“New toilet paper:” Bicycles fly off the shelves, flooding stores

Bicycles are sold before there is time to assemble them for display. Attayi said it had adjusted its sales for 2019 by the end of May. He had to hire new employees to meet demand, and since February he has not taken days off. Attayi said he gave raises and started buying lunch for his stressful staff.

They are thriving whether in cities dominated by cars like Houston and Los Angeles or more traditional cycling areas such as Portland, Oregon, New York and Washington DC. Having enough bikes in stock and completing repairs on time has become a challenge. In some cases, customers are distracted.

A recent survey by the National Association of Bicycle Dealers found that 83% of stores are concerned about inventory levels. Bicycle manufacturers are trying to keep up.

“We’re usually a pretty slow, cold store,” Attayi said. “Now the phone doesn’t stop ringing. My guys are overwhelmed and I fully understand that.”

New customers are looking for ways to be active outdoors as well. Bicycle shop owners say it has contributed to the closure of gyms and yoga studios during the pandemic. Others say customers are looking for an alternative to public transportation to work. Social distance is easiest for individual modes of transportation, such as cars and bicycles. In March 2020, U.S. bicycle sales increased by 39% compared to March 2019, according to the NPD Group that tracks retail sales.

“Bicycles are like new toilet paper,” Attayi said. “If it’s available, buy it.”

Garfield Cooper, owner of cycling company ZenCog in Jacksonville, Florida, has additional mechanics working to try to keep track of repairs. Repairs that are usually performed within 24 hours require up to a month. Cooper, like Attay, said he hasn’t had a day off since February.

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Although his sales usually fall in the summer months with increased heat and humidity, Cooper said he has yet to see a lag in business.

“It’s been a long time since the bike is so important to the American people,” Cooper said. “It’s so cool that they’re interested in riding a bike.”

He struggles to stock things like bike seats and helmets in stock. Cooper said he regularly calls other stores to find the parts he needs for repairs.

Robert Keating, who owns a Triathlon lab outside of Los Angeles, said he has never seen anything like the current bike boom in the 37 years he has worked in bike stores. He switched his shop from hotspots to high-end bikes to affordable bikes that will probably be ridden near them. Beach cruisers were especially popular, he said.

“Some people say“ it’s so nice to be on your bike again. I can’t believe I’ve given it up for so long, “Keating said.” Some people say, “I can’t believe how hard it is to drive. I’ll make the strength to help.”

Bicycle shop owners are also wondering how long the current boom will last. Some said shoppers were more interested in cyclists because with less car traffic, the roads felt safer. Their interest may decline as traffic returns. But some cities have begun to divert street space into bike paths, which could lead to more cycling in the long run. Approximately 400 miles of protected bike paths have been built in the United States in the last decade, according to advocacy group People for bicycles.

Phil Koopman, owner of BicycleSpace in Washington, compared the current bike boom to 1999, when many people bought computers to prepare for Y2K.

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“Back then, those companies didn’t sell a lot of computers for a few years because everyone already had them,” Koopman said. “That’s a big question. Is this a one-off thing or is it something sustainable?”

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