The supply crisis in the bicycle market: “You have to fight to find a home” | Economy


A cry like “without a planet there is no future” or names like Greta Thunberg’s have made many consider changing their means of transport from day to day. But not only, because the lack of refinement also caused a few to take to the streets, bicycle in hand. And those who didn’t have it, or needed to fix it or change it for a new one, tried it en masse.

“Once the stores were allowed to open, everything that was in stock of finished bicycles was sold,” says Javier Fuentes, director of ‘Urbanbiker’, a company that manufactures electric bicycles from León. But if we add the supply crisis to the high demand, “you ask the factories for components and, being lucky, the minimum is eight months to receive it, but it can go up to 18 months,” this is the result, Fuentes points out.

The closure of factories “like Shimano or Michelin was mixed for two months, the least and some up to three months” during the confinement with the bicycle boom. And this has increased prices: “The issue of freight (what is paid for the transport of merchandise) has gone from 2,000 more or less that we have been paying to about 16,000 that we have paid. And the components between 10 and 25%. Part of all this increase has been transferred to the cost of the bicycle ”, explains the head of this electric bicycle factory from León.

There were stores that did some provisioning; This is the case of ‘Calmera Ciclismo’, one located in the center of Madrid: “We, having a warehouse outside Madrid, try to make up for the lack of supply of some manufacturers with material that we have in storage. So, somehow we accuse him a little less than, perhaps, other businesses, ”says Javier Lumbreras.

Whoever is looking for a very specific bicycle has to wait, but “we continue to receive bicycles. I mean, it is not that there is no availability, what there is not is the usual assortment in colors or models, but we have availability ”, explains the person in charge of ‘Calmera’.

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As if it were a house

But who does not care about the bicycle, it is easier. They are lentils. It happened to Guillermo: “We knew the owner of the store and he would tell us to say:« A bicycle of this model arrived this morning, in this color, with these dimensions and at this price. So, if you want it, tell me now, because I already have several who have requested it from me ». And it is striking, because generally when you go to buy a product you can choose between several models, colors, prices … And in this specific case you had to -practically- fight to find a home for a bicycle ”.

That was looking for a concrete, mountain bike, quite specific. Pablo also tried it this summer: “I was looking for a road bike with disc brakes and I wanted the groups, both brake and gear, to be a ‘Shimano’ in particular, which was ‘Shimano Ultegra’.” , but he got it through a German website and had to assemble it at home: “I bought it and it arrived after three months. Right now (…) it’s not like when I bought it, when I put« three months for delivery »Now it says exhausted.”

But not even looking for a more normal bike, a more common one, a ride. Guillermo also tried it: “I was surprised that in large surfaces like the Decathlon there are no bicycles of any kind. Not big, not small, not cheap, not branded ”.

There was no way to buy anything from a large dealer. And, although it may be thought that there will be more availability of the cheapest, of the most common, the opposite occurs: “The high-end range does tend to have more, of course. It is not the same thing that costs 30 euros, which is in high demand and they already run out of stock, than something that costs 800 ”, explains Sergio Valle, a worker in a shop that sells bicycles through the internet, ‘Rotoruabike. com ‘, which has recently opened a physical store in Madrid.

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The perfect Storm

“It was like the perfect storm. COVID and the period of confinement greatly accelerated many people joining sports. And, in addition, it coincides that there was also a wave of awareness to try to think about a more sustainable transport. It was the perfect alignment ”, says Jesús Beamonte, communication director of the Basque ‘Forum Sport’. A perfect storm that has a lot to do with global dependency: “It started with a problem with the supply of changes. The two big manufacturers, ‘Sram’ and ‘Shimano’, were having trouble supplying the components. But from there, a crisis of raw materials has also started: There is a lack of aluminum to make forks, there are problems with carbon, there are problems with steel to make the whole issue of screws … And in the end for bicycle manufacturers there is being frankly complicated ”.

Javier himself has experienced the problem, he is waiting for his new bicycle to arrive: “In my case I am giving a second life to the bicycle I have, I have repaired it and I am almost at the end of the waiting period. I think I have about two or three weeks of waiting for the new bike that I have been waiting for a few months to arrive. I cross my fingers and knock on wood ”.

From domestic manufacturing to Asian dependency

In the first store we have visited in this report, Javier Lumbreras talks about the dependence on the Asian market: “In Taiwan, in China, in Vietnam, in Japan … I would say 95% if not 100% of the components . (…) And we already know the problems there: delays, not only in production, but also in transport, etc. ”. Lumbreras also points out the change in the last half century: “40-30 years ago almost everything was produced in Spain. Let’s not say 100%, but maybe 70-80% of things were manufactured here and the rest came from abroad ”.

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The big ones do not give data on how much they have lost due to this situation. A sector that is experiencing a boom but has nothing to sell: “What is clear is that there are no bicycles. Today, you can take the test by trying to buy a bicycle through the brands’ own websites or through our own websites, the dealer’s websites, and you will find yourself with problems or waiting lists ”, explains Jesús Beamonte from ‘Forum Sport’ who is also not clear when the end of this crisis will take place: “They say, but all this is saying a lot, that what at first seemed to be solved by 2022, at the end of 2022, well It seems that it will also extend to 2023 ”.

They can wait, look elsewhere, resort to second hand … But even that is not infinite, and a sector that could be selling more than ever has nothing to sell. Pieces are missing, and they arrive by dripping.

SER Podcast premieres Animal Spirits, the economy that moves the world, a podcast in which economists Emilio Ontiveros and Juan José Toribio will discuss current economic affairs. Moderated by the editor-in-chief of Cadena SER’s news services, Eva Aguado, the episodes will be available on all platforms on Fridays, every two weeks.

In the first episode we analyze one of the economic consequences of the pandemic: the lack of products for consumption. We explain why this collapse in manufacturing and freight transport occurs, how long it can last, and what can be done to fix it.

Animal Spirits is available on SER Podcast, Spotify, Apple Podcasts and iVoox.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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