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Worldwide Bike Shortage Challenges Bike Shops

May 9, 2021

Owing to the worldwide bike shortage, the bike industry’s stats from 2020 and 2021 will be the subject of economic supply and demand issues studied for decades to come. Bikes will be synonymous with the shortages that we’ve seen in Lysol, toilet paper, and all things that disinfect.

How Did the Bike Shortage Happen?

In March of 2020, COVID 19 forced shutdowns across the US. As a result, gyms closed, summer camps canceled, people couldn’t take vacations, and the thinking was that outdoor activity was pretty much the only thing considered still safe to do. The government deemed bike shops essential businesses (in most states) because many people use bikes as transportation. The demand for bikes increased exponentially. By the end of June 2020, there were pretty much no new bikes left anywhere in the country. By then, the major manufacturers had all sold out. So, there was no ability to order more bikes for immediate delivery.

Demand for Bike Repair Soars

Even so, the demand for bikes continued to rise. But with the worldwide bike shortage, there was no supply. So, bike repair became the next frontier. Customers brought in bikes to fix because they couldn’t find new bikes. Consequently, the bike repair business increased at least 3x the average amount for a typical season. Wait times for repairs extended to months rather than weeks. Repair parts like tires, tubes, chains, and cassettes became unavailable. Most bike shop employees worked tons of overtime, and shops in NYC instituted night shifts to keep up with the new level of demand. Because the pandemic made in-store shopping unsafe, shops assisted at curbside, by email, and over the phone. Merchandise shipped directly to customers. The popularity of all things biking then extended out toward cycling shoes, car racks, helmets, apparel, and accessories like water bottle holders, bags, and phone holders. Many stores saw inventory of these items coming in and out of stock all season. Like bikes, stores had to place backorders for these items and began taking waiting lists from customers for everything.

Bike Pre-Sales Expand

As bike companies began to get more inventory toward the end of 2020, it became apparent that reserving incoming bikes in advance was the new norm in our industry. Shops began placing large backorders of bikes and pre-selling them to customers before they arrived. There were so many pre-orders that bikes weren’t just on display in shops anymore. Buying from pictures on company websites became the new selling tool. Moving forward, the shortages will continue through all of 2021, 2022, and 2023. The big parts manufacturers (like Shimano) run more than a 300-day delay for some parts, which delays bike shipments. Bike companies are shifting specs as needed to try to continue providing bikes. Shops are ordering anything they can find to try to keep up with customer demand.

New Challenges for Bike Shops

Thanks to the worldwide bike shortage, this new way of conducting business has been very challenging. We are now working from waiting lists and pre-orders instead of satisfying customers on the spot. It is hard to manage bike shipment delays and customer expectations. Many of us have welcomed the challenge and appreciate the chance to develop new ways of conducting business. Some store owners have decided to leave the industry and avoid the hassle. We chose to embrace the worldwide bike shortage challenge and make the most of riding this wave of bike frenzy. We are exceedingly grateful to work in an industry that managed to hang on during this trying time in our history. We are also thankful to our employees for their hard work and perservance.