BACK TO THE FUTURE
You can probably visualize the stark horror of enduring such an episode. Imagine (if you possibly can) driving up to the window at your local Starbucks, ordering an iced peach green-tea lemonade and being told that due to a shortage of peach juice you’ll instead have to settle for a drink infused with guava juice! Making this scenario even more frightening is that it actually occurred in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia—the Peach State! Is Stephen King taking notes?
Welcome to another installment of how COVID has impacted the good ol’ days when supply-chain upheaval was never a concern. And, as we know all too well, the abrupt shortage in many consumer goods goes far beyond peach juice and flexi straws.
ON THE TRAIL
Who would’ve guessed that on a recent group ride up the Brown Mountain fire road that the discussion would jump so quickly from talk about COVID and getting vaccines to, “Dude, do you know where I can get a chain for my bike?”
And so it is that the worldwide supply-chain blockade, which is affecting everything from building materials to food products and the decreasing number of cars at the local dealership, continues to haunt the cycling industry.
How many of you have had problems finding a new bike to ride, let alone a new fork or pair of handlebars to put on your old bike? Just yesterday, a friend told me that the best his local dealer could do to get him a new bike was to add his name to a waiting list for a bike that might show up in about six months! So, as it turns out, anyone who was looking forward to having a new bike to celebrate a post-COVID reality over the summer is now hoping instead to find something shiny and new under the Christmas tree!
ISSUES AT HAND
Even as the world begins to find its post-COVID legs, there are still reports of massive factory shutdowns throughout Asia where so much of the bike industry’s supply chain begins its journey. In conversation with Boyd Johnson of Boyd wheel fame, he said that there are plenty of wheel factories that are ready to crank up production, but the shortage of raw materials is hampering the effort. Well, raw materials, plus an overall lack of space in the cargo containers that ship products across the globe.
In fact, the shortage of bikes is so severe that, just to drive the point home, one bike brand was warning employees not to bring their bikes to work because they might get sold!
One other unfunny anecdote I heard was how some of the bigger bike brands were flexing their financial muscle to prevent or slow down shipments of parts to smaller brands. As one brand owner told me, “I spoke to a guy in Taiwan last night, and he said the stories about a supply-chain blockage were overblown and that it had more to do with some big players taking tactical advantage over competitors with less purchasing power.” Eek, could there be a Gordon Gekko character (kids, ask your parents) among us in the bike world?
JUST BE NICE
In the last few months, I’ve heard too many stories about irate bike-shop customers having silly hissy fits because their must-have bike part had been backordered. Just the other day, I laughed upon hearing a small bike-brand owner exclaim that he’d never known his company could be on the receiving end of a negative Yelp review, but there it was from a customer upset that the shipment of his new bike was delayed by two weeks.
More and more consumers are now doing their own internet sleuthing to find needed parts and bikes. One frame builder I spoke to has begun to actively encourage his customers to troll as many websites as possible to find the parts needed to complete their new bike builds.
As for the bottom line here? Beyond hoping that by the time anyone is reading this column the bike/product shortage will have abated somewhat, my bigger hope is that everyone will understand the realities of the global downturn in manufacturing and transportation so that they won’t be taking their frustrations out on the local bike shop or bike maker. Really, it’s not on them! Stay calm, be nice and ride what you can!