If you have been doing some shopping for bicycle parts or accessories lately you may have come up empty. Unfortunately this is equally frustrating to us retailers as it is to our customers; many of which have been delaying building up their new bicycle as they await a few key parts. I had expected supplies to be replenished through the winter months as demand drops off but unfortunately the opposite has happened- it has gotten even worse!
What is going on? A perfect storm of supply shortage, increased demand, and slow transportation. Covid of course is the major culprit and stores were initially ecstatic as there was a huge run on inventory last spring. With everyone on lock down people began to take down those bikes hanging in their rafters for the last 10 years, and they needed a lot of service. Then the public realized that cycling was one of the few activities they could safely enjoy creating a resurgence in cycling. Everything sold out; but then inventory did not get replenished, instead it trickled in at best quickly selling out again. Bicycle service is now severely affected as well as parts have become so scarce repairs cannot be made.
I have spoken to many suppliers and manufacturers and they are all dealing with the same things. Depending on where Covid is flaring up their factories may be shut down for days or weeks. This creates a huge backlog. Even products manufactured in the US still require parts from many places and in most cases many countries. A company may be waiting on a single part that is holding up an entire line of products. I spoke with one rack company that had inventory ready to go but they were just waiting on their powder coater to finish their products; which was shut down due to Covid.
On top of all this our ports are backed up with huge volumes of containerships awaiting to unload their cargo and get through customs. Restock dates keep getting pushed out further; then pushed again.
There are no easy solutions here as companies cannot address these things on a dime. You are likely going to see less choices, especially in apparel and helmets as production is shifted to the most popular items. It is quicker to make a lot of a few products than a little of many. If you can pre-order an item you need I recommend it. This at least puts you at the front of the line when inventory does trickle in. We are not seeing the hundreds of items come to stock like we used to but a few here and a few dozen there which are quickly snatched up. No doubt this is temporary but I expect it to continue through the 2021 season so please be patient!