North Bay bike shops face continued shortages amid pandemic
Out front of the Bike Peddler in Santa Rosa, 8-year-old Hayden Kirk test rode a red Specialized mountain bike in wide circles around the store parking lot as his two younger siblings chased just behind him.
The bike wasn’t a perfect fit, so his father, Bob Kirk, got on the phone with another shop. But it seemed unlikely he’d make a purchase that day.
“Bikes are extremely scarce,” said Kirk, who lives with his family in Petaluma. “This will be the fourth store we’ve tried.”
Nearly a year after Sonoma County residents first rushed to snag new two-wheelers during the early days of the pandemic, local bike stores continue to struggle keeping most models in stock. That’s thanks to a nationwide bicycle shortage caused by a persistent demand from buyers seeking outdoor exercise and a global supply chain still reeling from the effects of the coronavirus.
With spring fast approaching, shop owners anticipate an additional surge as inventory remains low. And local bike manufactures expect the severe shortage could continue all the way into next year.
Bike Peddler manager Chris Wells said that throughout the pandemic, he’s seen a constant stream of customers looking for cruisers, mountain bikes, e-bikes and road cycles since indoor gyms have remained mostly closed and going for a ride is one of the few safe activities outside of the house.
The bicycle makers Wells orders from haven’t been able to keep up with the pandemic bike boom, meaning he rarely knows when he can expect to receive new shipments. Wells has begun taking deposits from customers to reserve new bikes for when they finally do arrive.
Shops across the country face a similar predicament.
“For kids mountain bikes, I even had people from Oregon and Washington calling and wanting us to ship them for Christmas presents,” Wells said.
In April, shortly after stay-home orders went into effect in most of the country, revenue from bikes and cycling accessories spiked 75% year-over-year to a total of $1 billion, according to market research firm NPD.
Those soaring sales appear to have only continued. Marin Bikes, a mountain bike manufacturer based in Petaluma, has seen sales double during the pandemic. And all of its 2021 bike models already have been allocated to dealers and distributors.
Chris Holmes, Marin Bikes brand director, said the company’s factory in Indonesia has been running at capacity since May. But social distancing protocols on assembly lines, shipping delays caused by a lack of freight containers and a limited supply of key bike components have put drag on ramping up production.
Like Marin Bikes, most large manufacturers have their factories in China and southeast Asia.
Holmes said it could be until 2022 before the company can fill its warehouses and return to a normal distribution schedule.
“It’s definitely been a very challenging environment for not only bike suppliers but also component manufacturers,” Holmes said. “It’s really across the entire supply chain.”
That means in addition to procuring bikes, it’s also taking longer for individual shops to order the necessary shifters, cranksets and other parts for repairs. Mike’s Bikes in Petaluma has been inundated with customers hoping to fix up old bicycles that have collected dust in the garage. Store manager Jeff Stoudt said people are learning to live with the delays.
“I think that customers in general are more accepting of that because they’re dealing with it in every aspect of life,” Stoudt said.
Brenna Sahs, manager of Wine Country Cyclery in Sonoma, said she’s seen appointments for repairs increase in recent weeks as people prepare for warmer spring weather.
“Service has been huge, because if you can’t find a bike, people are fixing (old bikes),” Sahs said.
Holly May, 28, of Santa Rosa was recently able to find a used Bianchi road bike on Craigslist. She was already commuting to work by bike and decided to take up road cycling last year.
“During COVID, my husband got a cool road bike and we’ve been going on rides,” May said. “We go out to Graton on the Joe Rodota Trail and up and down Stony Point Road.”
Sachi Peddicord, 27, got hooked on mountain biking last summer after buying a used hard-tail bike on Facebook Marketplace. In October, she lost her job working for a concrete contractor because of the pandemic and landed a gig at the Bike Peddler.
Peddicord has since started doing the popular trail rides in Trione-Annadel State Park and become a part of the Santa Rosa mountain biking community.
Wells, her manager at the Bike Peddler, gave Peddicord a Marin Bikes full-suspension bicycle that was abandoned at the shop. She hopes to eventually upgrade to a more recent model. But with so many bikes on back order for the foreseeable future, she’ll likely need to wait to take advantage of her employee discount.
“It’s definitely difficult for both employees and for customers, and customers are definitely the priority,” Peddicord said.
You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at email@example.com or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian.
Housing and homelessness, The Press Democrat
I've lived in California for most of my life, and it's hard for me to remember when the state hasn't been in a housing crisis. Here in Sonoma County, sharply rising housing costs and increasing homelessness are reshaping what was long considered the Bay Area’s “affordable” region. As The Press Democrat’s housing and homelessness reporter, I aim to cover how officials, advocates, developers and residents are reacting to and experiencing the ongoing crisis.