Coronavirus gives supply problems to local bicycle retailers
More people than ever are riding bicycles during the COVID-19 pandemic – some masked, some unmasked to feel the breeze on their faces – all to get exercise, and relief from staying at home.
Bicycle businesses are therefore busier than usual, responding to calls and requests for repairs and sales – but, unfortunately, they can't always get what the customer needs.
James Emond, owner of "The Missing Link" bike shop on S.E. Woodstock Boulevard at 47th Avenue, says, "It's been very busy, but we are out of bikes and some parts. It's hard for the supply side to keep up with the demand."
Randall Magahay, a Woodstock resident who has worked at various Bike Gallery locations in sales and repairs for thirty-three years, is currently working at the Lake Oswego store and explained the short supply: "Most of the bikes and parts are sourced from China and surrounding areas, so all of their manufacturing closed for 8 to 10 weeks."Besides bikes, things like kids' bike tires and inner tubes have been difficult to keep in stock. Our venders have none to sell us. But there are plenty of adult bike tires, many of which we had in stock before the current situation."
Erik Tonkin, owner of Sellwood Cycle Repair at 7953 S.E. 13th Avenue, affirms that the pandemic has created a lot of interest in bicycling. "It was very quiet for a while in March, but soon everyone realized that bicycling is something we can do during COVID-19, and still follow its protocol rules out of concern for our community. It is so nice to see individuals and families with children biking all week long in the neighborhoods. It's like there's no more weekend; every day is the same!"
Asked if his shop has also had a problem with supply because demand is so great right now, he replies that indeed it has been difficult to obtain new bikes since April, and at times even difficult to get repair parts. But, with 16 employees and a good pre-pandemic supply of parts, the shop has been able to meet the greater demand for repairs. "The DNA of our business, ever since its inception, is repair service, so we were tooled-up to handle the increased demand for bike repairs. We've had a very high number of people at our doors. Every day is like the busiest day of the year," he tells THE BEE.
When the business opened in 1991, it offered repair work only. After a few years it started selling used bikes by consignment. Tonkin joined the business part-time then, and was full-time by 1998, and now he owns it. In 2005 the shop also started selling new bikes. "It's been interesting. This year people come in wanting to buy new bikes, but often end up putting money into their old bikes instead. They breathe life into their old bikes because we don't have enough bikes to sell!"
Tonkin, a Woodstock resident and former professional bike racer, who is in the bike business for the long haul, remarks, "I love this business and feel it matters. I've done this my entire adult life, ever since leaving Lewis & Clark College. I'm so grateful to have worked in Sellwood for over two decades – to see kids grow up, and families evolve and change. And, all the while, on their bikes!"
Regarding the post-pandemic future of bicycling and the bike business, Tonkin replies, "We'll see next year if there is the same demand. A lot of people who weren't able to buy a new bike this year during the pandemic might want one next year. And, some percentage of our new customers will continue to cycle for the convenience, pleasure and health benefits."
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