What's going on with the bike industry?



 

By Philip Holenstein, Director of Buying

 

If you've been searching for a new bike recently, you're probably aware that bikes of all shapes, sizes, colors and styles are weirdly sparse - not just at Sports Basement but everywhere, including vendor-owned shops and sites. So what's going on here? Rather than hide behind back-in-stock notifications or vague promises of future delivery dates, we thought it'd be best to come right out and tell you, our beloved customers, everything we know about why bikes are so hard to find and the myriad issues that are causing these problems.

 

1

THE DEMAND FOR BIKES IS HIGHER THAN EVER

The pandemic has caused millions of people to rethink the way they exercise and look for new ways to get where they need to go. For many people who suddenly found themselves working (and eating, and sleeping, and everything-ing) from home, the idea of an activity that takes place solely outside of the house - and is still safe - is incredibly appealing. The more the merrier, we say! Let's turn the whole Bay Area into the next Amsterdam, right?

 

On the flip side, high demand plus low supply is a recipe for difficulty - vendors can't produce their bikes fast enough to meet demand and some manufacturers experienced multiple shutdowns in 2020. In fact, demand is so high and the delays are so long that we won't see certain bikes at all in 2021. Retailers like us are placing orders for bikes literally years before they can even be made - that's how far behind they are.

2

BECAUSE BIKE DEMAND IS HIGH, RAW MATERIALS ARE HARDER TO FIND

The suddenly high demand for bikes has made it so that raw materials - specifically carbon and aluminum - are becoming scarce enough that their prices are going way, way up. Bikes aren't the only products that use these materials, of course, so this is affecting the market in all kinds of crazy ways.

3

BECAUSE DEMAND IS HIGH (FOR EVERYTHING), SHIPPING COSTS ARE GOING UP

But bikes aren't the only items in demand! Consumers are buying goods in record-breaking numbers. They're spending more money on products in part because they can't spend money on services (like going to a concert or a play) like they could before, and in part because the fun things consumers can safely do tend to involve a purchase (prime example: getting into cycling). 

 

In addition, retail stores that were closed for a lot of 2020 are looking forward to reopening soon, and are stocking up in advance of that. All these things combined are making it so that lots and lots of people are shipping lots and lots of goods. It's gotten to the point where finding an available shipping container (much less a cargo ship to put it on) takes way longer than it used to, which delays the whole process even more. 

4

THAT SAME HIGH DEMAND HAS CAUSED PORTS TO GET SUPER CONGESTED

This photo isn't photoshopped - it's a real photo that I took of the waters near the Port of Oakland a few weeks back. Hundreds of cargo container ships are simply waiting for their turn at the port, and more are waiting in line out at sea as well. This port congestion isn't unique to Oakland, either - LA and Long Beach are struggling too. All that product combined with reductions in port staffing due to COVID have created a massive bottleneck, which extends past the ports and into the trucking industry as well. Of course, this is definitely affecting waaaay more than just bikes - if you've been wondering why our weights selection is so up and down, this is why. 

 

BUT HOW IS SB HANDLING IT?

The short answer is that we're ordering as many bikes as possible, as far into the future as possible, from as many vendors (including new ones!) as possible.

 

Here's the history: last March we had the largest amount of bikes we've ever had in the history of our company. Within 5 months we sold every single one of those bikes, plus all the bikes our bike vendors had available for us at that time. We essentially sold all of the bikes we could get for all of 2020 by July - 6 months ahead of normal sales.

As early as April of 2020, we'd seen the writing on the wall (both the crazy high demand and the delays in production they would cause) and ordered as many 2021 bikes as we could, but the damage was already done. Everyone was sold out of bikes by the time July hit and every retailer in the US had to purchase an entire store's worth of bikes just to get back to normal. The manufacturers simply couldn't keep up! All the bikes meant to sell in 2021 arrived to us in September and sold out within weeks. Then the second wave of 2021 bikes, which was supposed to arrive in November, was delayed for months and months due to all of the issues we listed above. Some of them are arriving now, but many more bike orders have been cancelled by vendors who couldn't meet the demand. We've already ordered bikes for as far out as July 2022, but the industry has been rocked in a big way, and it's unlikely that production will go back to normal until sometime in 2023.

But we're thinking outside the box as best we can; in fact, we'll be bringing back some familiar (bike) faces later on this year - say hello to Felt Bikes again! Our first new shipment of Felt Bikes will be arriving this fall.

 

Long story very short, our regularly scheduled giant shipments of new bikes are less than giant this year, but new bikes are still arriving every week! We update our website constantly with new arrivals, so keep checking back, and please do not hesitate to reach out if you're looking for more information. And if you need help finding the right bike for you, you can always Video Chat a Stafflete - next day appointments are available!

 

5 comments

  • David Simpson says...

    Thanks for the detailed explanation. I hope tires and tubes will not be so delayed. Can’t do much riding without those essentials.

    On March 01, 2021
  • Danicka Le says...

    Yeah, OK. I have a bike. What about kettlebells? When will the full range of sizes be available again? Thanks for all you do for exercise junkies and weekend warriors!! _

    On March 01, 2021
  • Brent Bamberger says...

    This is so well-written and informative. Thank you!

    On March 01, 2021
  • Bill says...

    This is exactly what I want my favorite stores to do- inform me in a practical way, not talking down, about the stuff that matters, with no spin or candy coating. I knew some of this, but your detailed and thoughtful explanation helps me plan for the future (maybe my kid won’t get a 29ers until 2022).

    On March 01, 2021
  • Jean Pommier says...

    Thank you for sharing that hidden side of the story, much appreciated!

    On March 01, 2021

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