Back in March, I wrote a blog entitled Cycling in the Age of COVID-19. It was a short “state of the industry” piece about races and events being cancelled, the steps that we at Velofix Mobile Bike Shops were (and still are) doing to keep our mechanics and our customers safe, as well as the general risks and benefits of continuing to ride in these strange times. Well, a lot has changed since then. Sure, we continue to adhere to the strict safety protocols we put in place months ago but we have had to adjust to other new and different demands placed on our business.
Many of the great, iconic events that Colorado cyclists have enjoyed for years, were cancelled. Same story with races. Most organized group rides were put on hold for months. While many have restarted, others have not. For the most part, however, longtime cyclists have continued to be able to get out and enjoy their chosen pastime, albeit with some restrictions and changes.
One of the biggest changes that has occurred in the industry as a result of COVID-19 has been the huge growth in our sport, as more and more people are taking advantage of cycling’s built-in opportunity to get outside and exercise while also remaining socially distanced. This boom has been seen across all sectors of the industry, from E-bikes to mountain bikes, transit/fitness bikes, and children’s bikes. In addition, more and more people are pulling their bikes out of their garages for the first time in years, dusting them off, and getting them back out on the roads and trails where they belong.
The fact that more and more people have rediscovered the joys of riding bicycles is a fantastic and welcome turn of events for everyone in the industry (not to mention anyone who appreciates exercise and clean air) but the sudden and unexpected growth, coupled with manufacturing shutdowns, has come with certain frustrations and challenges.
For bicyclists, those challenges have been a lack of access to new bikes or long waits to have their older bikes serviced, as bike manufacturers do not have enough supply and bike shops have been booked out for weeks. These challenges are also felt by the shops, as one would expect. Bike shops want to get bikes to the people who want them – but with limited access to bikes, many shops have found themselves with very little to sell. As a mobile bike shop, Velofix does not sell bikes directly. However, we partner with a number of direct-to-consumer brands to perform their assembly and last-mile delivery services. After a rush of bike sales in the spring, however, we saw the demand for those services slow considerably simply due to a severe shortage of supply. People wanted the bikes but they were out of stock with the manufacturers. We have also been faced with related challenges of stocking inventory to service bikes. Do you need a 26” mountain bike tire or tube? Good luck with that. Many standard items such as these have been backordered at all of our suppliers for months. And as soon as they get back in stock, they are gone again. I can’t tell you how many times that I have put items in our cart and by the time I check out, they are no longer available. This is of course frustrating for our customers who are eager to get out and ride their bikes, but equally frustrating for us, as it is our mission to get those same bikes serviced so they can get back out on the road.
Where does it all go from here?
Part of running any business is trying to project and budget into the future. Needless to say, this pandemic has completely disrupted our projected revenue in 2020. Now the question – from both a business perspective (as the owner of Velofix) as well as an avid cyclist – is what is cycling going to look like next year and beyond. A recent survey indicates that of the 44% of Americans who own a bicycle, 21% are riding more during the pandemic, and 50% are planning to ride more after the pandemic. (Source: June, 2020 issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, as quoted from a Trek Bicycle survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by Engine Insights). This encouraging survey would indicate that the uptick in ridership is not a pandemic-only fad but, rather, will continue into the future. Certainly that is the hope – that people who perhaps were spurred to reintroduce themselves to bicycling as a result of the pandemic, have been reminded of the joys and other benefits of riding a bicycle and will continue the activity into the future.
And if manufacturing can eventually catch up to the point that the supply of new bikes and parts and accessories is able to meet this newfound demand, more and more people will be able to get out and enjoy this sport we love so much. Wouldn’t that be great?!
Trent Newcomer is a veterinarian and the franchise owner of Velofix Colorado, a mobile bike shop operation that serves the Front Range, from Fort Collins to the entire Denver metro area. Book a bike service appointment and have them roll up to your home or business at velofix.com