Cyclists ride on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, France. Picture: AFP/FRANCOIS GUILLOT
Cyclists ride on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, France. Picture: AFP/FRANCOIS GUILLOT

Paris — Cycling is booming across the globe as people seek to avoid crowded buses and trains on their commute in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic — or get back into shape after long months of lockdown.

But with bicycle sales exploding in many countries, the craze has left manufacturers and retailers out-pedalled by demand.

In Paris, where mayor Anne Hidalgo has been working hard to put cycling on the map, vastly increasing the number of bike lanes in recent years, would-be buyers often have to wait weeks for a new ride.

“For three or four weeks now, I’ve had a dozen or so clients waiting. And I’ve had to return money to a few because I simply have no idea when I’ll have bikes for them,” said independent Paris retailer Federico Mosca.

One customer, 31-year-old Nicolas, said he had visited eight different shops before getting lucky.

Even then, he was forced to break his budget and buy a more expensive model because the cheaper bike he wanted was sold out.

“I was looking for a specific bike and had given myself a month to buy one, but it’s not available anywhere,” he said.

Leading retail chain Decathlon said it also has waiting lists, but can refurbish second-hand bikes for impatient customers.

French bicycle sales doubled in May and June compared to the same months in 2019, according to the sporting and cycling federation.

Sales are booming in most countries around the world.

Decathlon calculated that in Europe overall, sales “have increased two- and even threefold”.

In China, demand has increased fivefold since lockdowns were eased.

And in the US, sales of bikes have exploded, with online purchases alone skyrocketing in May by 5,000% over the figure for the same month in 2019.

Overall US sales, both online and in-store, jumped by 81% year on year to $1.1bn in May, according to People for Bikes, a coalition of manufacturers and retailers.

Broken chain

But in addition to runaway demand from the end consumer, lockdowns have made it difficult for European and US manufacturers to obtain parts.

The Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry (Conebi) estimates that 45%-50% of parts for all bikes sold in Europe are imported from Asia.

Moreno Fioravanti, secretary-general of the European Bicycle Manufacturers’ Association, said the industry has “lost three months of production of components, and our stockpiles were used up in only two months”.

Pancho Pimentel, marketing chief for Summit Bicycles, which has five stores in California, said “there are shortages everywhere, from bike brands to parts”.

Cycling “works off a global supply chain that has been interrupted due to Covid-19 and its consequences are being seen in every category”, he said.

According to Conebi, 7.3-million bikes and e-bikes were imported into Europe in 2019, principally from Taiwan and Cambodia.

The world’s leading manufacturer, Taiwan-based Giant, saw its European sales increase 140% year on year in June, driven in particular by sales of e-bikes.

Its order-book is full until the first half of 2021 and it is similarly optimistic for the second half.

However, Conebi’s director-general Manuel Marsilio said the bike shortage was not as bad as some people might suggest.

“There was some shortage because of two months of lockdown, due to the fact that EU production stopped,” he said.

“But our bike industry is working very hard to fill the gap. It is a very positive thing that we have so many small and medium-sized makers all over Europe, who are very flexible.

“Most EU producers will continue to work also in July and August, so there won’t be a halt in the summer,” he said.

AFP