Cycling popularity surges during COVID-19. Who’s hopping in the saddle?

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A woman rides toward Mt. Baldy in Southern California. Bikes have sold out in many shops nationwide as more people are riding during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Besides home and going for a walk or riding a bike, there just isn't much,” says Adam McDermott, founder of Linus Bike in Los Angeles. Photo by Luis Perez.

More cyclists are on the roads these days. Now there’s a shortage of bikes in shops nationwide.  

Adam McDermott, founder of Linus Bike in Los Angeles, says his company has been out of stock for several weeks and won’t have more supplies until June.

“Over the last few years, the bicycle industry has actually been in decline. So we're always placing projections kind of early in the fall for the following spring. It's a five-month kind of lead time. And so in no way did we anticipate for this,” he tells KCRW. 

He says that sales are a little less each year, and going into 2020, he had less stock than anticipated. On top of that, there are delays in the supply chain due to recent tariffs on Chinese-made goods, Linus Bikes moving their manufacturing to Taiwan, and then COVID-19. 

“To make a bike, there are so many vendors. So there will be like a single part that’s ordered from China. If that part is delayed, then the entire bike is delayed. And then COVID delayed everything,” he says. 

What accounts for the surge in demand? 

People just have less to do, says McDermott. “There isn't the lunch with friends, or the soccer game with their kids, or the classes. Besides home and going for a walk or riding a bike, there just isn't much.” 

Plus, fewer cars are on the road, so cycling is relatively safer. 

Who’s bringing their bikes out? 

McDermott says the extra cyclists out there are primarily casual riders, who use bikes under $1000 or e-bikes.

“It’s not the mountain bike or the road bike. Those people ride anyways, whether it's raining or shining or if there's a pandemic or not. They existed. It's really the person who's new to cycling, or hasn't ridden a bike in a long time, or is dusting off their bike and finding it's not usable and needs to get a new one,” explains McDermott. 

Good news for the industry 

McDermott says it’s encouraging to see more people riding outside, and business will be great once his supply chain catches up with demand. 

“A lot of bike stores over the past few years have been closing, so it's great to see people kind of having renewed interest in cycling. We're a brand, but we see this translating all the way to the stores that we sell to. They can't keep stock of bikes that they have. Lines of people outside their stores,” he says. 

Will the interest endure? 

“I don't know. That's the big question. … The hope [is] that there is some kind of cultural shift, and people will ride more and replace some of the small car trips that they were taking,” he says. 

— Written by Amy Ta, produced by Caleigh Wells

Credits

Guest:
Adam McDermott - founder and president, Linus Bike

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Angie Perrin, Caleigh Wells