Cycling Popularity Soars as Bikes Are Hard to Find

Joe Ferguson has never had to go looking for used bikes to sell at his shop, Revolution Cycles, 1917 Bedford Center Drive in Washington. But then COVID-19 happened.

Bicycles, new and used, are hard to come by these days, another result of the virus.

“When the world shut down for three months, nothing was being manufactured. That included parts for bicycles,” Ferguson said. “And I guess during the whole lockdown, people who were at home looking for something to do decided to go ride a bike.

“We had more people buying bikes and fewer bikes to sell, so all of a sudden the world is out of bicycles.”

The same scenario is playing out in bike shops across the country.

The NPD Group reported that sales of bicycles, sporting goods and home fitness equipment has surged over the last several months. “As U.S. consumers tackle ways to keep themselves and their families busy, active, and fit during this time of social distancing, sports and home fitness equipment as well as children’s and adult leisure bicycles have seen double- and triple-digit sales increases.

Within the cycling market, March sales were driven by children’s/BMX (+56 percent) and adult leisure (+121 percent) bikes, NPD Group said.

“Consumers are looking for outdoor- and kid-friendly activities to better tolerate the challenges associated with stay-at-home orders, and cycling fits the bill well,” said Dirk Sorenson, sports industry analyst at NPD.

Unfortunately, if you are looking to purchase a bike today, your options will be limited and that will be the case for quite a while.

Like so many products today, bicycles are mostly manufactured overseas in countries like China and Taiwan. A few brands are made in America and Mexico, Ferguson said, but even those companies are behind on filling orders because the parts are manufactured overseas.

Lynskey Titanium Bicycles, which manufactures handmade bikes in Tennessee, told Ferguson it has a six- to eight-week delay due to a lack of parts.

That means Revolution Cycles, which normally has more than 100 bikes for customers to choose from, had just 11 new bikes on the sales floor last week.

With orders delayed at least until fall, maybe until spring, Ferguson said he is searching for used bikes to stock the store — if he can find them.

“Used bikes are hard to come by right now too, because everybody is keeping their bikes and riding them,” he said.

In the past, Ferguson would limit his search for used bikes to “bike shop” quality bikes, rather than cheaper models purchased from department stores. But with the shortage, he said he’s willing to look at everything.

“Everything we sell, new and used, we assemble, we tune up, we clean and make sure they are operating properly,” Ferguson said.

Even new bikes that come in to Revolution Cycles require some work and testing, he said. The bikes are delivered only partially assembled. The store’s staff has to assemble them, adjust all the mechanical parts, all the gears, derailleurs and the brakes.

“We want to make sure they operate properly, because the bikes are only assembled at the plant. They are not actually test riding them there,” Ferguson said.

Tune-Up, Repair Your Old Bike

If you already own a bike, but haven’t ridden it in a while, be sure to give it a thorough inspection before you take it out on the road or trail, said Ferguson who opened his shop in 2008 and expanded it in 2010. That means doing more than just airing up the tires.

“If you are getting it out of the garage for the first time in 10 years, the tires may be dry rotted,” Ferguson said. “Some of the grease inside the shifters can get gummed up over time, causing them to not work properly.”

Ferguson said he also has seen wheel spokes break after bikes stored in a garage were exposed to chemical sprays to kill bugs.

Revolution Cycles offers services to make sure your bike is safe and functioning properly, from a simple safety check to a full tune-up, where they service all of the moving parts, from the brakes to the shifters to the wheels.

They also offer a bike cleaning, including the chain, derailleurs and frame.

People who like to be hands-on can sign up for bike maintenance classes at Revolution Cycles. The shop offers a Maintenance 101 class for beginning cyclists, which teaches them how to keep their bike clean, change the tires, put the chain back on if it comes off and what to do if you have a catastrophe on the road.

An advanced maintenance class teaches cyclists how to do a full tune-up on their bikes, how to adjust gears and brakes, how to remove parts, clean them and put them back on, how to replace a shift cable and maintain the working mechanisms.

For more information on dates and times, people can call Revolution Cycles at 636-900-1787, watch the store’s Facebook page or check the website at www.rev-cycles.com.

Temporary or True Interest?

Cycling enthusiasts like Ferguson are hopeful the current surge of interest in the sport will last beyond the pandemic.

“We are hoping it’s not like January at the gym, where people are into it right now, but that interest will fade as life gets back to normal,” Ferguson said. “We are hopeful that (the pandemic) sparks a renewed interest in the outdoors in general. A lot of outdoor activities are booming. We have been enjoying riding in new places. There are actually new mountain bike parks going in in Eureka and surrounding areas, so there are new places for people to ride off street.”

Revolution Cycles also serves as a meeting place for group rides and is associated with GORC, Gateway Off Road Cyclists, and STL Biking, both of which have Facebook pages where they list organized rides.

Downtown Location

Revolution Cycles rents a location on Front Street just across from Rennick Riverfront Park and the riverfront trail, but it has yet to open to the public.

Ferguson said the plan was to use it as a place to rent bikes for people, both locals and tourists, wanting to ride around town for the day, or maybe even cross the Highway 47 bridge to connect with the Katy Trail or visit some of the wineries in Dutzow and Augusta.

So far that hasn’t been possible. Ferguson listed three reasons why:

One, with bikes in short supply, he doesn’t have enough to rent out.

Two, the bike lane section of the bridge has been on hold for some time with no set completion date.

Three, the east end of the riverfront trail has not been repaired or reopened since it was used as a staging area during the new bridge construction, and the west end floods regularly making much of it unusable.

Ferguson said ideally he would like to see the community become more bicycle-friendly, with bike lanes and “Share the Road” signs, so those novice or weekend cyclists who would want to rent a bike for a day or two for the weekend, would be safer.

Ferguson said he plans to open the downtown location as soon as it makes sense and is preparing the building for opening.

“We are hoping maybe by fall to get into it, but if there are still no bicycles, then it will be next spring,” he said.

“I think it’s going to be a fun activity. People will be able to rent bikes in town, ride the trail, and there are so many neat restaurants here and places to go and things to do, they can make a weekend out of it.”

Know the Rules of the Road

Before taking to the streets for a bike ride, cyclists should familiarize themselves with the rules of the road. 

Learning the traffic (and trail) rules will allow cyclists to be as safe as possible, the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation notes on its website, www.mobikefed.org. “Experienced bicyclists who follow the rules are up to 20 times safer than novice bicyclists.”

Following are some of the Missouri requirements for cyclists:

• Bicyclists have the same rules, rights and responsibilities as other drivers. They must stop at stop signs and drive on the right-hand side of the road (with the flow of traffic, not against it). 

Anyone riding slower than the speed limit should stay as far to the right-hand side as is safe. 

• Anyone riding between sunset and sunrise must have a headlight on the front, a red reflector or tail light on the back, reflective material or a light on the moving parts of the bicyclist or bike and reflective material or lights on the sides of the bike. 

• All bikes must have brakes that work. 

• Pedestrians have the right of way, and bicyclists must alert walkers by voice, horn or bell. 

• Use turn and stop hand signals at all times when operating a bicycle on Missouri streets and highways. 

Following are some safety suggestions for riding a bike on roads:

• Wear safety gear: helmet, sunglasses, gloves. 

• Obey the law. Not stopping at a stop sign is dangerous. 

• Ride single file in traffic. State law allows cyclists to ride side-by-side, but only when they are not impeding other vehicles. Otherwise, cyclists should ride single file as far to the right as is safe.