Riding high in popularity -- COVID-19 pandemic gives a significant boost to local bicycle sales

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Freedom of the road, or freedom in general, is what most people are asking requesting.

With no restrictions on cycling, the demand for bicycles remains high for the second-straight year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic,

Over at Ernie’s Sports Experts, bike shop manager Robert Seitz noted freedom is foremost,

“A lot of the things that have no restrictions are what is selling,” Seitz said, noting that if a person can’t go to the gym, but they can cross-country ski or bike, then that is what they will buy.

The popularity of cycling during last year’s version of the pandemic resulted in bike shops around town selling out their entire stock early as customers continued to come in looking for a pair of wheels.

“Last year was weird, as everyone knows, I think we sold our whole year’s worth of bikes in five weeks or six weeks or something, which sounds good, but then you just have a long time without bikes,” Seitz said. “This year, it seems as though the bike industry, and you can probably find this anywhere online too, all of North America, we all ordered more bikes than last year so we could be ready. Then it turns out they just can’t build that many or that fast or get that many bikes to people as quickly as possible.”

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Over at Fourword Bike and Board, Ben Nadeau, the bike service manager, agreed.

“There was quite a big demand (in 2020),” Nadeau said. “I know we sold all of our bikes out around the beginning of June, and we saw people coming all throughout the year, trying to find a bike.”

Dean Radbourne is the third generation to own and work at Ernie’s.

“For sure, in modern history, we haven’t seen that acute of a change in demand,” Radbourne said. “Bicycles have been pretty consistent for quite a while, and then we saw a huge global demand increase, at the same time as a massive global shortfall for supply. It created a difficult year last year from a supply perspective, and it is making it almost impossible this year for the independent bike retailer to really do a good job and take as good care of customers as we want.”

Seitz said things will be different this year, but the store has bikes, including a good selection for kids.

“Normally, we would have our whole year (of bike inventory) kind of come in January,” Seitz said. “(We) have lots of boxes and start building (bikes) up to be ready for the season and then sell through the year. This year, instead of being a full store of bikes, some come in, you build them, you put them on the floor, and you sell them. That kind of route seems to be the way it will go.”

Seitz said most of the manufacturers aren’t providing a firm time to deliver the bikes to stores.

“We started doing two things here, which is different than we’ve ever done before,” Seitz said. “(The first) is pre-selling some bikes if the ETA seems reasonable to the customer or (we put) people on a call list so that when a certain bike they might want shows up, they will either be notified or already own the bike.”

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Radbourne added almost 80 per cent of the bikes coming in now are pre-sold.

The huge demand for bikes has also affected the parts available to repair bikes.

“This year, a lot of the (parts) factories have gone to half manufacturing, and the bike manufacturers are buying up all the spare parts to put their bikes together,” Nadeau said,

Radbourne explained early in the pandemic those parts manufacturers had to shut down completely and when they came back on stream the demand had increased.

“The suppliers’ timelines are changing so much because of the backlog in bicycle-part manufacturing,” Radbourne said. “In reality, there are only two or three (companies) making bicycle parts, and they are at 38 to 40 month wait times now. We are going to continue to see issues like this for a little while. I think it is likely that everyone will still be clamouring for bikes all the way through 2022.”

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