously homeless or unemployed clients, cycling enthusiasts and other volunteers gain bike mechanic skills. Sells low cost refurbished bikes to the public as well as offering bike maintenance and Dr Bike services to local organisations.

Tower Hamlets Wheelers, a local cycling campaign group in the East End of London. Its main objectives are: to encourage more people to cycle; improve conditions for cyclists; and to raise the profile of cycling in the East End. This involves bringing the issues to the attention of the local council and other authorities; holding a bicycle workshop on the third Saturday of every month at Limehouse Town Hall; and running community projects and social rides to bring cyclists in the area together.
 

“A cycle centre based in the community, for the community”, the Watford Cycle Hub offers cycle training (including women-only and children’s); maintenance courses; repair services, and work bays with the tools, mechanics and overalls available for you to fix your bike yourself. It also sells recycled bikes.

Platt Fields Bike Hub is a community group to facilitate all things cycling. It offers second-hand bikes, a tool club and even an in-house bike dance troupe!

Recyke y'bike is a community project with shops in Newcastle, Durham and Byker where trained mechanics and volunteers recycle bikes for sale to the public. Supporters of Pioneer People, “We send around 500 bikes a year to development projects in Kenya and The Gambia.” Another 150 bikes are given yearly to schools, community groups and refugees and asylum seekers in Tyneside. Runs basic bike maintenance classes, as well as hiring its workshop space and tools for a small fee and running National Standard Cycle Training.

The Broken Spoke is a not-for-profit social enterprise that provides open workshop support, mechanics courses and cycle training – as well as ‘Beryl’s Night’, a monthly mechanics session for women and transgender people to use the workshop or socialise. The space is open on four days of the week, uses a tiered pricing structure and provides parts, tools, tea, biscuits and volunteers to help out. It also runs ‘Earn-A-Bike’ courses, for those experiencing financial hardship or social exclusion to repair a bike for their own use.

Changing Gearz, sells recycled bikes that have been refurbished by young volunteers who are not achieving their potential in school or are currently unemployed.

Although Reading Bicycle Kitchen doesn’t have a permanent residence, this community bike project provides pop-up workshops twice a week. Cyclists can access work-stands and tools, along with volunteer mechanics for assistance. Donated bikes are passed on to refugees and asylum seekers. Sells second hand and new parts.

Cycle Mania is a community cycle project that runs maintenance courses in the community or from the local Waunfawr Community Garden, and is led by young people. It runs rides for different levels and refurbishes bikes for hire or donation.

Scotland’s largest bike recycling organisation, The Bike Station has branches in Edinburgh and Perth (although no longer in Glasgow). They work with everyone from employers, voluntary organisations and youth groups to prisons, schools and nurseries, promoting cycling as a means of sustainable transport. They sell reconditioned bikes at affordable prices, run ‘Fix Your Own Bike’ sessions, bike maintenance training classes, cycling tutorials, and offer full bike servicing. The Dr Bike service, in Dundee as well as Edinburgh and Perth, provides bike mechanics for events.

ReCycle Bikes is a social enterprise selling recycled adults and children’s bicycles and second-hand parts, and donating the profits back into the community. “Three days a week, when you visit our workshop you’ll see that we work with young people who may be struggling in mainstream education, engaging them in bike mechanics to give them skills for the future.” You can book a work stand in their fully-equipped workshops on two days a week for a small fee, when there are mechanics on hand to help you with repairs. One-on-one maintenance classes are also available.

Southampton Bike Kitchen is a free community workshop providing tools and advice to keep you pedalling. It is run by volunteers and open once a week.

“We began as a small recycling social enterprise that quickly grew into a job club using the bike recycling as work experience.” It works with local authorities, employment services and schools to create bespoke vocational training programmes, which include everything from employability skills such as interview techniques, to practical maintenance training. It sells ‘reloved’ bikes and offers certified and non-certified bike maintenance classes, as well as trailside repair courses.

The Hub is a “Sustrans' project delivering free information, advice, resources and events to help people in Stockton walk and cycle for more of their everyday journeys.” Learn bike maintenance in a half day or evening courses for free. It also provides a free cycle parking facility in the city.

Re-Cycle is a social enterprise to reduce the widespread waste of bicycles, keep Swansea supplied with reliable and affordable bikes and to provide training in cycle maintenance. Those who volunteer to help repair the bikes receive support and training, and can earn a bike in return.

A Salvation Army Social Enterprise, Recycles sells bikes that have been refurbished by volunteers who have experienced homelessness. It also offers bicycle maintenance courses, including women-only ones, and weekly social rides (featuring a coffee stop and around 23 miles).

