Pandemic drives up bike demand, while limiting supplies

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

When COVID-19 forced many people to stay indoors, outdoor activities became an outlet where people could stay active with friends, while keeping a safe distance.

Stores soon ran out of sports apparel, shoes and weights. But the increase in bike demand was unprecedented, leaving local sports shop Taggs Source for Sports scrambling to meet orders.

Russ Ling, manager of Taggs Source for Sports, said he has seen a big increase in bike demand since March 2020.

“We couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t get bikes. There were no bikes anywhere to be bought,” Ling said.

“All the Source for Sports stores around Canada are connected. We sent out emails everyday asking for certain types of products, whether it be bikes, hockey sticks, clothing or footwear. We usually hear back within about 36 hours from everyone in the country on whether we can get it or not. We couldn’t get any bikes last year. Not one. It was tough.”

He said the reason there are a few bikes for sale is because companies like Shimano that make the best bike parts such as brake leavers and gear components, cannot produce enough parts.

“If they cannot produce enough parts, they cannot send them to the bike companies to finish off their bikes,” Ling said.

Ling said he placed orders last year with Giant and Norco that were supposed to arrive to Fort Frances in February.

“Giant basically laughed in my face and said you’ll never get those,” Ling said. “[They said] we know how many bikes we can produce right now with the amount of people that we can have in our factories. And we’re past our limit already.”

Now that the children’s bikes are 90 per cent sold, Ling said they placed an order with Norco, but have just been notified that these bikes will probably not show up until July or August.

Ling is also waiting for BMX bikes that were supposed to have arrived on Feb. 15.

“I’m hoping that I’m going to get them in May,” Ling said. “We have placed all new bike orders for 2022. I placed those orders back at the end of February.”

Ling said the reason for the delay in shipping is caused by international log jam that slowed down products coming into North America, because everyone began online shopping.

With most of the products coming from overseas, Ling said, most of the containers have to land in Los Angeles first, which is the largest port in the western side of North America.

“They have to sit and wait because the ports don’t have enough people or can only have so many people to unload these huge container ships, let alone the container ships that are coming from the east side of the North America through the Suez Canal,” Ling said.

As a result, ships are getting backed up and packages are nowhere near their final destination.

“Then they have to come up to Seattle and basically do the same thing,” Ling said. “Get unloaded up there, leave Seattle, come up to Vancouver and basically do the same thing. Wait again get unloaded for Canada. It is just a huge snowball effect.”

Remember community bike rides like this? This pre-COVID event, hosted by the Northwestern Health Unit, will return someday, but sporting goods stores will need to replace their supply of new bikes first. The pandemic has impacted manufacturing and supply chains, putting bicycles in short supply just as demand surges. – File photo

The consequences of the increase in demand and delayed shipments caused bike prices to increase. Ling said an average bike saw about a 10 per cent increase in light of new international traffic.

“What’s going on here is just absolutely frustrating for everyone,” Ling said. “We have to try and make it through this.”

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