Why is there a shortage in bikes, and what does it mean for you? A brief explainer

If you are in the market for a new bike, here is why you might be having difficulty finding one, and some advice as to what to do about it.

Published: 11th May 2021

The COVID-19 crisis has wreaked havoc far and wide upon many business sectors. Mandatory lock-downs, short and long-term closures and other factors related to the pandemic have all meant that many businesses have faced unprecedented struggles to stay viable.

Nevertheless, the cycling industry seems to be one of the exceptions. Since the start of the pandemic, more and more people have started using bikes as an alternative to public transport, as well as choosing cycling as a safer exercise option to gyms and other closed spaces. Consequently, the pandemic has given an unlikely and substantial boost to sales of bicycles and bike repair and mending services on a global scale. This situation is not unique to the cycling business. All kinds of outdoor gear and supplies have experienced similar spikes in demands (and subsequent severe shortages). Furthermore, in many countries including the UK, bike shops have been given essential services status which has allowed them to continue to offer their services to the public.

Why is there a bike shortage?

All of this might all seem like great news for bike shops, except that the problem is now on the supply side. It is all smooth sailing for the cycling business unless supply cannot meet demand. The unprecedented surge in demand is coupled with the lowest supply levels the industry has ever witnessed. Bike industry experts are reporting that it may take a year or more for most distributors to get their inventories back to fully stocked status. Until then, many shops are struggling with offering their customers the bikes and service parts they need, with some shops even being forced to close under the weight of the inability to meet the spike in demand with inadequate supply levels. With no clear end to the pandemic crisis in sight, the demand on bikes continues to climb while the supply shortage persists. This is leading to lengthened wait times on bike deliveries.

The reasons behind the severe shortages are twofold: Firstly, production delays, especially in bike components, are a major reason in getting complete bikes delivered to your local cycle equipment store. Today’s bicycles undergo a complicated sequence of sourcing and assembly steps before they arrive in their final form in bike shops. The major component manufacturers, Shimano and SRAM, have suffered from the widespread global shortages in essential raw materials (steel and aluminum) as well as COVID-related factory closures, and have consequently reported lead times of a year or more to fill the supply gaps (compared to 90-day lead times under normal circumstances).

Secondly, the global transportation and logistics network has been hit with severe delays, especially when it comes to moving goods between Asia (where most bikes and components are made) to Europe and the rest of the world. It normally takes around two to three weeks for a container ship to go from Taiwan to Europe, now it can take up to three months due to increased demand on freight and overcrowded ports. Shipping and freight costs have almost quadrupled as well.

How do you find a new bike under the Great Bike Shortage of 2020-2021?

If you’re currently in the market for a new bike, how can you find the bike you want in the midst of the craziest shortage the cycling business has ever witnessed? One strategy is to shop for a more expensive bike if you can afford it. The most in-demand bikes are lower-end and cheaper models, so you might have less competition in available bikes (or those with shorter delivery lead times) if you are willing to spend a bit extra for upper-tier bikes. Consult the staff at your local bike shop and they would be able to advise you on the availability timelines of different brands and models within your budget.

Another strategy – if you are mechanically competent and able to inspect the mechanical condition of a potential used bike purchase -is to consider secondhand bikes. Be forewarned, though, even secondhand bikes command much higher prices right now as a byproduct of the shortage in new bikes.

So, you found your new bike! Why should you consider insuring it?

Considering the shortage in bikes and the unusual circumstances dictated by the pandemic, it might be wise to invest in bicycle insurance if you would like to have the advantage of covering your precious purchase against potential theft and accidental damage. Oftentimes, peace of mind is worth the additional cost of insurance, even if you can afford buying a replacement for a damaged or stolen bicycle, right now it is exceptionally difficult to find bikes available for purchase given all the reasons outlined in this article. This is especially relevant in situations where regular home insurance policies will not have adequate (or any) coverage for your bike(s), including households that own multiple bikes and additional cycling accessories. Most importantly: coverage for expensive and high-end bikes. While it may seem understandable to experienced cyclists, it might prove to be challenging trying to explain to most insurance providers who don’t specialize in cycle coverage that a push bike might cost several thousand pounds more than a small car!

If you are considering purchasing any kind of cycle insurance, please feel free to read our cycle insurance guides or if you’d like to chat through our policies available to you – our impartial customer support team are happy to provide you with information, just call – 01653 916642.

Published: 11th May 2021
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