On Your Bike is a social enterprise selling reburbished bikes and used parts, as well as offering bicycle maintenance courses. “Our aim is to train and support the socially underprivileged, ex-servicemen and long term unemployed by offering them voluntary work placements and training.”

Wolverhampton Bike Shed is a community-based project offering all services for free. That means that you can either use their tools and expertise to fix your bike up yourself, or ask one of the volunteers to do it for you. The only limit is time, as it is only open for a couple of hours each Saturday, and donations are always welcome. It also offers cycle training, community rides and even community bike polo.

Recycling your bike: what to do with your old bike

Even with the most caring owner, a bike might not live forever, or it may just not meet your needs any more. Some businesses buy back old bikes. For example, Halfords takes back its own-brand bikes in return for vouchers, and we found a number of local bike shops offering part exchange so, if you’re buying a new bike, it’s worth asking the shop if they’ll take back your old one.

For owners of high-end bikes, Cycle Exchange buys and does part exchanges.

A number of charities accept donations of old bikes. Some of them refurbish and resell the bikes so they may be a good option if you’re after a second-hand bike too.

The table below outlines some national, regional and local schemes for recycling your bike.

Charity Where? What they do Sell second- hand bikes?
Re-Cycle Drop off at Halfords shops in England, Scotland and Wales Sends bikes, parts and tools to NGOs in The Gambia, Ghana, Zambia and South Africa Occasional sales of bikes not suitable to send to their African partners
Sue Ryder Drop off at selected Sue Ryder shops in England, Scotland and Wales Provides cycle technician training to prison inmates Yes, at selected shops
The Bike Project Drop off points in London and the Midlands Donates refurbished bikes to refugees and asylum seekers Yes, online with nationwide delivery
Recyke y’bike North East England Donates bikes to schools, community groups, and individuals on very low incomes including refugees and asylum seekers Yes, from shops in Newcastle and Durham and on eBay for parts
Life Cycle UK Drop off points in Bristol and Derby Provides cycle technician training to prison inmates and promotes cycling particularly among disadvantaged groups Yes, from shops in Bristol and Derby and on eBay for parts
The Bike Station Drop off points in Edinburgh and Perth Provides free bikes to a range of communities including youth groups, employability charities, all-ability cycling groups Yes, from shops in Edinburgh and Perth
Bikes for Good Causes North London Provides work experience opportunities for young people with learning disabilities Yes, from shop in north London
Recycle Your Cycle Will collect nationwide but only if you have more than 20 bikes (also take old vacuum cleaners) Provides training for prisoners and mental health charity users

Yes, through small charity partners and at universities.

Can you recycle tyres and inner tubes?

Punctured inner tubes can be patched many times and still remain sound. Wear to your tyres can be reduced by keeping them at the right pressure and checking for and removing embedded debris. But ultimately both will have to be replaced.

To avoid sending them to landfill, try reusing them. Inner tubes make great bungee cords and old tyres can be used to brush up your hula-hooping skills. If that doesn’t appeal, inner tubes and tyres can be recycled with Velorim for use in flooring, construction and insulation. There are drop off centres around the country but there is a small fee involved, typically 55p per tyre and 25p per tube. Alternatively, you can donate inner tubes to Cycle of Good which sends them to Malawi where they are upcycled into wallets and belts.

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Cycling campaigns

The UK has a long way to go when it comes to improving cycling infrastructure and making our towns and cities more cycling-friendly. We asked our readers whether they were involved in any cycling campaigns and we got responses from all over the country, from Leeds to London, Cardiff to Dumfries, as well as from people involved with national groups.

Most mentioned campaigning for better cycling infrastructure, including safe crossings for cyclists, off-road cycling schemes, secure bike parking and storage, and ensuring that planning and development decisions take account of cycling needs. Some of you mentioned that your campaigns also cover making streets better for pedestrians and pressing for more joined-up cycling and public transport links.

In terms of successes, a number of readers mentioned additional cycle parking and one mentioned clearing and gritting of cycle lanes in autumn and winter. In Southampton, the group now gets invited by the council to discuss proposed cycle infrastructure. It sounds like it’s quite tough going but that you’re making progress. Keep up the good work.

Group of cyclists with banner which reads 'this machine fights climate change'
Cycling Dumfries, one of the cycling campaign groups who responded to our reader survey, at the Pedal on Parliament rally in Edinburgh, April 2022. Image by Iona Shepherd, Pedal on Parliament.

Ethical issues of bicycles

Carbon Management & Reporting

This rating is new since we last looked at bikes in 2018. It requires discussion of a company’s carbon impact, reporting of emissions, and future plans to reduce emissions. The sector does not do well on this issue and as a result most companies’ overall scores are lower than last time.

