The current bike shortage has causes from many different directions. With gyms closed, people are trying to get more exercise by walking, jogging, and riding.
However, the primary manufacturer of nearly everything is undergoing hard lockdowns to control the spread of COVID variants. Bicycle parts, bicycle assembly, and the shipping of finished bicycles has pretty much slammed shut while more people are looking to get on the trail. This has led to a shortage of new bikes.
What Exactly Happened?
Anyone wondering why there’s a COVID-related bicycle shortage in the US needs to look beyond just the supply chain problem. Many people moved when things in the cities became too dangerous. Once away from city centers, many former urbanites found that having a bicycle was a great way to run a few errands and even stay in shape.
Not only has the production of new bikes been severely curtailed, but getting parts for your bike has also become problematic. While manufacturers elsewhere can provide both new bikes and parts, getting tooled up will take time, and those parts and bikes may well cost more.
When Will It Get Better?
US bicycle production took years to move, mainly to China. For example, in the late 1970s, there were only 38 Chinese bicycle manufacturers. By the mid-1990s, there were more than 1,000 Chinese bicycle manufacturers. Those manufacturing shutdowns in the United States mean that many manufacturing necessities have simply dried up, such as the
- raw goods supply line
A small neighborhood bike shop may have already struggled to get parts for repairs and regular maintenance. Because any manufacturers still working are going to target the larger buyers with the orders they can get out, small shops are going to continue to run short of the parts they need.
Will bikes be back in stock in 2022? If we continue to rely on China and Taiwan for the majority of our products, no. There’s a good chance that shortages will increase.
The most realistic forecast is that the bike shortage will end in the middle of 2023 if there are no new major COVID variants and the pandemic is over by mid-2022.
What’s China’s COVID-Zero Strategy?
The Chinese government is building in quarantine protocols to lessen the spread of COVID variants throughout the nation. These quarantine protocols are slowing a system that has been grinding to a halt for the last two years. China has also set up testing requirements where people gather, such as Shanghai Disneyland.
Finally, there are regions of China where the border has been shut down hard. Because so many people in China live in isolated, rural regions with little to no healthcare access, the spread of COVID variants and the severity of the results is devastating to the rural population.
While China’s COVID vaccination rates are quite high in comparison to the rest of the world, new variants continue to crop up there. For cyclists, or anyone else relying on the supply line of goods produced in China, China’s COVID-zero strategy makes things worse.
Read more: How to Prepare Your Bicycle for Spring
What About Omicron?
Is Omicron making things worse? The challenge for anyone waiting on products manufactured in China is that every variant makes things worse. For those who were fully vaccinated against the first COVID variant and who received their booster, the protection against Omicron was limited. The newest variant, BA.2 is already spreading worldwide and is even more contagious than BA.1, or Omicron.
The Omicron and haggling over a new dockworkers contract are likely to aggravate costly supply chain jams over the next several months, clouding prospects for quick relief from high inflation.
While Chinese citizens may be better protected against a severe outcome from Omicron exposure because of their high vaccination rate, there is little protection against the spread of the succeeding variants. Omicron vaccinations are currently in trial. However, the technology to reduce the severity of these infections will always be running behind the spread of infection. Until China chooses to loosen its COVID-zero policy, supply chains will be challenged around the globe.
If you have a bike, take very good care of it. If you have a local shop that can help you stay on the road, shop with them to help them stay in business. If parts shortages continue, you may well be better off working with a shop that can manufacture your necessary bike parts instead of having to wait on new items. If you must have a different bike, consider a new-to-you rebuild from existing parts.