Where Are All the Bicycles and Components? A Bike Shop's Perspective
Maybe you’ve heard rumors. Maybe you walked into a bike shop last summer and noticed. Or maybe you’re hearing it for the first time in this blog post.
Whatever the case, here’s the hard truth: Supply chain issues are being experienced across the bike industry. Some brands and shops have been hit harder than others. None of us like it, obviously, and finding new bikes or even replacement parts may be a challenge for longer than we'd like.
Ok, but why? And when is it going to end?
By now you should be well aware the COVID-19 pandemic caused all manner of problems. Health concerns aside (but certainly not taken lightly) the pandemic messed stuff up. Businesses from bike shops to basketball organizations to restaurants and travel were all turned upside down roughly 13 months ago. As a result, we all got more familiar with the terms 'quarantine' and 'social distancing' than we ever wanted.
As the pandemic became a much bigger and more real thing, factories closed, shipping channels screeched to a halt and businesses locked their doors wondering what would happen. Each week that passed added more complexities to the equation.
Bicycles are simple machines, but incredibly complicated simple machines. Before you can throw a leg over a top tube and pedal your way to bliss, frames need to be built, components must be manufactured, tires made, saddles assembled, and myriad other pieces of the puzzle must come together. If one piece of that puzzle is missing, the complete picture won’t take form.
For example, if the factories used to make cassettes and chainrings are closed it just doesn’t matter if every other part of the bike is good to go. If the ports loading and unloading cargo containers filled with bike parts shuts down to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among dockworkers, the containers remain sealed and buried amid thousands of containers filled with goods waiting to be delivered.
Heck, we had a really difficult time locating spare tubes to sell in the store at various times last year, much less finding SRAM Force eTap AXS shift levers for our custom builds. There's hardly any rhyme or pattern to the shortages, making them unpredictable and likely to hit us at any moment.
Long story short, there are hundreds of moving parts in a supply chain that need to be in sync with each other to create a healthy economy. When those moving parts get slowed or stopped, a bottleneck is created and it can take longer to get out than it took to get into a situation.
To add insult to injury, weather and natural disasters decided to kick the bike industry while it was down. Wildfires in California shut down distribution centers for some bike brands. When shipping companies started moving freight again, they often overloaded container boats and believe it or not, thousands of containers full of all sorts of consumer goods were lost overboard. Seriously.
At Contender Bicycles, we had limited stock on hand at times, too. Thankfully, not as bad as we saw at other shops. Winter is the ‘slow season’ for bike shops where sales slow down and shop owners try to forecast future demands with current supplies and to avoid being caught without bikes to sell and parts for repairs. As demand slowed down a bit while supplies slowly got closer to normal, we went big on our orders hoping to get as much as we could get.
Currently, there are more than 200 brand new bikes on our sales floor. Ranging from kids bikes to dream bikes worthy of the Tour de France to backcountry brawlers, we have something for just about any cycling enthusiast. Our warehouse and backstock area have another 150+ bikes waiting to be built and sold, with more on the way. If you’re looking for a new bike, we have your back. If we don't have exactly what you're looking for, we probably have options to consider.
If you’re looking to replace a broken Shimano derailleur on your current bike you might be out of luck. Parts are limited in many situations and the hard truth is no one knows when things will get back to normal when it comes to bike parts.
Thankfully, as one of the largest bike shops in the country with more sales of certain bike brands than any other bike shop, Contender Bicycles is in a good position as we head into the busy season of 2021. For now, we have bikes and lots of components and the word is out as we are selling and shipping bikes across the country. We hope to keep that up, but if your bike is delayed, we are as frustrated as you are. There is only so much we can do, but we assure you all that we are doing everything we can.
There are no promises what the situation will look like in six months or even three months. But Contender Bicycles will do whatever we can to remain your go-to bike shop for service, accessories, and complete bikes.
Photos by Berin Klawiter.