Buying Bikes in the Age of COVID
The physical store has been closed since the bars and restaurants closed in Los Angeles. Initially, the glass doors were closed to the street and people had to call. That was very difficult to manage. Now, the front doors are open, but we have a 6' counter between us and our customers.
There are a number of reasons that bicycles are so in demand right now. I will highlight a few in the order of impact, in my opinion:
- Clean Slate - COVID and the rise of the Black Lives Matter awakening have caused people to re-evaluate their lives and what matters. To place justice and equality at a new level, but also re-evaluate what matters in life. From a fragile food system to a social media maelstrom, bicycle riding is a particularly clear and sane choice.
- People have time. "I am a teacher and during summer break I am usually in grad school."
- The streets are comparatively empty.
- Limited recreation options for kids with more time.
- Safety versus rideshare or public transportation equation has changed.
New Bike Supply
Unfortunately, demand far outstrips supply. All the manufacturers are out of everything. The supply chain was disrupted before COVID hit, as the tariff increases forced manufacturing from China and Taiwan to Malaysia, Cambodia and other places in Asia. This resulted in lower volumes and more quality control issues.
Then COVID hit Asia and factories closed. And shipping stopped. And ports and customs. Domestic warehouses are operating on skeleton staff to institute distancing standards and shipping carriers swamped with volumes as everyone buys everything online.
"How can you even have a bike store without bikes?!"
I was asked this by an exasperated would be cyclist. The answer, it is hard to "even have a bike store" and near impossible "without bikes."
We are still getting new bikes delivered but in much smaller quantities than we ordered. I placed an order recently for 98 Salsa bicycles and we are slated to receive 7 in July and 7 in August. That will be all we can get until January. We ordered 30 Bianchis and we are slated to get six.
People want to hold bikes, pre-order and pre-pay. I understand but we can't accommodate because we don't know what we are going to get until it arrives and it is built. We received four bikes recently from a manufacturer and two were damaged in shipping. Until the bike is built and test ridden, we can't be sure that what we will have.
Used Bike Supply
As new bikes are in scant supply and times are economically challenging for many people, we have been overwhelmed with bikes pulled out of backyards or huge projects purchased from Craigslist. We are totally overwhelmed with repairs and even simple stuff is taking 8-14 days. We are placing customers repairs before our used bike builds.
Also, the majority of our used bikes come from a few picker/collector friends that are out at garage sales and thrift stores everyday. Those sources have ceased to operate so it is difficult to find the quality of bikes that we want. Plus, as amply previously mentioned, people are desperate for bikes so their is a lot of competition for a garage sale bike.
How We Are Operating
Whenever we get new bikes, we build the entire model run. That way we know what sizes, colors and models we are able to commit. We also post them on