Only two brands received our middle rating: Raleigh (Accell Group) and Trek. All other companies received our worst rating. Trek discussed its carbon impact and ways it would cut its emissions. Raleigh also did this and had a target to cut its emissions in line with international agreements. If other companies mentioned the issue at all, it was to assert bikes’ intrinsically green credentials as part of their marketing.

However, there does seem to be some realisation that the sector needs to do better on this issue.

The Shift Cycling Industry Climate Commitment is an initiative to encourage the sector to recognise and reduce its contribution to climate change. Of the companies reviewed in this guide, only Brompton and Specialized have signed so far.

The signatories state: “The biggest part of the environmental impact of our products arises from production; 50-80% of the carbon emissions take place when we extract, source and produce materials and parts.”

They also acknowledge that the use of bikes currently plays too small a role in balancing the sector’s carbon footprint from production. The signatories have committed to measuring and reporting on emissions by 2023 and disclosing plans to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030 – although no date is given for disclosure.

The initiative doesn’t involve many of the bike sector’s biggest companies and its commitments have come relatively late compared to some other sectors, but the move away from the lazy assumption that bikes have little or no carbon impact is a welcome development.

Animal Rights and Factory Farming

Seven companies lost marks for use of leather in their products: Brompton, Dahon, Halfords, Kudos, Pashley, Specialized, and Trek. On the whole, these companies only sold a few leather products which were often accessories such as grips and jackets. Most saddles viewed were made of synthetic leather or plastics, although Pashley bikes still have animal-derived leather saddles. Pon Holdings (Cannondale, Focus, Gazelle, GT, Kalkhoff, Mongoose, Schwinn) lost marks for its subsidiary URUS Group’s involvement in factory farming.

Conflict minerals

We expect all companies producing electronic goods, including those producing e-bikes, to have an adequate policy on the sourcing of conflict minerals to ensure that minerals such as tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold are sourced responsibly.

As in 2018, when we last researched the e-bike sector, no brands had any policies on this issue. All brands that sold e-bikes therefore lost marks in the Habitats & Resources, and Human Rights categories.

E-bikes and electric vehicles also require cobalt, which is an essential part of lithium-ion batteries, the sourcing of which comes with its own risks (see the updated car guide for more on this issue).

Pollution & Toxics

We also expect all companies producing electronic goods to have policies to phase out the use of PVC, phthalates, and brominated flame retardants.

Again, no companies producing e-bikes had policies on this issue, so all lost a whole mark under Pollution & Toxics.

Photo of group of women standing next to their bikes
JoyRiders cycling group heading out on a ride. Image (c) JoyRiders

Why are there fewer women cyclists?

Cycling is cheap, fun and good for you, so why do so few women do it?

Vieve Ford of JoyRiders explains and tells us what they’re doing to get more women riding.

In the UK, cycling is often seen as a ‘sport’, not as a way of having fun, or just getting around. This perception is off-putting, especially for women and their children who are far less likely to see riding a bike as something they can do, even if they would like to:

  • 30% of women who do not ride regularly say they would like to.
  • 50% of women think the roads are too dangerous, or they lack the confidence to assert their right to space.
  • 30% of women who would like to ride do not own a bike.
  • At least one in ten women are worried they will be laughed at for being the ‘wrong’ shape, wearing the ‘wrong’ things or that they’ll be harassed, just for being a woman on a bike. This is more than a perception; women bike riders are more regularly harassed and abused than male bike riders.
  • A third of women don’t know anyone to ride with, or don’t know how to find routes. (Statistics taken from JoyRiders’ surveys.)

Why does it matter that relatively few women cycle?

It’s important to encourage everyone who has the ability to ride to start riding. The climate crisis alone needs us to do this.

Why should more women ride? When women ride it’s far more likely that their kids – especially their daughters – will ride too. Getting more women to ride in the UK – in everyday ways, like shopping, the school run, commuting and just for fun – will normalise riding a bike. Riding will stop being seen as a sporty endeavour and more as a sensible transport choice.

How does the UK compare with other countries on women cycling?

The result of the focus on cycling as a sport, rather than as a form of transport, is that over 70% of all regular bike riders in the UK are men, while in most countries in Europe the numbers are generally more balanced. In the Netherlands, slightly more women are regular riders than men.

How does JoyRiders address the issue?

Given women’s perceptions about cycling and the realities of cycling as a woman, being able to ride with a group of other women who will support, encourage and protect their fellow riders is a much needed and appreciated resource.

JoyRiders specialise in that very first step – running rides for women who have only just learned to ride, or who are returning to riding after a long break.

Our rides start at true Beginner level – short, social, stop/start slow rides to a spot for coffee and cake, then back again, covering five miles over two hours if we’re lucky. We step up the distance, and (marginally) the speed, on Beginner+, and Intermediate rides, then – when and if our participants want to – we move onto Commuter and more Advanced rides.

