If you want a certain type of bicycle, tire or tube you might wait months or even until next year to cycle away with it. Bicycle shops around Southwest Florida and the nation are finding a shortage of supplies.
That’s because biking has become extremely popular since the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the number of safe things to do.
“We are having trouble getting the inventory now,” said Doug Newman, owner of The Bike Route in Naples. “People are just looking for something to do. All kinds of bicycles for youngsters, for adults, even e-bike (electric bike) sales are up.”
Newman does have bicycles in stock, just not all the kinds his customers might request.
“Cannondale or Giant or Electra, there just isn’t availability,” he explained. “There are delays in the manufacturing. Certain bicycles are not coming until fall or now we are seeing January or February for certain ones.”
Peter Marsh, co-owner of Naples Cyclery, also has back orders that he doesn’t expect to see for a while. Entry-level bicycles are the most popular at his shop.
“Anywhere from the $300 to $800 to $1,000 price point, that is where the majority of sales are,” Marsh said.
That means certain bicycles in that price range are unattainable right now.
“You can’t get a lot of stuff,” Marsh said. “We have not been able to get a new $300 entry-level, single-speed cruiser bike since April. The Roll $600 comfort bike is a super bike, perfect bike for someone who wants to get out and cruise around.
“So that bike was popular. We don’t even have accurate ETAs now on when we will get them. We have money down on some products that won’t be available until next year,” he said.
When gyms closed people started buying fitness bicycles. That quickly depleted stock.
“I have no fitness bikes in the store. “Those are non-existent,” Marsh said.
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Volunteer Marco Delgrosso, left, and Bikes For Tykes director Bob Kurtz work on a bike, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, at the Bikes For Tykes workshop in North Naples. (Photo: Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA)
Marsh does have bicycles for sale. He said by being proactive and ordering early when the pandemic first started and by going to a variety of vendors, he has been able to put bikes in his shop.
“We are not sitting pretty, but we do have product for sale,” Marsh said. “We do have bike orders in the pipeline. We were fortunate that we were kind of early to the ordering scene.”
Newman says the shortage is not such a big problem now, but it could be when seasonal residents return.
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“Our main season is November to March, that is the difficult part. A lot of manufacturers won’t have product in the warehouse. A lot will have to be on back order,” he said. “I think it is nationwide. A bike is a safe thing to do, a way to get out and relieve stress and get fresh air. It totally overpowered the bicycle industry.”
Instead of calling a warehouse and getting a bicycle, Newman said he must order what he needs and wait.
“We have hundreds and hundreds of bicycles on back order,” he said. “Once they arrive, you are allotted your bicycles of what came in. That is what we have to go by. We will have bikes coming in, just not in the quantities we would like to see. There just isn’t product in the warehouse where we place an order and they ship it the next day.”
Newman also has bikes for sale in his shop, but customers can’t be too picky.
Bikes needing repairs and adjustment sit on the lot at Bikes For Tykes, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020, in North Naples. (Photo: Jon Austria/Naples Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA)
“If someone says, ‘Oh I love Cannondale and I love this particular model,’ there is a very long wait, probably months,” he said. “It has just been totally disruptive. My sales team keeps trying to find alternative bikes so we are doing OK so far. But it will be a problem going forward.”
Engel’s Bicycles had to look for new dealers when their main vendor, Fuji, ran out of bicycles.
“We have not had Fujis since April. We are all sold out. We brought in the KHS line because we couldn’t get Fuji’s,” said Bill Miller, who works at Engel’s Bicycles. “We have more bikes than anybody else, but we are scrambling for bikes. We are heading into season and we won’t have any bikes.
“We have one ladies bike coming, just one. The supply is way down. We can’t get helmets, tires and tubes. Everything is in short supply. We had a bicycle virus and everybody caught it.”
Engel’s has some hybrids, comfort bikes, beach cruisers, a couple of mountain bikes and some electric bikes.
“We don’t have the foot-forward comfort bikes,” Miller said. “They are very popular and we are having a hard time keeping them in the house. They appeal to the older crowd.”
Miller said the shortage is not only from demand, but from supply. Earlier this year factories closed in China and Taiwan due to the virus. Now they are open and production is underway, but the orders are backlogged and once the bicycles are made, they have to be shipped to the United States.
Getting parts for repairs is a challenge too.
“Basic repair parts, there are spot outages everywhere,” Newman said. “It makes purchasing product much more challenging. So far we have been fortunate to get most items. Overall it is manageable, but it is not what we would like it to be.
Getting supplies takes a lot more effort now.
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“You used to get 500 tubes, now we get 50 here and 50 there,” Miller said. “We still have them, but not as many. There is one spot for tires back there that is completely empty.
“Helmets are hard to get, everything is. Last time we got 15 bikes in, they were all sold in two weeks. We have people on a list waiting for bikes. It is pretty much coast to coast fighting for inventory and fighting for parts.”
“We have to get in line for tires tubes, grips, saddles,” he said. “Comfort-oriented saddles are just gone. People were coming in and had not been riding in a long time and needed a more comfortable seat.”
There are tubes and tires in stock, just not as much of a variety.
“There are a few things we run into if people want to match something,” Marsh explained. “They might have to go with a non-matching tire, but we can still get them rolling. There is some issue with tubes. We might have to do some jury-rigging with full disclosure to the customer.”
Newman said it has changed the way he does business.
“If bikes are not available we look for other bikes even bringing in some new vendors,” he said. “It used to be we would purchase tubes from one vendor. Now we get them from wherever we can get them.”
While it is tough to get inventory, the bicycle shop owners are grateful that business is booming.
“It is not really good or bad. It is just different,” Newman said. “The whole business model has changed. We just need to be quick on our feet and adapt to change.”
The bicycle shortage has been especially difficult for Bikes for Tykes. The Collier County nonprofit organization has given away 32,000 bikes in the past 33 years to underprivileged children and families in Collier County and southern Lee County.
Skip Riffle, president and founder of Bikes for Tykes, says it is almost impossible to find 20-inch or 24-inch children’s bicycles.
When two local Walmart’s got a shipment, he bought every bike in the store. They recently depleted their inventory when they received a request for 18 bicycles for children in Golden Gate.
Now they are refurbishing bicycles that in the past they would have thrown away.
“We are salvaging from the garbage,” Riffle described. “Basically that is it; things that should be thrown away. We have a sandblaster. But it is hours of work taking all the rust and old paint off so it gets down to bare minimal and then primer and we paint it with automotive paint. Normally we would have passed on those bikes, but we are making them do.”
Riffle needs 200 more children’s bicycles before the end of the year.
“I called Huffy the headquarters and talked to the guy up there and they said, ‘Skip, we don’t anticipate anything until the end of November,’” Riffle said.
“I’ve got all the sporting goods managers ready to call me if they see anything. There are no bikes in the stores. We are really between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “Making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, that is us right now. At this point I am just concentrating on my goal.”
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