Cheap and off-the-shelf? Forget it. Why do we have a bike problem in 2021?

In the age of pandemics Poles have jumped on bikes en masse. Already in April that year we crowded into stores and showrooms. At the same time complications with deliveries and interruptions in production started. What was called temporary troubles in the market, turned out to be a huge problem, which in the spring of 2021 hit full force.

Did you manage to buy a new bike at a decent price this year? You can consider yourself lucky. For months across the country, getting a new unicycle has been a challenge.

Prices, especially for mid-range equipment, are going up like crazy. Although, as our readers report, it’s not much better with premium products. You have to wait for weeks for the ordered bikes, and those that are available go on sale. The reason is one: pandemic.

Bicycle as the new toilet paper

Poland has never been short of two-wheel enthusiasts – both in the sporting edition, and in the completely pragmatic one, where the bicycle is simply a means of transport. But with the first wave of the coronavirus a veritable one-track boom began.

For some, an alternative to indoor gyms, for others, a safe way to get around, and even the only chance to spend time away from home. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic Poland has gone bicycle crazy. And not only Poland – the mania for two wheels has spread all over the world.

– The bicycle has become the new toilet paper,” Grant Kaplan, the manager of Sydney’s Giant store, told The Guardian in April 2020.

– We have a huge demand that the supply is not keeping up, explains Adam Ginalski of Tabou, a Polish bicycle manufacturer. – In March last year we were worried. We had full warehouses, and on top of that the lockdown that was put in place shut down absolutely everything. There was confusion on the market. Many manufacturers refused to supply Poland for fear that they would not sell the goods, but then the restrictions began to loosen gently and people rushed to the stores, because bicycles were the only way of any physical activity. The boom lasted all spring, summer and even autumn.

All it takes is one missing piece

The problem is that at the same moment, a global crisis erupted, causing factories to stand down and supply chains to be disrupted. What we see today are the consequences of this unfortunate combination.

– In early 2020, “Asia was ‘shut down'” where most of the accessory and component plants are located, says Ginalski. – This disrupted supply chains. As a consequence, the bikes simply disappeared from the market. It was enough that there was a small element missing, such as a clamp for the wheel, and completing the product was already impossible. So now we go to a store or showroom and there we see empty hooks and shelves.

We have a huge demand, which is not kept up with the supply. The boom lasted all spring, summer and even autumn

Adam Ginalski, Tabou

Tabou is a Polish bicycle manufacturer that sells not only in Poland, but also in several European countries. As Adam Ginalski explains, the problem of buying a bike is a global issue.

– It’s not even just a European issue,” he explains. – If it only concerned our continent, we would manage somehow. The whole world has a problem with bicycles.

“We have. Just one”.

Let’s go back to Poland, though. We wanted to check how the matter of buying a new bike looks like in practice. We choose a medium-sized city, where nine dealerships are open (or at least that’s the number you can find on the Internet).

Not to go the easy way, we ask specifically for two budget trekkers with 20 – 21 inch frames, priced up to 2000 PLN. The search was not very successful.

In five places the answer is: “There is not and will not be soon”. Two sellers assure that they are able to get such bikes “within a few days”. Two others have such equipment in stock, but. in both cases, this is the last single piece and it would be good to arrive as soon as possible.

Bicycle chaos does not choose. It affects giants and small businesses alike. – We produce a similar number of bicycles as in the analogical period in previous years, however the demand for them is definitely higher – comments the Vice-President of Romet’s Management Board, Grzegorz Grzyb.

– As a manufacturer, we are doing everything possible to meet customer expectations and guarantee the availability of our bikes, despite the problems we are seeing in the industry, he says. – These mainly relate to ensuring the continuity of supply chains, which will shift the stocking of bike stores from the start of this season. Given this situation, all indications are that this year’s bicycle season will shift, will be longer. But we are convinced that it will be another good season for the whole bicycle industry.

Mr Szczepan, from the Twój Styl store in Zgórsk in the Podkarpacie region, also points to simultaneous increases in demand and breaks in the supply of parts as the source of the confusion:

– What we have on display in the store goes immediately, but if someone is looking for a specific model, you have to wait even two months – he says. – There’s also a problem with assembly, as Shimano in Italy stood by for three months through a pandemic, causing gigantic delays.

– People want to get around and a bike is the only way when everything is closed,” he concludes. – 500 units come off the line and by the week, not a single one is left.

More respect, more price

How long will the problem with the availability of components, and consequently bicycles, last on the market? Industry representatives have some rather unhappy news.

– We’ve all noticed how the epidemic is changing the approach to life’s necessities,” believes Grzegorz Grzyb. – The bicycle has become the natural choice as a means of transport. It has started to dominate as a safe, individual vehicle for commuting to work. It is also more often chosen for recreation, as a way to stay healthy and in good physical condition.

– All this turmoil has done so much good that the bicycle is treated with much more respect today,” says Adam Ginalski. – This trend will undoubtedly continue for years to come.

– Unfortunately, with all its negative sides,” he continues. – Over the next three, four, maybe even five years, supply shortages will affect the supply of bikes on the market. You can also forget about the fact that prices will go down. Bicycles are certainly not going to get cheaper.

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