A bicycle boom that emerged at the start of the coronavirus pandemic is still pedaling away.
Springfield-area bicycle shops have seen no slowdown of customers interested in buying new bikes or fixing up their existing ones. However, ongoing supply chain struggles have made the available merchandise stock for sales and repairs a hit-or-miss proposition, local shop owners say.
Craig Erickson has owned Branson-based Downhill Bikes & Accessories Inc. for 25 years. The sales floor of his shop is normally filled with Trek and Surly brands of bicycles. Erickson said Trek is Downhill Bikes’ most popular product, noting he has “hundreds” of its bicycles on back order. His shop has a wait list to notify customers when product arrives.
“We usually stock 100 or more bikes. I have five,” he said Aug. 13. “We’re in the queue, but there’s a lot of people in the queue above us. We’re just waiting for our turn as things become available.”
Amid record demand last year, COVID-19 disrupted bicycle production and distribution from Asia, which includes plants in China, Singapore and Vietnam, according to media reports. The bicycle supply chain disruption was further hampered in March when the Ever Given, one of the world’s largest container ships, got stuck in the Suez Canal for six days. Erickson said a Trek dealer told him that blockage put the company’s distribution plans back about two months.
Even when bikes have arrived to the United States, staffing shortages at ports also are slowing the pace of shipments.
Cyle Meade, owner of Red’s BMX LLC, said he’s experienced shipping issues with some of his orders. These extend to not just the bikes but parts and accessories, such as seats, pedals and wheels.
“We know what we ordered, but sometimes it comes down to we don’t get everything,” he said. “It’s a bit of the Wild West out there right now, but everybody’s managing to make it work the best they can.”
On the rise
Still, Erickson said the high customer demand for sales and service resulted in Downhill Bikes experiencing a 20% rise in revenue last year over 2019. He declined to disclose figures for 2020 or 2021, which is tracking 15% year over year. The increase this year is largely due to service, which he said makes up about 45% of company revenue, compared with the average of 30% in years prior to the pandemic.
“We sold all the inventory that we had,” he said of last year. “This year without as much product, we’re relying more on the service and the occasional bike that comes in. Nine times out of 10, it comes in, we make a few phone calls and it’s sold before we put it together.”
Heavy customer demand also fueled revenue last year for Adventure Bicycle Co., which opened in 2019. Co-owner Colin Brixey said company revenue reached $925,000 in its first full year of business, exceeding the ownership’s expectations.
“We’re not far off of that this year, even given how few bikes and parts there are,” he said of 2021 revenue. He added the figure is roughly $20,000-$30,000 below 2020’s pace at this point last year.
Sales success for local shops is part of a national trend, according to market research company NPD Group Inc. Year-over-year sales of bicycles in the United States for the 12 months ending April 2021 were up 57% to reach $6.5 billion.
Meade said his shop is reordering product as soon as a shipment arrives. The demand that began during the pandemic last year remains, he said, noting a recent shipment of 50 bicycles from Sunday Bikes, a Norwalk, California-based supplier, won’t last long.
“We would get orders like this where we’d get 40-50 bikes in and they’d be gone in less than two weeks,” he said, reflecting on the past 18 months. “Then it can be a waiting window from a month to four months before we get more in.
“We’re all just learning how to navigate it a little bit better.”
During the pandemic, Meade said the demand for repairs has come in waves depending on the season. Earlier this summer, the shop’s turnaround time was one to two weeks. Most repairs are being completed now within two to three days, he said.
“There have been times throughout the pandemic when it got crazy, and we were two weeks out on repairs,” Meade said. “Our entire basement was nothing but bikes checked in for repairs.”
Brixey and Erickson both said their shops are averaging three to four days for repairs – much improved from the 10-14 days the jobs were taking in May and June.
“Last year, we were probably a week out for repairs most of the time,” Erickson said. “Things have calmed down a little bit.”
Repair job delays are mostly tied to shortages in service parts, Brixey said, noting his shop’s biggest challenge is obtaining an adequate number of chains and brake pads. He said one of Adventure Bicycle’s manufacturers, Japan-based Shimano Inc., has a backlog for service parts as far out as March 2022.
“We’re not even out of this season yet,” he said, noting the busier bicycle riding period runs from spring to early fall.
He said Shimano’s backlog likely didn’t account for the impact of a government-ordered temporary shutdown this summer of the company’s Malaysia facility. The plant was included as part of a total lockdown in the country for most of June due to an official COVID-19-related mandate, according to media reports.
Erickson and Meade said customers have largely been understanding of the continued bike order wait times. However, the supply chain issues have no end in sight, store owners say.
“Based on people I’ve talked to in the industry, we’re probably looking at another 10 months of this, if not more,” Brixey said.
“I don’t think there’s any way that they won’t continue into next year. I’m hoping I’m wrong,” he said, noting bike demand usually dips at his shop in the cold of late fall and winter. “That’ll be an opportunity for companies and manufacturers to kind of get caught up and maybe be in a little bit better position to satisfy that supply demand.”
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