Be it on a paved road, gravel or a wooded trail, cycling of all types has exploded in recent years.
And with the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are looking to remain active while also maintaining a safe social distance from one another.
But, if you’re looking for a new bike — or accessories or repairs for the one you own — you’ll have to be patient.
“I’ve never been busier,” said Hank Glowiak, owner of Chuck’s Bikes in Morrisville. For the past few months, Glowiak has offered curbside service for customers looking for something new, or maintenance for their beloved bike.
“At first, we were just busy on Saturdays, because kids were still in school, kind of,” said Glowiak — children have been learning remotely since school buildings were closed in mid-March. “Now, with the kids out of school, we see kids every day. It’s been chaos. Every day has been nuts.”
While bicycles in general are flying off the shelves — rolling out of the showrooms — mountain bikes and gravel bikes have been particularly popular, said Caleb Magoon, owner of Power Play Sports, just around the corner from Chuck’s Bikes in Morrisville.
“In general, the whole bike industry is seeing a boom. People are seeing what they can do alone and with social distance. With mountain biking, it seems like the sky is the limit,” Magoon said. “It’s hard to see where the market will top out. The mountain bike culture here — and I grew up in Hyde Park with the mountain biking culture, when it was really small and underground — it seemed to simmer and was slowly building. Now, it’s exploded, and I can’t see a ceiling to it yet.”
For someone entering the sport for the first time, it is common to experience sticker shock, with high-end bikes easily going for $4,000. But like that adage — buy once, cry once — you get what you pay for.
Also, customers who are looking to dip their toe in the sport might have no choice but to buy a high-end bike, said Matt Niklaus, primary owner and manager of Bootlegger Bikes in Jeffersonville.
“Bike dealers can’t get bikes in the $500 to $2,000 range,” Niklaus said. “We’ve had a lot of times where someone comes in looking for something in the $2,500 range and walk out with a bike in the $4,000 range.”
COVID-19— one of the driving factors in the sport’s popularity this spring — is also behind the current shortage in stock. Many bikes — as well as parts and accessories — are manufactured in China, which shut down much of its manufacturing earlier this year in an attempt to quell the spread of the virus.
“When production stopped in January and February, that last round for 2020 wasn’t made. So, bikes and parts that usually arrive at my door in May or June, that didn’t happen,” Magoon said.
Two months ago, he couldn’t get any bikes at all from manufacturers Giant or Trek, despite being an authorized dealer.
“Bikes will be lean through the summer, but it’s not a total desert yet,” Magoon said. “It’s good for inventories to flush out, and it’s what’s going to allow bike shops to survive.”
Back at Chuck’s Bikes, Glowiak noted that big bike dealers engaged in behavior seen in supermarkets earlier this spring — hoarding.
“Big shops bought up everything, like toilet paper, so the smaller shops are screwed,” he said.
However, the lack of stock has been a boon for dealers such as Niklaus, who has fielded customer inquiries from as far away as Nevada.
“We’ve shipped bikes down the East Coast and out to the West Coast,” he said.
Not only are shops short on items, they’re also short-handed, and are scrambling to keep up with repairs.
“We didn’t hire new people, so the timing on service and repairs is taking longer than usual,” Niklaus said “We’re working hard to keep up volume and we’re asking people to please be patient.”