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How to beat the pandemic bike shortage

By Spencer Powlison

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We are facing a bike shortage. People are fed up with “screen time.” Gyms are empty. The world was turned upside-down in 2020, and droves of people have taken up cycling — at least that is one small glimmer of hope.

The only problem is that in this bizarro-world scenario where our quirky little sport of cycling has become the belle of the ball, the bike shortage is real, and it is getting worse. Traditional bike companies are shackled by a backed-up supply chain, clogged ports of entry, and increased costs. Fortunately, The Pro’s Closet and Certified Pre-Owned bikes are the answer. Here’s why.

Mountain biking on a neat trail in New England

How much did bike sales grow in 2020? Numbers aren’t in yet for the entire year, but for example, the NPD Group reported that June saw a huge spike in demand for performance bikes: Full suspension mountain bikes were up 92%, gravel bike sales grew 144%, sport performance road bikes were up 87%, and e-bikes beat them all by growing 190% (growth in dollars, year-over-year).

Were bike companies able to increase imports to meet this demand? Unfortunately, they weren’t. Bicycle Retailer and Industry News reported that overall July 2020 bike imports were up just 26.6% (in dollars) compared to 2019.

To grow production and meet demand — whether bikes or anything else — companies live and die by their supply chains. In the case of bicycle manufacturers, this chain includes everything from raw materials to finished products like derailleurs or tires. All of the upstream companies that are essential sources of these products saw production slowed or even halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the near-term, they aren't likely to rebound.

Before the pandemic-driven bike boom, most manufacturers had approximately three-month lead times. Order a shipment of derailleurs in September and you’d get them at the start of the year. Now, lead times are as long as 18 months, according to direct-to-consumer brand Commencal.

Even American-made bike brands are in a bind. Allied Cycle works builds all of its carbon fiber frames from scratch in Arkansas — not many supply chain issues there. But where are the parts to put on those new frames? Allied’s chief commercial officer, Drew Medlock, says his company will be left waiting for the necessary components to produce complete bikes.

“We are facing unprecedented increases in lead times for the primary drivetrain components (SRAM and Shimano) that we build our frames with,” Medlock says. “We are seeing lead times stretch from 60-120 days to to as long as 280 days and over a year on our new purchase orders over the last three months. This puts a limit on the amount of bikes we will be able deliver, and greatly reduces options for different builds we can offer. Quite simply, we can make more frames, but we can’t get more parts from Shimano and SRAM to build them.”

The Pro’s Closet operates at the very end of this supply chain, well after a bike brand like Allied or Commencal has assembled a new product, shipped, and finally sold it. Instead of factories, cyclists like you are our supply. We buy premium used bikes, which then become our inventory of CPO bikes, all complete and ready to ride. Their components may not be as new as this year’s gear, but that’s better than waiting another year for 2021 parts.

In addition to relying on a shaky supply chain, bike manufacturers also count on international transportation to bring their products to market. Typically, bikes built in Chinese or Taiwanese factories are transported on container ships. Due to the pandemic, ports are facing crippling delays. Commencal cites transportation times that are about three times longer than in years past as well as quadrupling freight prices.

Of course, if bikes and their components were entirely made and assembled in the U.S., international freight would be a non-issue. But the bell cannot be unrung. Commerce will always be global. The Pro’s Closet, on the other hand, is part of a small but growing movement known as re-commerce. We are extending the life of existing, quality products by refurbishing and reselling bikes, wheels, components, and more. Yep, you guessed it, we don’t need to ship anything across the Pacific Ocean to offer our inventory of 1,200 CPO bikes.

In addition to these fundamental manufacturing challenges, bike companies are also dealing with currency fluctuations and the ongoing threat of tariffs. All of this adds up to increased costs for bike companies, which will get passed along to riders like us in the form of rising bike prices.

New bikes have been scarce and will continue to be hard to find. When you do find them, they’re bound to be more expensive too. The bike boom has its downside.

Fortunately, The Pro's Closet has always provided the best value for cyclists, even before 2020, the global pandemic, and the unbelievable bike shortage. We typically have more than 1,000 complete CPO bikes for sale, with everything from bikes under $2,000 to bikes over $8,000 and everything in between.

When it comes to used bikes, we have cracked the code. Our CPO bikes beat depreciation because they are not brand new. But even though you’re getting a great bike for less, you won’t face the hidden costs of buying used from an unreliable or unscrupulous seller. CPO bikes are inspected, serviced, and guaranteed. Basically, they’re good as new, only better.

And with the bike boom predicted to continue as the winter melts away, The Pro’s Closet will continue to be the answer to bike shortages.

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