Our aim is for participants to ride independently. So far JoyRiders have helped thousands of women to do this and we want to help tens of thousands more. We now ride in London, Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester and we’re hoping to start in more locations including Newcastle, Colchester, Cheltenham and Basildon.

How can readers get involved with the group?

If you’d like to join a ride, check the Joyriders website for groups near you.

If you’d like to volunteer, we always need ride leaders, and ride organisers. JoyRiders provide complete training and support. Information can be found on the JoyRiders website, or email Vieve at: vieve@joyriders.org.uk.

Cartoon of lycra-clad male cyclists whizzing past female on a bike with a kid on the back seat
Cartoon by Mike Bryson for Ethical Consumer

Designing our cities for tomorrow

Tom Wharf of Sustrans describes a vision for the future

It’s easy to forget that our streets were not originally made for cars, but for people and horses, whilst children played and communities gathered. Today, the use of internal combustion engines is at its peak. Our road network is designed, built, and maintained at vast expense to cater for two daily rush hours. We drive so much that, even for distances of one to two miles, over 60% of journeys are by motor vehicle. And yet, for 95% of their lives, cars sit idle.

Despite the luxury promised in the empty streets of car adverts, the inefficiency of the automobile in most urban environments is finally being acknowledged. As is the harm caused to communities, climate and clean air, and the inequity of these impacts. The clamour to bring the electric vehicle to the masses and the climate emergencies announced by councils across the UK signal the end of the age of the internal combustion engine. What we do with our streets next is our choice.

The rise of ‘Mini-Hollands’

We know the opportunity and joy that local and long-haul travel can bring, but we are also wiser to its impacts, both global and local. We can benefit from the engineering ingenuity of our neighbour, the Netherlands, which has redesigned streets to reduce the damage and dominance of the private car. With their similar climate, wealth and scale, cycling accounts for 27% of all journeys. But how?

In the 1970s, appalled by the impact of cars on historic towns and the rate of child traffic accidents, Dutch activists ran the “Stop De Kindermoort!” (Stop the child deaths!) campaign. This proved a turning point for Dutch transport planning.

Covid was the UK’s turning point. As lockdowns bit, and we became isolated with only limited outdoor exercise, the UK got on its bike. Cycle sales surged and the National Cycle Network filled with families.

Inspired by the Netherlands and successful ‘Mini-Hollands’ in London, the UK Government is now supporting local authorities across the land to “Go Dutch” and develop their own ambitions for Mini-Hollands. These aim to address the biggest barrier to cycling in the UK: roads feeling too unsafe for many would-be cyclists. A Mini-Holland would provide a safe place to cycle on all daily trips.

By giving a safe option to access local services by bike, people can make a travel choice that improves their health and saves CO2.

The 20-minute Neighbourhood

This approach can be woven into the planning of any sized community by creating a ‘20-Minute Neighbourhood’, in which residents can access all the services needed within a 20-minute return trip by walking, wheeling or cycling.

Another method is to provide protected cycle lanes, and other infrastructure that makes all users feel safer. The feeling of safety is relative to everyone. Women may favour well-lit streets. Parents may prefer slower motor vehicle speeds on residential streets.

This infrastructure must be joined with training, especially for children and those groups who want to cycle but don’t, and policies which make car use less attractive, lowering them in our priority hierarchy and providing realistic alternatives. Cars must be king no more.

The imperative for a shift to active travel, especially for our urban areas, is vital to combat climate change. We must transform the whole highway network to prioritise safety for everyone, especially walkers, wheelers and cyclists. This shift is essential and urgent. It is an opportunity to change the ways we travel and forge healthier and happier communities. It’s up to us to make it happen.

Tom Wharf is a Chartered Civil Engineer and is Head of Design & Engineering at Sustrans, the charity that makes it easier for people to walk, wheel and cycle.

Company behind the brand

Evans Cycles and the brands Pinnacle and Muddyfox are part of the Frasers Group, owned by billionaire Mike Ashley. Frasers Group is the lowest scoring company in the guide and received our worst rating across all areas in which it was rated.

The group also owns House of Fraser, Sports Direct, Karrimor, Kangol and Sofa.com, among others.

Mike Ashley even tried his luck in the world of football and was the owner of Newcastle United FC until 2021. During his tenure he enjoyed free and reduced advertising for Sports Direct at the club’s ground, at one point renaming it the Sports Direct Arena.

After many years of criticism for mistreatment of workers and promises to improve, Sports Direct still faced allegations of failure to pay the minimum wage less than two years ago.

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Additional research for this guide by Alex Crumbie.