Local bike shops are feeling the effects of a nationwide, coronavirus-fueled bike shortage.
Demand for bike products skyrocketed at the beginning of the pandemic, as people began to look for new ways to exercise in a socially-distant manner. However, COVID-19-related factory shutdowns have caused bike manufacturers to struggle to keep up with the demand, creating a perfect storm for bike shops across the country.
“We had a massive increase in interest in the cycling community as soon as people realized the activities they normally do in the summer would be limited,” said Clayton Batty, general manager of Hangar 15 Bicycles’ Provo and Orem locations. “It’s hard to say exactly how much of an increase we had because our demand came on and tapered off earlier this year. The demand would have kept growing, but eventually, we ran out of bicycles and products due to manufacturers shutting down for periods of time earlier in the year.”
According to the NPD Group, a market research company, nationwide sales for bikes and accessories in April of this year grew 75% compared to April 2019. The U.S. bike market drew in over $1 billion in sales, the most ever since the NPD Group has been keeping track. The majority of these sales came by way of cheaper, more family-friendly bikes.
The NPD Group reported lifestyle/leisure bike sales grew by 203% in April, while front-suspension mountain bike sales increased by more than 150% and children’s bike sales grew by 107%.
As bike shops began to run out of these family-friendly products, people started to turn to higher-end bikes typically purchased by enthusiasts, such as road bikes and full-suspension mountain bikes. In June of this year, full-suspension mountain bike sales were up 92% compared to June 2019, while sport performance road bike sales increased by 87% and E-Bike sales grew by 190%, according to the NPD Group. Overall, the NPD Group reported a 63% increase in nationwide bike sales in June.
The bike industry’s global supply chain, however, could not keep up with the surge in demand, especially with numerous manufacturers dealing with COVID-19-related shutdowns. Local shops began to scramble, turning to additional manufacturers for specific products at times and increasing their backorder requests significantly. As a result, customers’ wait times for bike products soared.
“The shortages in products have definitely been a struggle,” said Jordan Washburn, who works in local bike company Fezzari’s sales and marketing department. “It feels like the headaches of normal supply chain multiplied ten-fold. It’s one thing to manufacture our frames, but if just one part is delayed the entire bike is delayed. Component manufactures of suspension, drivetrains, wheels, etcetera have had many delays, which then have caused us to have delays, which ultimately means longer lead times for the customer.”
According to Washburn, Fezzari’s normal wait time of 1-2 weeks has been increased to between 16 and 20 weeks for most products. Other local shops such as Hangar 15, Mad Dog Cycles and Taylor’s Bike Shop have some in-store selection but are also currently experiencing similar delays for most bike models.
Although the demand for bike products is expected to cool off during the winter, some shop owners throughout the country expect the shortage to last into the spring of 2021 and possibly beyond.
While dealing with their current supply chain setbacks, local shops have still had plenty of work to keep their respective staff members busy. With an influx of bikers comes an increased need for repairs, something which Batty said he’s spent a lot of time training new staff members to do this summer.
“The amount of bikes we’ve repaired has at least doubled, if not tripled from what we have seen in years past,” Batty said. “While it was great to have this growth, it was extremely difficult to continue providing the service we strive for in all of our shops every day to every customer because we just weren’t prepared for this.”
Washburn has also noticed him and his coworkers at Fezzari spending longer than normal hours at work, helping customers with repairs and collaborating to find any way possible to cut down their product wait times.
Although it has been tiresome, Washburn hopes the Coronavirus-fueled, nationwide interest in biking lasts long after the pandemic is over.
“We hope that this will be a lasting, positive change from the pandemic that will have a long-term and positive impact on people to get outdoors and live a healthy lifestyle,” Washburn said.
“We are grateful and humbled by the support from our customers and are impressed with how understanding they are and how they are willing to wait to get the product they truly want,” Washburn added. “It’s a few weeks of waiting right now, but they will then be able to enjoy riding the bike of their dreams for years to come.”