“You have to shift gears when the wind is at your back”: In the wake of a report by Deputy Guillaume Gouffier-Cha on the economic weight of the bicycle, the players in the sector want to come together and create a real industry .
Today the land of the Little Queen is important. The hundred French manufacturers produced 660,690 bicycles in 2020. At the same time, according to the report, the French population has turned to soft mobility by importing more than 2.2 million bicycles.
The result is a deficit for the economy at a time when the trade balance is at its worst. If the industrial sector represents 4,000 jobs in 2021, that could rise to 20.00 in ten years and to 45,000 by 2050, said Gouffier-Cha, who presented his report to the government this week.
But to get there, the industry has to ring the bells.
“We need a sector committee that can consult with the government and the other sectors, especially automotive and aviation, because that is how we achieve better parts and technological breakthroughs. †
The delegate of Val-de-Marne, on the sidelines of the Congress of the Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB)
The timing is right after the Covid-19 pandemic and rising energy costs.
“The health crisis was great for us: 50% more turnover in two years. You have to shift gears when you have the wind at your back”explains Patrick Guinard, CEO of wheel manufacturer Velox. “If there is such awareness in France, it is now or never to invest. †
“Production must be increased so that there is no longer any need to purchase elsewhere”the leader hopes. Most of the hundreds of parts that make up a bicycle today come from Asia. A sub-optimal supply, between shortages and delays that can go up to ten months…
“It stops us from growing”notes Augustin Ciresa, mechanic of the Douze Cycles cargo bikes. “We manage to find, but we no longer do with what we want, we do with what we have. (…) No company in France makes more cast aluminum for bicycles. They work for the aviation or automotive industry. †
And in cycling, the solution is often the peloton. “Instead of ordering separately in Asia, there would be interest in producing together”breathes Mr. Gouffier-Cha.
† We can have the volume to interest the automotive and aerospace industries”says Mr Guinard in abundance, citing the example of equipment manufacturer Valeo, which is preparing to launch an innovative electric motor that the industry is eagerly awaiting.
At a conference stand, Arnaud Chéreau points to the wheels of his connected cargo bike.
“We don’t make hydraulic brakes in France. When the actors all brake together, local manufacturers are found. We still have an industrial fabric and know-how in France”assures the founder of Wello, who has just set up his factory near Le Mans, a mecca for the car industry.
Still, some Made in France pieces will escape. “We are not going to do derailleurs in France,” says the Velox boss. We will never make them cheaper than Shimano. †
If all the bricks are laid in the industry, the sector must also unite on a larger scale, also become a ‘political object’ that can influence local governments and developers.
The FUB aims for the birth of a “sector committee” before the summer of 2022. A structure that should “start from the cycle path to the cargo bike,” said chairman Olivier Schneider, citing construction giants Vinci and Colas, “interested in sitting at the round table”.
“Where there is no rail or parking lot, there is no development”agrees Mr Gouffier-Cha, who recommends investing 400 million euros per year in infrastructure, or 30 euros per inhabitant. “We have a strong history, but we have to move from the Tour de France to daily practice. †