Cycling has been dubbed "the new golf" - the latest way for affluent professionals to socialise, network and keep fit.
The groups of lycra-clad riders sipping lattes at Mission Bay cafes and the cars heading west towards Woodhill Forest with top-of-the-range mountain bikes attached to their roofs are testament to its rising popularity.
According to Sport and Recreation New Zealand surveys, the number of people cycling grew by 81 per cent between 2000 and 2008.
Not surprisingly, the sport is big business.
A few weeks ago, Giant opened a large, gleaming cycle "superstore" in Auckland's Quay St, next door to the new Les Mills gym.
Last year, 226,533 bicycles were imported into this country, a 93 per cent increase on the number 10 years ago, Statistics NZ figures show.
Despite the growth in participation, however, a large number of independent cycle retailers have either gone out of business or been taken over by their distributors, to whom they owed large sums of cash, over the past 18 months.
Penny Farthing Cycles, at the top of Symonds St, has been selling bikes for more than three decades.
But the store, which could well be New Zealand's oldest dedicated bicycle retailer, is about to be shut down.
Industry insiders say its impending closure is the result of the big changes that have taken place in cycle retailing over the past couple of years, such as the rise of discount-focused, mass market stores, and the encroachment of wholesalers into the retail space.
The site might be converted into a cafe or restaurant, says Glenn Smith, managing director of distributor Bikes International, which came to own Penny Farthing's Auckland store just over a year ago as part of its acquisition of the Bike Barn Group.
Opened in 1980, the store was part of a chain of Penny Farthing outlets that included sites in Royal Oak and the North Shore, as well as Wellington (where one still operates, but is not owned by Bikes International) and Christchurch.
It was Auckland's first bicycle "super store" and a trailblazer in its time, says Francis Hutchinson, an industry veteran of more than 30 years.
Co-founder Lyall Williamson says the central city Penny Farthing store was very much the flagship of the chain, which "grew and grew and grew".
"We used to move a lot of bikes in Khyber Pass - it was a huge mover of bikes," he says.
Williamson, who sold Penny Farthing to the firm Hope Gibbons in the late 1990s, says that in their 1980s' heyday, Penny Farthing's three Auckland stores were pulling in around $3 million in annual sales and the Khyber Pass Rd site alone aimed to sell 50 to 70 bikes a week.
The store, however, has fallen on tough times and a closing-down sale is under way to move its remaining stock out the door. Smith says the business is no longer viable because of a lack of parking in the area and high rent - about $100,000 a year plus outgoings.
"It does not really fit the Bike Barn model," says Smith. "Bike Barn's the market leader and Penny's is out there on a limb a bit."
He says he hopes sales at Bike Barn's Newmarket site will improve once Penny Farthing is gone for good, but there is no set date on when the store will be shut down.
The building it occupies is for sale and Bikes International is looking to sell the lease on the site, Smith says.
Williamson says Penny Farthing has become a victim of the structural changes that have taken place in cycle retailing over the past few years.
And Hutchinson says: "Cut price retailing and constant discounting has radically changed the face of the bicycle industry in the past 18 to 24 months."
Indeed, Bike Barn is currently promoting a "massive" sale, with one bike hanging in the window of its Newmarket store yesterday marked down from $2299 to $1380.
Another major change in the industry has seen wholesalers, who once steered clear of becoming directly involved in stores, moving in on the retail trade.
Mt Wellington-based Sheppard Industries, a distributor whose brands include Avanti and Scott, has an interest in the owner-operated network of AvantiPlus stores.
Bikes International, which is based in Wiri and distributes brands such as Merida and Kona to around 200 businesses, has taken control of about 14 bicycle stores over the past 18 months as a result of those retailers owing the company money, says Smith.
"We've improved the systems in the stores ... and run them more like a business than a lifestyle type thing," he says. "Long-term the plan is to get them working as profitable entities and then if they've got good managers, virtually give them back to the managers with a good supply agreement so we can focus on supply."
Smith says Bikes International has no long-term plan to own retail outlets. "We believe that owner-operated stores should be the model."
Tim Welch, co-owner of Pt Chevalier's Rode, an independent, niche cycle retailer and workshop, says he can think of eight stores that have either gone belly-up or been taken over by their distributors in the past six months.
However, Smith doesn't think Bike Barn - which he admits is the "Rebel Sport of cycle retail" - has played any part in the challenges facing independent operators.
"The industry has been tough and we've certainly found things tough as well," he says. "The general retail model is pretty heavily discounted - look at JB-HiFi, Rebel Sport or The Warehouse ... it seems to be the way retail is heading."
Welch doesn't believe the heavy discounting strategy used by Bike Barn is sustainable.
"You can't sell stuff at such low margins and pay rent on the sort of sites they are on," he says. "That whole business model ... sooner or later something's got to give, and I'm not the only one who thinks that."
Welch says Rode, which targets the high-end of the market, discounts only for established customers.
"We're definitely not a supermarket of bikes - we actively turn away customers who want the cheapest possible price," he says. "We're very independent as far as a bicycle retailer goes, we're not aligned to a particular brand."
Welch, a former IT worker who quit his job at Telecom business communication arm Gen-i to open Rode a couple of years ago, says a further difficulty facing independent operators was brands being "dumped in the market" because of distribution shake-ups.
Sheppard Industries, for example, used to distribute Specialized but then when it stopped supplying that bike brand all the AvantiPlus stores were forced to offload their stock, he says.
"You get all this sort of excess stock floating around the market at silly prices, which is very poor for us because there's so much product floating around the market it makes it very difficult for us to make any money, especially if we're trying to sell a brand which isn't part of this dumping process."
Cashflow is also a big challenge, Welch says, with distributors placing extra pressure on retailers at this time of the year to stock up for Christmas.
"We're super-careful about what we stock."
Welch says he was sitting in a sales meeting at Gen-i in 2009 when he finally decided to chuck the towel in on the corporate life and go into cycle retailing.
"The sales people were giving us this big spiel about how, according to their advisers and economists, now was the time to be gearing up for coming out of the recession," he says.
"That was the catalyst for me to go, 'Damn it, I'm not going to do it with Gen-i, I'm going to do it on my own back with my own money'."
Two years later, Welch is still hanging out for a major improvement in economy.
"This second year [of running Rode] has been a lot tougher than the first," he says.
"Customers are being a lot more cautious with their discretionary spending - and bicycles are discretionary spending for a lot of people."
Despite the hard work and worries, Welch says he's still happy he got out of IT.
Many of the rewards gained from running the shop are non-monetary, such as the fulfillment of helping people get active and fit.
Welch says: "There's no doubt it's probably the toughest challenge I've ever had in my life ... You certainly wouldn't do it for the money."