Bicycle chain. PHOTO: TAYLOR CHARLEBOIS

With a massive increase in interest in biking applying pressure to the global supply chain, bike shops continue to struggle keeping up with demand a year and a half into the pandemic. 

The bike department at Calgary’s MEC, an outdoor gear shop, is busier than ever with people seeking tune-ups for their rides or looking to buy new ones.

Bikes, says manager Matthew Lewis, are selling at a breakneck pace.

“As soon as we get them built, they sell the same day,” he said. 

At the same time, the shop is being challenged by the demand for bicycle parts and servicing.

Lewis said a customer who had just bought a brand new bike a week ago came into the shop looking for a new chain because his snapped and he’d thrown it away.

“At the time, no bike shops had a chain for his brand new bike, so he couldn’t ride his bike for a few weeks,” Lewis said.

At Regal Bicycles, a small Toronto bike start-up,the biggest issue is on the supply chain front. 

Owner Ray Ahmed says that with competing shops, and a recent push from municipalities around the world to make their urban infrastructure more bike friendly, parts manufacturers are spread thin. 

Calgary has been reworking its bike infrastructure since 2014, as well as Victoria has projects that were approved in March 2021 to begin construction of a cycling network in their city.

“You’ve got demand for bikes and bike parts from municipalities, which are buying a lot of the commodity parts, so that’s taking up a lot of the supply chain,” he said.

There is also a lot of logistical backlog, says Ahmed. 

Shipping costs have been increasing due to rise in demand across the board. Ahmed says that prices for shipping containers have almost tripled since the beginning of the pandemic. 

He said that due to the surge in demand, there are more ships travelling between Asia and North America, causing port congestion. With ships waiting to dock for upwards of a month, the entire operation has slowed down to a halt.  

“I’ve been waiting for parts and components that I ordered last year in August that have still not been delivered.”

Ready to ride on a summer day. PHOTO: TAYLOR CHARLEBOIS

Cyclist Cayley Laudel has been struggling to get her bike in for a tune-up this year. 

“It’s a long wait for tune-ups if you don’t have the knowledge to do so on your own,” she said. “There is, like, a 15 per cent increase in bike cost and parts as demands are so high.”

Getting out there

Tom Babin is an author, journalist and avid bicycle enthusiast based in Calgary, he has been writing about cycling for years.

He warns that getting a bike off the shelf might not be realistic for those trying to break into cycling this summer. 

The second-hand market is a great place to start when looking for a bicycle to ride around on, he said. However, with the increase in popularity, prices are at an all-time high. Used bike owners are asking for retail prices on Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace.

“You might just need to get used to not riding your dream bike,” he says. 

“I hate to tell people to lower their expectations but if you want to get out on a bike, just get your hands on whatever you can and make it work for the time being.”