It’s the best of times and it is the worst of times for bikes and component sales. There are massive lag times for most new bike deliveries, and components are backordered everywhere, with some parts more than a year away from being shipped to customers.

Obviously, COVID is a factor, but not necessarily in the way you might think. Some overseas factories did shut down for a time, and shipping is way up in general for tons of products, but with the bike shortage, it’s mostly a surge in demand that has overwhelmed factories.

Robert Margevicius, Executive VP at Specialized, gave a speech this week for the Tapei Cycle Online Show in which he pointed to a 38 percent surge in bike sales in 2020, which has destroyed the supply chain. That’s the best of times part. The worst of times? We’re looking at another year of shortages of bikes and bike parts.


(watch his talk, here).

“[It will be] a year or more for the industry to fully recover and build back up the inventory so we have the product available for the market,” he said, according to Pinkbike.

Lead times for common components are over 300 days in many cases.

While the factories that produce the lion’s share of bikes and components, mostly in Asia, could expand to meet this new wave of demand, the factory owners don’t seem to quite believe that this burst in bike enthusiasm is likely to last beyond the next year or so, as the COVID pandemic recedes, and indoor activities become possible again. They don’t want to be left with greatly expanded factories, and the costs that would entail, only to watch demand plummet to the previous baseline in the coming years.

Margevicius, understandably, is bullish about the continued popularity of bikes. He’s predicting a 43% increase in sales over the next decade.

Of course, nobody knows what will happen once malls, movie theaters, restaurants, and sporting events are back open and running at full capacity again. It didn’t take long for people to realize they’d rather be out riding a bike than sitting in their houses, and it stands to reason that lots of those people will let their new bikes gather dust once life resumes regular programming. But how many are now dedicated cyclists, stoked on a new hobby?

That unknown is fueling the bike and component shortage. The demand is off the charts, the supply is shellshocked and wary, and it’s going to take at least a year for things to shake out and establish a new normal.


Photo: Taylor Smith/Unsplash

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