CORONAVIRUS

Corridor bike shops work to manage customer demand and industry backlog after unusually high demand

'Everybody is itching to get and out ride'

Shop owner Logan Orcutt rolls out a bike for customer Javier Garcia ready for him to take home after a test ride confirm
Shop owner Logan Orcutt rolls out a bike for customer Javier Garcia ready for him to take home after a test ride confirming it was the bike he wanted at Goldfinch Cyclery in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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If you’ve thought of purchasing a new bike in the last few weeks, you aren’t the only one with that idea.

Spring typically is a busier time for local bike shops. But this year, because of the pandemic, shop owners said they are busier than perhaps they’ve ever been.

“Going into spring months, it’s always something we expect, especially that first nice weekend where it’s 50 or 60 degrees,” said Logan Orcutt, owner of Goldfinch Cyclery in Cedar Rapids.

“Everybody is itching to get out and ride, so naturally this time of year we anticipate that. But with the all the downtime that everybody’s had over the last couple of months, and with cycling being generally speaking something that people can do safely and responsibly, we’ve just seen a much bigger demand for new bikes than we’ve seen in the in the four years we’ve been open.”

Orcutt noted that sales-wise this month alone his shop is double its average for the past two years.

Sales of bicycles — as well as equipment and repair services — practically doubled compared to the same time last year, according to market research company N.P.D. Group, the New York Times reported this past week.

Leisure bike sales climbed 121 percent, commuter and fitness bicycles 66 percent, children’s bikes 59 percent and electric bikes 85 percent, it said.

World of Bikes in Iowa City also started noticing the trend back in mid-March.

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“Around spring break when everybody was canceling trips, we started seeing kids’ bikes going out the door,” owner Ryan Baker said.

“And then mom and dad figured out that they need to go and ride with the kids, too, so we started seeing an increase in repairs and selling bikes in the $400 to $600 range.”

Thanks to the rush over the last few weeks, things are starting to get backlogged, he said.

“If we were to place a fresh order for anything below $1,000 right now, we might be looking at October to November before we would receive it,” Baker said.

The lack of supply also can be attributed to the fact that many manufacturing plants overseas have been affected by the pandemic.

“The shutdowns in China and in Asia really began the snowball, and then with increased demand starting in mid- to late March and enormous amounts of demand, we’ve gone from very little bikes on the racks to hundreds and thousands of bikes on back-order from dealers,” Baker said.

“We are seeing shipments of new bicycles coming in at a much lower rate, with some of our brands out until late June or even July,” Orcutt agreed.

“Coming into this season we are preparing our inventory as we always would, but with the increased demand, we and other shops are struggling to keep up.”

At Goldfinch, for example, Orcutt is selling out of what he calls its “bread-and-butter bicycles,” priced at under $700.

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“But we’ve been fortunate that we have a few what I would call more independent brands that have been able to keep our inventory up,” he said.

“Check around because there are still bikes trickling in,” Baker added. “We don’t have huge quantities, but we are still showing bikes, especially kids’ bikes. We are doing our best to get things built for people to check out.

“No two days are the same and we are constantly re-evaluating how we’re doing on operations to make sure we are doing it all in a safe manner for our staff and customers.”

Getting bikes tuned-up and road ready is important as well, and the demand for service is adding to the workload at local bike shops. If consumers still are looking to purchase or need service work done, local shop owners are encouraging them to reach out — but to do so with patience.

Orcutt said they’ve had to make decisions to keep their small staff and their clients safe. “We decided to just keep our doors closed to the public, so our retail spaces are not available to browse, but we’re working by appointment,” he noted.

“We then invite them into the store, look at several options, and then determine the correct fit. It’s a process but, with everything, we are trying to facilitate it all at a safe distance.”

Baker noted he and his staff have moved as much of their operation outside as possible, as World of Bikes’s showroom also is closed to the public.

“We are bringing it all out to our customers. We like for people to call ahead so we can have things prepared, and we’ve rearranged our store to make it more efficient for us to grab things for people,” he explained. “We even gone so far as to set up our point-of-sale system out there.”

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“I think most bike shops, ours included, are definitely feeling the stress, especially with the demand of so many more people wanting to take advantage of getting a new bike or needing service,” Orcutt added.

“We recognize that right now it’s something that’s really good for the soul to get out and ride considering everything that’s going on. We want to keep people rolling and so we continue to stay open, just under different circumstances.”

Even with all the stress, it’s no surprise that shop owners, cycling enthusiasts themselves, are excited to see people doing more biking.

“It’s incredible,” said Baker. “It’s great to see families riding together and older couples riding together.

“We make our living by selling bikes and keeping people on their bikes and our hope is that people continue to see the value in biking after all of this.”

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

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