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Nov 29, 2020

Hey! What's the deal with Bikes?

On a daily basis we are experiencing the disappointment of telling customers that many popular styles of bikes continue to be unavailable to consumers in local bicycle shops, department stores and on-line as a result of the global SARS Cov-2 pandemic and the world's response to it. So what's the deal?

1. Supply: The majority of bicycles in the world are manufactured in Asia by our partners at Giant Bicycles, headquartered in Taiwan. Since February/March of 2020 factory capacity in Asia has been operating at a percentage of capacity as they have closed production or reduced staffing in response to the virus. There are issues related to the rising costs of the natural resources used to make bikes and bike parts.

2. Tariffs: Recent federal tariffs on bicycles and bicycle products manufactured in China have a profound impact on pricing. Manufacturers were caught pivoting factory capacity from China to other European and Asian counties during the SARS CoV-2 pandemic which also impacted production.

3. Demand: Ironically the United States imported more bicycles during 2020 than at any time in history. One silver lining of the SARS CoV-2 epidemic was that many Americans sought outdoor activities including bicycling as a positive way to respond to quarantines and shut-downs. However this demand far out-stripped the supply of bicycles and bicycle products in the United States.

4. Transit: Bicycle and bicycle product manufacturers have struggled to meet international demand as have manufacturers of other household products. One example of this has been the difficulty of manufacturers to get their products out of busy ports in Asia by container ships, the lack of containers to load on ships, and the difficulty of bringing loaded container ships to port in North America.

5. Service: Shimano is the largest manufacturer of bicycle parts in the world. They also were caught unaware by the supply and demand issues. Not only do the lack of parts affect new bicycles, but also adds to the problem of bicycle shops to service existing bicycles. Shimano and other bicycle component manufacturers are currently a year out on meeting demand.

6. Why don't we manufacture bicycles in the United States?: Mass production of bicycles in the United States ended in the early 1980's when the largest remaining manufacturer (Schwinn based in Chicago, IL) moved production to Taiwan in response to labor costs. With limited exception, bicycle manufacture in the United States is confined to super high-end, custom builders like Independent Fabrication which we represent. While trade wars have had the effect of causing bicycle manufacturers to move production from China to other Asian and European countries, labor costs will continue to prevent any significant manufacturing in the United States. American consumers continue to be price-focused benefiting on-line distributors like Amazon and discounters like Walmart which favor manufacturing in Asia.

7. When do you expect a recovery in bicycle inventories?: Our partners at Giant, Cannondale, Santa Cruz, etc. tell us that inventory issues remain dynamic. We keep an updated list of customers seeking specific models of bicycles in our shop so that when those bikes become available we can advise. We do not take deposits on bicycles as inventory and pricing remains unpredictable. We do see relatively decent supply of e-bikes, gravel bikes, and road bikes. We have seen an improving supply of 12", 16" and 20" children's bicycles.

8. How are you guys handling service?: We are doing service by curb-side drop off and pick-up during business hours. During those hours there are bicycle racks outside our shop with materials for you to leave contact information and a brief description of desired service. We will immediately bring your bike into the shop and evaluate the service need. We will contact you within 24-48 hours with an estimate prior to conducting service, as well as an ETA of when we will be able to complete service.

9. Why shop local?: We are proud to be a local, independent and employee-owned retail bicycle shop servicing the communities in which we live. We are all life-time residents of Central Bucks County, and proud to provide local employment. We have been voted the Daily Intelligencer "Best of Bucks" Bicycle Shop from 2013-2020 inclusive, and were named one of "America's Best Bicycle Shops" by the National Bicycle Dealer's Association in 2020. We are deeply committed to our communities and sponsor everything from little league sports associations, high school activities, local food pantries, bicycle advocacy groups, a high school mountain bike team, and even one of America's eleven elite bicycle racing programs. Amazon doesn't do any of that.

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