Calgary bike shops see supply shortage as sales soar amid COVID-19 pandemic

As health restrictions remain in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, many Calgarians have taken up cycling to get outside and get exercise.

The recent surge in new cyclists has been apparent at bike shops across the city, with many stores’ supply unable to meet the demand.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in bike sales,” Bike and Brew co-owner Weston Covert said. “It shows on our sale room floor.”

Staff at BowCycle in northwest Calgary have also seen more new customers.

According to BowCycle owner John Fransky, the majority of shops in the city are sold out of popular sizes in most bikes under $2,000.

“There’s a whole new user group of cyclists coming out again and it’s really good to see,” Fransky said.

“Having this new group now, and this week telling them, ‘No, I don’t have a $600 bike,’ it’s just challenging at times.”

While both Fransky and Covert admit the shortage is a good problem to have considering many businesses are struggling to stay open during the pandemic, the rise in popularity of cycling in the city was anything but expected.

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“In March, nobody knew what was going to come of it,” Covert said. “To say that April, May and now going into June is what it is right now, I don’t think anybody could have expected that.”

It was the same for manufacturers and distributors as well, according to Stephen Goodall, an independent sales representative with HLC.

“We never anticipated anything like this. We were being very cautious and some guys might have been thinking, like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be open in the fall,’” Goodall said.

“I think a lot of us, as far as an industry, were being very cautious and we might have postponed some repeat orders or actually cancelled them in some cases, and so back in the factories, that’s what ended up happening.”

Typically, bike shops receive their shipments for their spring inventory in the fall of the previous year, and turnaround to get the bikes on the floor could be as high as three to four months, Goodall said.

“Now, there’s no inventory there for repeats because a lot of manufacturers didn’t want to jeopardize their 2021 lineup,” Goodall said. “A lot of these products come from China, from Asia, from Taiwan, so there’s a little bit of a delay in the start-up process to get inventory levels back up — so it’s kind of a perfect storm for everything.”

According to the shops, the shortage is being felt across North America.

Some customers waiting in line at BowCycle have also experienced the shortage as they try to order parts and bikes online.

“Some parts I’ve tried to get online just aren’t available, but you just have to be patient,” Geoff McMillan said.

As for how the shortage is expected to impact customers, Goodall said that bikes under $1,000 may have less sizes, colours and brands available, and choices for customers are expected to be limited until the 2021 lineup is shipped in the coming weeks.

“The consumer is the one getting a little bit of the pinch in terms of getting what they really want, but my advice is make sure the bike fits, it’s only a good deal if it fits you properly,” Fransky said.

“But get on something and ride it.”

For now, shops are asking customers to be patient, and if they need a bike sooner rather than later, to try the secondhand market online.

While the inventories will take some time to get back to a normal size, the shop owners said they are expecting new shipments within the next six weeks and throughout the summer.


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