The One Sporting Good That's Nearly Impossible to Buy Right Now

Thanks to COVID-19, 2020 has been a banner year for bicycle sales.

First there was a toilet paper shortage. Then it was board games. Not long afterward, your favorite cuts of meat at the grocery store were suddenly in short supply. Now, new research says we can add yet another item to the growing list of consumer products that have become scarce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic: bicycles.

According to a report by the market research company NPD Group, sales for essentially every type of bike you can imagine exploded in March. Purchases for commuter and fitness bikes increased 66 percent, while sales for leisure bikes jumped 121 percent, children's bikes went up 59 percent, and electric bikes rose 85 percent. By the end of April, many stores and bike distributors had completely sold out of their low-end consumer offerings. The shortage persists today. (For proof, simply visit the sites for many popular bike retailers and you're all but guaranteed to encounter an abundance of "sold out" symbols.)

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Traditional bikes aren't the only ones that are increasingly difficult to find. Stationary bike sales grew by 270 percent in March, while purchases for trainers and "rollers"—equipment that allows bicyclists to transform their outdoor bikes into stationary bikes and ride indoors—experienced a staggering growth rate of 415 percent in the same month.

Now, it's no surprise that the nationwide run on bikes started in March, when lockdown measures across the country first went into place. But the reasons behind the shortage are more complex that you may realize.

Not only is the demand for bicycles and bicycling equipment sharply up, but also many leading bike manufacturers have found it increasingly difficult to replenish the supply. They often depend on overseas manufacturers—usually in China—where factory closures due to the coronavirus have only contributed to the scarcity. Making matters worse, says the The New York Times, the stores weren't prepared with enough stock to begin with, as the pandemic hit in the United States at the tail end of winter, which is exactly when bike retailers traditionally plan to stock up for spring.

That said, if you're still looking for a bike for yourself, there's still a glimmer of hope—assuming you're willing to get a little creative and open your wallet. Second-hand bikes are usually available via Bike Exchange and other sites like Craigslist. If you're determined to buy new, you may have to continue to wait. "The manufacturers are being very vague [about the arrival of new bikes]," one bike shop owner in Chicago told The New York Times.

Her advice? Wait until August.

And for some expert-backed advice on venturing outside right now, make sure you're aware of one of the Worst Things You Can Do Outside Right Now.




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