Stores again have bikes, but is anyone coming in to buy them?

Bob Burke of Guy’s Bicycles in Feasterville says much of his inventory is back to pre-pandemic normal levels again. (Photo by Wayne Fish)
       When the pandemic began and restrictions abounded, people turned to close-by-home recreational activities, such as bicycling.
      The two-wheel enthusiasts rushed to stores to purchase their favorite brand but soon supplies ran out and supply-chain issues prevented businesses from sufficiently restocking their racks.
      At one point, the backlog time for orders reached more than a year.
      Now, nearly three years later, stores have been getting product again but there’s a new dilemma.
      That is, people have become so accustomed to purchasing merchandise over the Internet that they simply get in touch with big delivery services such as Amazon and forget about making the trip to their old favorite store.
      First, not enough bikes in stores. Now, almost too many.
      Established outlets such as Guy’s Bicycles in Feasterville aren’t feeling the crunch as much as some of the smaller merchants, says Guy’s co-owner and manager Bob Burke.
      But everyone, big or little, is feeling the change in buying habits to some degree.
      Until now, people would just purchase bicycle accessories such as shoes, helmets and gloves online. But they would go to bike stores to buy bikes and to be properly fitted, especially for models in the mid-price range.
      “Bikes were always left to the bike shop,’’ Burke said in a recent interview at his store. “Now even that’s being done differently. You can buy a bike online. People used to just buy helmets and shoes online, they didn’t even have to get in their car to go do it. It’s easier just to sit in your pajamas in front of your computer and pick out what you want.
      “Today, you can go to the Trek or Cannondale website, buy a bike, have it shipped to Guy’s Bicycles. . .we build it, we fit you and you pick it up. But you don’t give us any money. Those companies get the credit card information from them.’’
      Thing is, everyone still needs to get their bike serviced or repaired and that can’t be done online. So there’s still plenty of foot traffic in the stores but with different motives.
      Supplies from big manufacturing countries such as China began to return to normal this past summer.
      “Brands such as Trek and Cannondale have caught up,’’ Burke said. “The road and gravel bikes are pretty much normal again. The ultra-high end bikes are still a little soft (demand exceeding supply, with long delivery times). We have enough bikes in general now to where it was before the pandemic.’’
      The recreational rider who does a lot of weekend pedaling and participates in bike-a-thons, club rides, etc., should have no trouble finding a bicycle to fit his or her needs.
      “That supply is really good,’’ Burke said. “We have colors, sizes, models. And the family category is good as well – bikes for canal path riders, hybrids.
      “The big thing is service has caught up. You don’t have to wait two weeks anymore.’’
      Of course, all this could change if recent concerns over health conditions (COVID-19) in China continue to worsen.
      “It’s going to impact the cycling industry again,’’ Burke predicted. “Whatever we’ve ordered that’s supposed to arrive in the spring is now being pushed a few months back. But this is the winter, we have inventory and it’s going to sit a bit, so we’re OK with that.’’
      Whatever the case, it can’t get any worse than the situation which took place starting in March 2020.
      “The craziness of the first pandemic cleaned out the shelves a bit,’’ he said. “We don’t see that happening again where it just wipes everything out and no inventory again.’’
       On top of this is another whole different element in the industry, namely the rising popularity of E-bikes. These come with an electric motor which assists riders with going up hills, general fatigue, etc.
      “The bicycle industry really isn’t ready for this,’’ Burke said. “There are two types – the ‘E-assist,’ which means you pedal the bike and it helps you. It knows when you need an assist. There are also E-bikes which use a throttle and you don’t pedal at all. Basically a moped.’’
      The appeal to the E-assist bike is there isn’t as much perspiration and exertion involved. A 10-mile ride is like a walk in the park.
      “You come back and you just feel good about it,’’ Burke said.
      Hopefully, bike stores will still be around for years to come because you always need a place to get information and a helping hand.
      >Upcoming column schedule
      Our “On the Run’’ column will be taking a two-week break for some vacation time and the holidays. OTR will return the week of Jan. 8-12. Have a great holiday season!
      Race calendar
      Sunday, Jan. 1
      BCRR Winter Series Cham-Pain 5K, 11 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown-Richboro. Contact www.bcrrclub.com
      Sunday, Jan. 8
      BCRR Winter Series Tyler Challenge 10K, 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown-Richboro. Contact www.bcrrclub.com
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About Wayne Fish 2409 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.