Consumers turn to biking for safe fun and exercise during pandemic

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Surge in demand prompts bicycle shortages, higher prices

“This is a bike/pedestrian bridge across the Arkansas River at Little Rock, Arkansas. The people, places and natural beauty of Arkansas. Getty Images.

When parts of the country were under orders to stay home and health clubs closed to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, many fitness-starved Americans turned to cycling for outdoor exercise, triggering a bike shortage, according to a US Census Bureau report.

Two cyclists in silhouette ride across the Clinton Library Bridge (Rock Island Bridge) at sunrise. Getty Images.

Among the reasons cited: supply chain issues with U.S. bike manufacturers, decreased imports when factories in East Asia shut down due to the pandemic and America’s stay-at-home orders. Bicycle Retailer and Industry News reports the shortage will probably continue until mid-2022.

According to data from the 2017 Economic Census, 6,521 sporting goods stores sold an estimated $3.6 billion worth of bikes in the United States.

Those sales accounted for 14.1% of total sales of sporting goods stores that sold bikes ($25.6 billion) and 8.1% of all sporting goods stores sales ($44.5 billion).

An additional $454.3 million in bike sales came from 277 Nonstore Retailers, or “online” sellers.

Sporting goods store sales fell in April 2020, shortly after the start of the pandemic in the United States, but rebounded and surpassed pre-pandemic levels by March 2021 (the latest data available).

Sales rebounded but the bike shortage continued through 2020 and into 2021.

Getty Images.

LOVE OF BIKING

Riding a bicycle has been a popular form of exercise for decades, rising in popularity in the 1980s when mountain biking became a sport, followed by increased interest in bicycle racing in the 1990s.

When many fitness centers across the United States closed temporarily, gym members quickly looked for other alternatives. Since exercising alone was a better way to reduce risk, biking solo was among the activities folks embraced amid the pandemic.

This burst of interest in biking increased demand for lower-priced bikes and, at the same time, bike afficionados continued to buy high-end gravel, mountain, road and electric bikes that can cost thousands of dollars.

BIKE MANUFACTURING

In 2019, U.S. manufacturers shipped $300 million in bicycles and $779.9 million in bike parts — a total of nearly $1.1 billion. This total was up from the $746.3 million in 2018 and $911.2 million in 2017.

Data for 2020 are not yet available but these supply chain problems and other issues are likely to impact shipments for the year.

BIKE IMPORTS AND EXPORTS

With $3.6 billion in bike sales and only $487.9 million in U.S. bike manufacturers’ shipments in 2017, it’s clear that American consumers have relied heavily on imports of bicycles — primarily from China.

Bike imports dipped significantly in March 2020 but, by September, imports had rebounded.  More than half of the $124.0 million in bicycle imports in January 2021 came from China ($69.8 million). Taiwan ($30.0 million) and Cambodia ($14.6 million) ranked second and third.

Despite manufacturing supply chain issues, U.S. businesses still exported $10.1 million in bikes in June 2020. This number decreased to $6.8 million in December 2020 but rose to $8.4 million in January 2021.

US Census Bureau report. Content used with permission.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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