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Bike sales are still booming, making spare parts hard to come by

bike shortage
Posted at 2:16 PM, May 13, 2021

There are not enough hours in the day for Chris O'Neill, a mechanic at Bike Boom in Sommerville, Massachusetts, a store where business has quite literally been booming.

"There are days when we're so busy we can't answer the phone," O'Neill said as he worked to replace a chain on a bike that had been brought in.

For the last year or so, demand for bike across the country has been unprecedented. With gyms closed and Americans looking to get outdoors, bikes have taken off. But the problem is there aren't enough of them to meet the increased demand.

The bike industry is also being hit by a new problem: there are not enough bike parts out there to fix all the bikes that need fixing.

"The biggest impact is how long people are waiting for parts," O'Neill said.

One of the hardest parts for O'Neill to get is a cassette, the piece on the back of a tire helps a bike shift gears. As soon as suppliers get them in, they're usually gone within minutes. As a result, mechanics like O'Neill are having to make older parts last much longer.

"We could probably hire someone full-time to watch what comes in and what goes out on a daily basis," he added.

So, what's happening?

For an answer to that question, we turned to Eric Bjorling who serves as the director of brand marketing for Trek Bicycle Corporation.

"There are more bikes coming into the United States than any other time in the history of the country," Bjorling said.

The problem is with the supply chain around the world and shipments of available parts. There are just not enough parts being manufactured globally to keep up with demand. It can take as many as 50 different suppliers to make one bike.

"If that one supplier for a pedal is having issues, it really can cause a ripple effect through the industry," Bjorling said.

All of this worries someone like Bjorling because bike companies, like Trek, are hoping to seize this moment of renewed cycling popularity. With more Americans biking, Trek's hope is they'll be able to push more cities across the country to be more bike-friendly, leading to fewer cars on the road post-pandemic.

"We want to see what we can do with cities and towns to make this not just a bike boom, but a return to a more sustainable transportation model,” Bjorling said.