Since March of 2020, there has been a “bicycle bonanza” going on in the USA. Indeed, new stats from the Washington Post suggest year-on-year bicycle sales went up a staggering 120 percent at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This rapid increase in demand has been a “mixed blessing” for most bicycle shops. While the increased sales have been a boon for small businesses, most retailers are struggling with serious supply issues.
Although many bike manufacturers have ramped up production, it’s not enough to meet the overwhelming demand. Even today, most American bike shops are barren, and waitlists for new bikes go well into 2021.
Truthfully, nobody knows how long these supply issues will last. The most optimistic analysts say the bike supply should normalize in the spring of 2021, but many others claim this issue could linger into 2022.
How long the bike supply shortage lasts mostly depends on how long demand remains high. Many bike shop owners are concerned this “bike boom” could fizzle in a post-COVID era.
Although nobody knows how long this “bike bull run” will last, there are some encouraging signs that cycling is here to stay. For instance, the fitness platform Strava says more Americans are getting outdoors versus previous years. Since Americans have had time to form a “cycling habit,” some psychologists argue bicycling will become more commonplace in the post-COVID world.
Plus, as more bicyclists hit city streets, local lawmakers must provide much needed infrastructure for their growing cyclist constituency. In fact, bicycle accident fatalities hit a 30-year high in 2020. As such, cycling advocates see this as an opportunity for urban designers to make cities more “bike-friendly.” If cities become safer for cyclists and pedestrians, residents will feel more comfortable using their bicycles to get around—which, of course, is good for demand.
While this doesn’t mean the “bicycling boom” can’t cool off in the ensuing years, most analysts believe cycling culture will remain strong in the post-COVID-19 era. In preparation for this “new normal,” many bike shops have increased their pre-order expenditure to meet expected demand.
On the downside, most analysts agree on is that bicycle prices will increase in 2021. As the US dollar loses value against many Asian currencies, shipping costs will get more costly. Economists also note that bike materials like rubber, aluminum, and steel have gone up in recent years. According to the latest estimates, bike costs could rise by as much as 10 – 25 percent this year.
Today, if people want to get their hands on a bicycle, their best bet is to call a local bicycle shop and put their name on a waitlist. While there are some used bikes on sites like eBay, there’s always a risk these bikes will have mechanical issues. Even if you’re a competent DIYer, there’s a good chance the parts you need for a repair aren’t available at the moment.
As an alternative, cyclists could look into indoor cycling machines like the wildly popular Peloton. Although this isn’t the same as riding outdoors, it’s a great way to get rid of those stubborn “COVID calories!”