Business was good, if plenty stressful, this past year for Harvy Massoud.
He and his brother, Hany, run Harvy’s Bike Shop at 19920 Highway 99 in Lynnwood, where it’s been since the late 1990s. The Massouds take in old rides to repair and sell them, and the past year prompted them to do it a lot as the supply for new bikes and parts grew thin with months-long backlogs for orders.
Like most, it was their first pandemic.
“We do it to survive,” Harvy Massoud said. “That’s why we work harder than ever.”
Jay Hiester, owner of Tim’s Bike Shop at 2401 Broadway in Everett, has had a similar experience through the pandemic. Sales slowed during a two-week shutdown for labor deemed nonessential by the state in March when “nobody could predict anything,” he said.
“Once people realized this was going to be the thing for a while, we were slammed,” Hiester said.
Shops still are busy, but now they’re squeezed as well by global manufacturing and shipping constraints.
The COVID-19 pandemic gave way to a new wave of bike riders. Sales quadrupled at Tim’s, a huge spike for the independent cycling store that specializes in mountain biking that he’s owned the past 21 years. When entertainment, exercise and recreation options vanished in spring last year, biking was one way for people to do all three.
Shops nationwide have seen similar brisk sales, according to the National Bike Dealers Association, which represents 18 shops in Washington and over 700 across North America.
Early in the pandemic, when more people were home, comfort and fitness bikes as well as bicycles under $1,000 quickly sold, said Heather Mason, the trade group’s president. Once those were gone, instead of people finding another hobby or way to move, customers “took what they could get.”
“Here we are 14 months later and we still are seeing an increase in shops, over 50%,” Mason said.
Cycling has had popularity booms before, including a sharp rise when racing cyclist Lance Armstrong was winning the Tour de France. But the volume of sales growth this past year was something else.
“This is unprecedented,” Mason said.
That rise has remained through the dreary winter months.
“We’re still getting a lot of new customers,” Hiester said, “but the problem is we’re running out.”
Production and port problems, coupled with a demand surge, are squeezing the supply chain. Many of the components are made in Asia where COVID-19 outbreaks first appeared late in 2019. Import backups, which has prompted large container ships to moor off Everett’s waterfront while awaiting a port opening, have jammed the previously steady network across the country.
“Our supply just has not been able to catch up,” Mason said.
It’s unlikely to ramp up any time soon because manufacturers are unsure about the demand surge and unwilling to increase production, she said. Her guess for when the supply chain catches up to demand was by 2023.
“There’s waiting lists like six months out, or they’ll be shipped out to a shop and be sold that weekend,” Mason said. Some shops are taking deposits for bikes months out.
Hiester has had a similar program at Tim’s Bike Shop, where someone can “rent” a higher-end mountain bike for $250 and try it for five days. If someone ends up buying one, those rental fees go toward the purchase.
Demand for bikes and parts has been so high that even Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop, which only deals in used bicycles, has been swamped.
“COVID cleaning gave us a bunch of bikes,” said shop manager Alain Warchilde. “We were sitting on almost three rooms of bikes we had to refurbish to get them on the floor, and we were turning them over almost as soon as we put them on the floor.”
He said lots of families bought bikes last year and have since sought child seats and trailers. “If the bike fit, people were buying it. … There were people coming in almost like a Christmas panic.”
Sales were similar to 2019, bike shop board president Kristin Kinnamon said. That was fine with them because they were closed for three weeks and have implemented strict precautions with customers and visitors at the small shop at 2531 Broadway in Everett.
It was hard work for Warchilde during April when most retail was closed by a state mandate and he was one of the only people working the shops and selling bikes by appointment.
But parts, everything from shifters to tires and tubes, have been hard to get.
“Those things were next to impossible to order last summer,” Warchilde said. The shop ordered 50 tubes last summer but the backlog pushed the delivery into December, which meant the initial order grew. “We were digging in the bottom of the barrel pulling out some old tubes still in the boxes.”
As summer arrives and more people try to get on their bikes, or find one to buy, Hiester and Warchilde urged caution getting one through an online or social media ad and to have it inspected by a bike mechanic.
Massoud, the Lynnwood bike shop owner, said the new bike shortage is still in effect, and the high demand means almost everything associated with it is pricier than it was just 18 months ago.
“That’s what it is. Everything is getting way more (expensive),” he said.
Hiester said he ordered bikes a year in advance of when they’ll arrive at his shop, the first time he’s done so in 21 years owning Tim’s Bike Shop.
“If they’re hoping to get into it this year, they’re already too late,” he said.
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