Bike Boom

June 18, 2020
Shay Maunz with AP reporting
HOT MARKET An employee at a bike shop in San Diego, California, arranges a bicycle, in May.
SANDY HUFFAKER—BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

It was March when much of the world began to lock down to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The pandemic forced gyms to close. It made people fearful of public transit. And it left families cooped up at home while practicing social distancing.

Now, because of the pandemic, many people have turned to bicycles for transportation, exercise, and entertainment. In the United States and around the world, bicycle sales have boomed.

By April, bike sales in the U.S. were double what they were in April 2019. In the past two months, U.S. bicycle sales have seen their biggest spike since the 1970s. That’s according to Jay Townley. He studies bicycle industry trends.

“People quite frankly have panicked, and they’re buying bikes like toilet paper,” Townley says. He’s referring to the rush to buy essential goods when the pandemic began.

Now the U.S. is experiencing a bicycle shortage. That’s partly because of high demand. It’s also because most bikes sold in the U.S. are made in China. Factories there closed when China went into lockdown in January. They have since reopened. But they’re only beginning to catch up to the demand.

Taco Carlier is the cofounder of VanMoof, a Dutch e-bike maker that sells bikes around the world. He says the company has seen “unlimited demand” since the pandemic began. This has led to a 10-week backlog for some bikes. Usually, the company’s bikes are delivered in one day.

The bike craze isn’t limited to the U.S. Cities like Manila, Philippines, and Rome, Italy, have installed new bike lanes. These have helped people get around during the pandemic. The Italian government offered citizens a rebate for 60% of the cost of a new bike.

Joe Minutolo is a co-owner of Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop, in Maine. Minutolo hopes people continue to ride bikes long after the pandemic has ended. “People are having a chance to rethink things,” he says. “Maybe we’ll all learn something out of this, and something really good will happen.”