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Someone you love very much needs a new bike (it might even be you) and he or she is a cycling fanatic. So, of course, you want to get them a brand-new Trek Domane AL 5 or (for your MTB partner) a Giant Talon 2021. But because you’re busy and/or absentminded, you’ve put it off until now.

So you run down to your favorite bike shop, but the salesperson tells you that the model you want is sold out. You ask if it can be ordered. “Sure,” the salesperson says, “but it won’t be here for Christmas.”

“How long will it take?” you ask.

“Six months,” is the answer. “If you’re lucky.”

So you go to other shops, and it’s the same sad story. You run home and check Amazon. No luck there either. And that’s when the bitter truth hits you: The world has run out of new bicycles. Why? Because the Covid pandemic has shut down gyms and fitness centers and forced people to look for new forms of exercise. And those who want to avoid using public transport have discovered that the bicycle is an excellent means of commuting.

Covid cycling
Many people realised cycling is a safe way of daily commute. © Profimedia

Now you have one more reason to hate the epidemic, if you were looking for one. That’s right, the pandemic has turned everyone into cyclists and manufacturers are scrambling desperately to catch up to the unprecedented and unexpected demand resulting in the bike shortage.

Peter Skelton, of the Cycles UK chain, told the BBC that the entire industry was caught off-guard by the increase in demand for bikes and that most UK distributors had run out of bikes under £1,000 – though his company would be at near-normal inventory by August 2021! That’s in eight months.

There has been such a feverish rush to buy bikes that, as one customer related to the BBC, the bike she had put in her online basket on the Decathlon website was sold out before she could push the Purchase bar.

The situation is the same in the US. The Bike Line, an independent bike shop in Indianapolis, found its inventory so low this summer that they bought the entire inventory of Linus cruiser bikes – a line the company doesn’t usually carry – from a dealer that went out of business just before the pandemic. Those bikes sold out in less than six weeks.

Sold-out bicycles
Bicycle stock sold out at a Walmart store in Miami. © Profimedia

Though Covid-19 is the main culprit responsible for the bike shortage, some other factors have contributed to the scarcity of two-wheelers, such as outgoing US President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.

To avoid the added US tariffs on goods made in China, companies producing bicycles there, such as Giant, the world’s biggest bike producer, moved much of their manufacturing to Taiwan, including that of e-bikes, the New York Times reported. But the “Covid boom” soon put a strain on Giant’s Taiwan plant, forcing the company to resume manufacturing in China. That means all bikes made in China may be more expensive when they reach the US market, depending on the state of bilateral trade relations.

It’s impossible to say how long the bike shortages will last – some analysts predict it will last until 2022 – because no one knows how long the pandemic will continue to boost bicycle sales. But Giant’s chairwoman Bonnie Tu knows that markets run in, um, cycles and that eventually bike production will catch up to market demand.

“Every boom ends someday,” she said. “It’s just a question of whether it ends quickly or slowly.”