Bike repair wait times stretch for months amid parts shortage due to COVID

By Salmaan Farooqui
THE CANADIAN PRESS

One year to get a 12-speed chain. Five hundred days for a new saddle. And up to a two year wait until certain bike models come back in stock.

These are the wait times that retailers like Sweet Pete’s Bike Shop in Toronto say customers can expect to wait if they need certain parts for repair jobs or specific bicycle models.

Bike stores found themselves inundated by demand from new customers looking to spend more time outside when the pandemic started last spring, but Pete Lilly, owner of Sweet Pete’s, said this year looks to be even more complicated for bike shops as they deal with shortages in bike parts.

“We’re still in the same situation we were in last year, but maybe slightly worse just because at least last year we were starting with full stores and basements,” said Lilly, who’s shop is in Toronto’s West End.

This time around, stores are already low in stock after last year’s unprecedented rush.

Lilly said consumers should plan for longer service times, especially as more people start taking their old bikes out of storage and into shops for maintenance for the spring and summer

He said shops are doing their best to find different solutions for fixes, and to at least make bikes rideable when they don’t have the supplies to completely repair them.

Some bike shops are even stopping the sale of certain parts online so they can ensure that local customers will be able to access them for certain fixes. Sweet Pete’s recently stopped selling disc brake rotors to reserve them for shop jobs.

In Calgary, Ridley’s Cycle said employees had to constantly be aware when looking up availability dates for products.

“I was looking at bikes and thought, `oh it’ll be available by June or July, that’s not too bad,’ and mentioned that to a customer,” said Joshua Jean, the shop’s service manager.

“I didn’t have a keen eye on it and it was actually June or July of 2022. That’s just something we’ve never seen before.”

While parts are the main source of headaches for bike shops, many bike models are also out of stock for months out come, leaving consumers with few options.

The cost of models that are in stock has also gone up as manufacturers and retailers deal with the rising cost of metals, rubber, wages and shipping. The best selling city bike at Sweet Pete’s used to be $699 but now sells for $749.

For new cyclists and people who are looking to get work done on their bikes this season, Jean at Ridley’s Cycle implores customers to be patient and to try different avenues for bike repairs if their local shop is completely booked or doesn’t have parts

“Don’t be intimidated and call around, there’s other options out there,” said Jean, saying there are some shops that are a 20 minute drive outside of Calgary that have much lower wait times, as well as other business models for bike mechanics.

“We’re starting to see a lot of home mechanic businesses pop up, or more reputable mechanic van businesses where people drive around and fix people’s bikes at their homes, so there are options to get your bike ready.”

He said cyclists can also walk in to their local shop to see if a mechanic can at least make minor fixes so their bike is rideable while they wait for more major repairs.

For people who are getting into cycling for the very first time, Lilly stresses that their experience buying a bike and getting it serviced this season will not be the norm.

“Things are out of hand because of factors that we’ve never seen before,” said Lilly.

“Bike stores want to help you and we’re here to provide good customer service and get you on a bike, it’s just this is really unusual.”

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