The bikes are sold before he has time to assemble them for display. Atai said it coincided with its sales in 2019 until early May. He had to hire new employees to meet the demand, and he has not taken a day off since February. Atai said he raised and started buying lunch for his stressed staff.
They thrive whether in car-dominated cities like Houston and Los Angeles or more traditional cycling areas such as Portland, Oregon, New York and Washington. Keeping enough bikes in stock and completing repairs on time has become a challenge. Customers are turned in some cases.
A recent survey by the National Association of Bicycle Dealers found that 83% of stores are concerned about their inventory levels. Bicycle manufacturers are vying to keep up.
“We’re usually a pretty slow, cool store,” Atai said. “Now the phone keeps ringing. My boys are getting tired and I fully understand it.”
New customers are looking for ways to be active outdoors. Bicycle shop owners say the closure of fitness and yoga studios during the pandemic has contributed. Others say customers are looking for a traveling alternative to public transportation. Social distance is easiest for different modes of transport, such as cars and bicycles. In March 2020, sales of bicycles in the United States increased by 39% compared to March 2019, according to NPD Group, which tracks retail sales.
“Motorcycles are like the new toilet paper,” Atai said. “If available, buy it.”
Garfield Cooper, owner of the ZenCog bicycle company in Jacksonville, Florida, has additional mechanics working to try to keep up with the backlog. Repairs, which are usually carried out after 24 hours, require up to a month. Cooper, like Atai, said he had not had a day off since February.
Although its sales usually decline during the summer months with increased heat and humidity, Cooper said he has not yet seen a lag in the business.
“It’s been a long time since the bicycle is so important to the American people,” Cooper said. “It’s so cool that they’re interested in cycling.”
He struggles to keep things like bicycle seats and helmets in stock. Cooper said he regularly called other stores to find parts he needed for repairs.
Robert Keating, who owns a triathlon lab outside of Los Angeles, said he had never seen anything like the current bike boom in the 37 years he worked in bike shops. He has moved his shop from a focus on high-end bikes to affordable bikes that people are likely to ride next door. Beach cruisers are especially popular, he said.
“Some people say, ‘It’s such a joy to get back on my bike.’ I can’t believe I’ve thrown it away for so long, “Keating said. “Some people say, ‘I can’t believe how hard it is to ride.’ I will gain my strength back. “”
Phil Coopman, owner of BicycleSpace in Washington, compares the current bicycle boom to 1999, when many people bought computers to prepare for Y2K.
“Back then, these companies didn’t sell a lot of computers for a few years because they all already had one,” Coopman said. “That’s the big question. Is it a one-time thing or is it something sustainable?”