Broken supply chains intersecting with pandemic-weary multitudes desperate to get out on two wheels have meant a stressful year for bike shops—and bike buyers—around the world, with little change expected for months to come.
For bike shops, the “global bike boom” has been a very mixed blessing, writes The Globe and Mail. Booming demand (U.S. retail sales alone surged 77% between March 2020 and 2021) has been undercut by unreliable supply chains—from overseas factories closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks to a dearth of container ships (thanks to all that online shopping)—leaving many retailers without bikes to sell for months at a time.
Some bike shops have even had to close their doors. The Globe cites one Toronto store whose owner suffered a recent cancellation of a shipment “equal to 40% of what she was expecting this year.”
Digging into why the bike industry finds itself pedalling so hard into the headwinds of the pandemic, the Globe explains how the elegant engineering miracle that is a bicycle is the product of a dauntingly complex supply chain—one that seemed to work brilliantly, until its wheels fell off.
“Fifty-one parts. Twenty-one suppliers. Five countries.” That’s what it takes Rocky Mountain Bikes to build one Instinct Alloy 50 mountain bike, which retails for $5,649. In a pandemic world where any supplier or shipping company can be pulled out of the puzzle with no notice, “all it takes is a single missing part to delay everything,” explains to Globe.
“If one company has everything but a chain, and the other company has everything but a front [suspension] fork, nobody’s shipping anything,” said Tim Hadfield, general manager of Shimano Canada’s bike division. “It’s a whole economics lesson on supply chains at that point.”
For customers, disappointment and sometimes testy exchanges have been common. And those lucky enough to secure a bike may have seen their good fortune reflected in a higher sticker price—from 4.5 to 10% in some cases.
As to the road ahead, the Globe says industry veterans predict bike shortages lasting into 2022. “At this point, there’s just hundreds of names for every bike,” said Rick Snyder, owner of Mike’s Bike Shop in Dieppe, New Brunswick.