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COVID-19 deflates bicycle supply

Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski / Bonita Baker of Altoona traverses through Ganister Station on the Lower Trail on Monday afternoon.

If you are looking for a new bicycle — good luck.

There is a bicycle shortage in the United States, partly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is because people are feeling more active during quarantine and buying up the available inventory in addition to much slower imports from the far east,” wrote Nik Kjaer, owner of America’s Bike Co., based in Valley Center, California.

“I have never seen anything before like this in my life. Nationwide, the stores are empty,” said Erik Scott, owner of The Bicycle Shop in State College. “People were told they couldn’t go to the gyms for exercise — people are doing what they were told to do. People had been cooped up and bicycling is an inexpensive way to (exercise).”

Bryan Caporuscio, co-owner of Spokes N Skis, Altoona, has a different outlook on the situation.

“There is not a shortage — there is a bicycle demand. The bicycle industry had no idea we were going to be quarantined or there would be a pandemic where everyone would take to the outdoors. People are using their resources to get outdoors, and as a result of the demand, there is a shortage,” Caporuscio said.

Steve Frothingham, editor in chief of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News and BicycleRetailer.com, said it is a matter of both supply and demand.

“Demand for bikes was up around 75-80 percent in April and May, but the number of bikes imported this year, through May, was down about 10 percent. The bike imports were down because of factory shutdowns in Asia in January and February, then some reduced capacity at factories because of the pandemic. There have also been some delays and cost increases related to shipping,” Frothingham wrote in an email. “On the demand side, people are buying bikes for transportation and commuting, because public transportation is perceived as dangerous; recreation for kids and adults, because few organized youth sports are operating; and adults can’t go to the gym.”

Frothingham said the shortages have been the most noticeable when it comes to youth bikes, adult cruisers and other modestly priced adult bikes. There tend to be more bikes available at higher price points, including mountain bikes, road bikes and e-bikes.

Scott said he has a handful of hybrid bikes under $1,000 and a few high-end hybrids.

“If you find one, don’t worry what color it is,” Scott said. “If you don’t want it, somebody else will buy it.”

He said people are looking for specialized rockhoppers.

“I have had people from Richmond, Brooklyn, Washington, D.C., and Delaware come here for them. They start at $500, everybody wants one,” Scott said.

Scott said he is losing a lot of money as a result of the pandemic.

“You can do service, but your square footage includes space for sales as well. Sales is the biggest part of income for the stores,” Scott said. “I am probably losing between $2,000 and $5,000 a day on bike sales and bicycle rack sales.”

Caporuscio said he usually has over 100 bicycles available for customers.

“It has been a trying time. We only have a handful of bikes to sell and they are higher end products,” Caporuscio said.

Frothingham said those seeking a bicycle need to be patient with the bike shops.

“They are dealing with a lot of demand at a time when they have to operate safely due to the virus, so they are understandably stressed, and now many are frustrated by the product shortages. Many shops have a long backlog of service and repairs, because many folks are bringing in their old bikes to be repaired. Some bike repair parts, like tires, are in short supply. Many shops are also offering more used bikes now,” Frothingham, said.

He added that he expects bicycles to be in short supply until demand winds down in the fall.

“For people who want new bicycles, they may have to wait a while as very limited numbers are arriving. We have also seen a huge influx of people repairing their old bikes because new ones are not available. Hopefully things should get back to normal toward the end of the year,” Kjaer said.

“Customer demand continues to exceed our expectations. Due to global demand, we expect inventory to ebb and flow this year,” said spokeswoman Courtney Gearhart of REI CO-OP.

However, Caporuscio said he can get bicycles for people if they make a deposit.

“We are able to get bikes with deposits. We can see them in three to four months. … It is a different kind of shopping experience. For people who are enthusiasts, it is not as much of a problem. But if people are not sure what they want, a lot of people want to be able to come in and touch, see and feel it,” Caporuscio said.

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