Both recreational and competitive bicycle riders have been enjoying the activity for decades. No one really expected what effect the coronavirus pandemic would have on the industry — both positive and negative.
“We just went crazy,” JR Brester, second generation owner of Sonny’s Bike Shop in Scottsbluff, said. “We can’t get bikes and we only have a few left. Our service is about triple what we usually do, so we’ve never been this far behind.”
Currently, Sonny’s Bike Shop has about 200-250 bicycles on back order. Brester, who works with three major manufacturers as well as parts suppliers, said both new bikes and parts are next to impossible to get.
“We can’t get tubes or kickstands or anything else because they’re just gone,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
“Bicycle season” usually starts around Memorial Day, but this year it started two months early for Sonny’s Bike Shop. When COVID-19 hit, everything was shut down and the kids were out of school.
“Everyone was frightened that first week, wondering what was going to happen,” Brester said. “Then the weather stayed decent and people wanted to get outside. It’s nice to see people getting involved as families.”
Brester has also seen a big upsurge in the sale of electric-assist bikes, popular in Europe.
“They’re not motorized bicycles,” he said. “They’re assist-only so you’re not beating yourself up pedaling if the wind’s blowing.”
Other bike shops are experiencing much the same. Chris Grubbs of Valley Bicycle in Scottsbluff said they’ve been “super busy” because bicycling is one of few activities families can do together and enjoy the outdoors during a time when so many things are locked down.
Valley Bicycle is only about two years old as a business, so for now, they’re only selling used bicycles while they build their brand.
“We also sell a line of skateboards and we can’t even keep them in stock,” Grubbs said. “Our suppliers are also running low, so the shortage is spreading across the county.”
He added he’s been to other bike and skate shops and kept track of shops online. They’re having the same problem.
“We can still order inventory, but our suppliers are shipping across the country,” Grubbs said. “Shipping has also had difficulties, so we have to wait for stuff to come in.”
Sonny’s also sells a line of fitness equipment. Brester said the same increase in interest is happening there. New machines and parts are difficult to find as more people are exercising from home and avoiding the gym and possible coronavirus exposure.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some businesses to see a major uptick in activity, while others have struggled to remain at their current level.
Brester said, “A few businesses have suffered more than others, but everyone has been pretty resilient and adapted to changing conditions, so I think the business landscape will change as well.”
There are both pluses and minuses with any change. For Brester, the backlog of service work has allowed him to hire his son, who was laid off from his job due to the coronavirus. While it’s extremely difficult to obtain bikes and parts, business has never been better.
For Grubbs, it’s in realizing the importance of family and friends. On most weekends, he’s on his bike along with friends, enjoying the great outdoors.