Bike shortage in the Hudson Valley Leave a comment

The bicycle industry was caught flat-footed, so to speak, last year when many turned to biking in an effort to get outside, exercise and meet up with others in a socially distant manner.

“A lot of bike suppliers acted like they would in a normal recession, planning for discretionary spending being hard to come by and folks not spending on leisurely activities,” said Patrick Hogan, Bicycle Industry Research Manager at PeopleForBikes. “This economic landscape in spring and summer 2020 was super different.”

That’s when bike manufacturers, which are largely based in China and Asia, began ramping up their production. But with different COVID-19 protocols in different areas, scalability was quickly limited.

The supply issues are largely disrupting the availability of necessary bike parts like shifters, derailers and tubes, says Hogan. Bicycle Retails and Industry News reported that a surge of parts from overseas this past March boosted levels to their highest mark in 14 months. However, the demand is still outpacing the availability of parts, leaving some wannabe bike owners empty handed.

Kingston Cyclery, located four miles from the Empire State Trail Kingston section, is reporting high demand for bikes but flat revenue since they are unable to meet that demand due to limited available parts. Across the river, Rhinebeck's Breakaway Cycles is facing the same trouble.

Kingston Cyclery, located four miles from the Empire State Trail Kingston section, is reporting high demand for bikes but flat revenue since they are unable to meet that demand due to limited available parts. Across the river, Rhinebeck’s Breakaway Cycles is facing the same trouble.

Gene Rios

Hudson Valley bike stores struggle

If bike shop owner Tom Stevens of Breakaway Cycles in Rhinebeck orders a bike right now, he won’t get it on his floor until 2022, he says. And if someone comes in for a general tune up, they would need to wait two months for an appointment.

Currently, he doesn’t have a single non-electric adult bike to sell his customers because of the backup. Relief isn’t around the corner: over the next two months, he says he’ll only be able to get six bikes delivered. Pre-pandemic, if someone saw a bike they liked but wanted a different color, he could order it and it would arrive just days later.

Because he isn’t able to buy any new bikes, he has focused on repairs, which has been just as difficult.

“People can’t get new bikes,” said Stevens. “So, they’re pulling stuff out of their shed that hasn’t been ridden in a long time. I just did one that needed everything replaced – the tires, tubes, cables, chains. On top of having a lot, you have time-consuming repairs.”

Demand for bikes is up, but a supply chain that’s out of sorts means he’s limited in what he can sell — and how much money he can make.

“It’s a bummer turning people away,” said Stevens.

He isn’t alone. Ben McCarthy, store manager of Kingston Cyclery, said their revenue has been flat, too, because they haven’t been able to get enough bikes in store. Normally the shop would have 200 bikes on the floor. This season, that number is just 20. Just like Breakaway Cycles, and other bicycle stores across the nation, Kingston Cyclery is focusing on the services they can provide: repairs and selling bike accessories.

“We’re getting fewer people that have never ridden a bike,” said McCarthy. “Now it’s, ‘I haven’t ridden my bike in five, 10, 20 years and I wanted to get it working again.’”

If no parts need to be ordered, the shop is able to repair a bike in two to three business days, which is faster than last summer as they worked to reduce wait times for customers. Kids bikes are still available, as well as electric bikes — likely because an e-bike carries a price tag of $2,000 or more.

Bike supply chain a national problem

The problem is not just a local one. In a national survey conducted early this year by bicycling nonprofit PeopleForBikes, 55 percent of American consumers surveyed said they are waiting longer for bikes. They are also turning to the internet instead of shopping locally, and 42 percent said they are paying more for the bikes they are able to buy.

“The timing of the pandemic and the bicycle boom created a perfect storm with bicycle supply,” said Heather Mason, president of National Bicycle Dealers Association, who represents 700 retail stores across the nation. “We saw all bicycles under $1,000 sold out quickly and then as those bikes were unable to be found, consumers adjusted and spent more.”

Globally, “the factories that produce bicycle components are not adding factories,” she said — which is further constricting supply. While factories have amped up production, they aren’t able to match the demand.

“Fifteen months later, we’re still in an extreme shortage of bicycles and bicycle components in the United States,” said Mason.

When will you be able to walk into a local shop and buy what you need? Experts estimate the bicycle industry will be “back to normal” in 2023.

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