GLOBAL BIKE SHORTAGE
Posted on 07 March 2021
Updated July 23, 2021
THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING.... No one likes a high-pressure salesperson, but allow us to speak as salespeople under high pressure! Bicycle supply and demand is in an extreme high-pressure state, and unfortunately this shows no sign of slowing down into 2022. If you're looking for a bike, we cannot stress how important it is to place a pre-order now. And, things are so intense that most suppliers cannot predict whether they will be delivering their bikes in Q2, Q3 or Q4, 2022. Yikes!
"Bicycle supply and demand is in an extreme high-pressure state, and unfortunately this shows no sign of slowing down into 2022"
WHAT'S GOING ON? Due to Covid, bicycle demand has surged all over the world. And, we are not just selling to recreational cyclists with Covid-related cabin-fever, but to many people who have come to realize that a bike makes the best form of urban transportation. We've seen the increase in bicycle sales match an increase in bicycle infrastructure, and we believe this trend will only continue, post-Covid. That's the good news.
But, the bad news is that supply chains are strained. The bicycle industry has actually been a slowly shrinking industry for the past decade, and belt-tightening factories simply don't have the tooling or human assets to deal with surging demand. To make matters worse, social distancing on factory floors has meant a necessarily decrease in labour force, meaning bike companies are scrambling to fulfill backorders, not new orders. As of the date of this writing, Shimano - the company who provides the components on every bike worldwide - is now backed up 600+ days on all new orders.
Now add chaos: In June 2021, Shimano closed its main Singapore factory for 30 days due to a covid outbreak. The main port of Yantian - where most bicycle components sail from - also got hit with a massive covid outbreak in June, 2021. Add a boat stuck in the Suez Canal full of bike parts and customs gridlock due to Brexit and you get the picture. These kind of events cause ripple effects that cause serious delays and confusion in communication, and above all, predictability.
A bicycle is a truly globalized object, with thousands of parts from all over the world delivered to a factory. That this network operates relatively smoothly in normal times is something like a fine-tuned miracle. Now, the miracle is getting a bike.
Want to know how bad this is? It's bad. Friendly competitors like Gears have published on their website that they will likely only receive 20% of their stock before October, 2021. Companies like Linus have only recieved 20% of their bikes as of July 2021. For many shops, 2021 is a lost year. Some have speculated that this is because many USA companies are putting American customers first. That may well be the case. Luckily, we don't have this problem, but that doesn't mean that we aren't faced with our difficulties too.
"Any kind of predictability is thrown out the window. "
NOW ADD SHIPPING SHORTAGES... While bicycles might be the exemplar of everything going crazy in the world right now, this problem is truly global for all consumer goods. During Covid, consumers took the money they saved on restaurants and services, and splurged on consumer goods. This has caused an unprecedented shortage in shipping containers and ocean vessels to carry these containers. As of July 2021, we are seeing a trend that experts say will continue well into 2022. First, our goods have been produced months late due to parts shortages, and due to shipping delays. Second, when these goods are finally produced, they sit in our warehouse in Bremerhaven or Rotterdam waiting for a container to load into. And, when that container is finally ready, it gets 'rolled' from ship to ship because vessels are overbooked. Certainly 2021 wasn't helped by a Port of Montreal strike either; this caused chaos that only has just begun to settle as dockworkers try to keep up with volume.
What happens when you add this all up? It ain't pretty. Long lead times for parts and shipping delays mean unpredictable delays in final assembly. Add a global container and vessel shortage and these delays become even more unpredictable as the bikes reach North America. Now add chaos: port strikes, continuing isolated covid outbreaks, frazzled people making mistakes just trying to keep up, and any kind of predictability is thrown out the window.
"If you are expecting a hard deadline from us when ordering a bike, we simply can't do that and nor can you expect this."
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? So what does that mean for Curbside and our customers? Because we deal with European supply chains we are getting bikes where other shops aren't getting any. The companies we work with in Europe actually own their own factories, and because they produce throughout the year, they can deal with delays much better than the contract factories of the Far East; where different brands are produced in perfectly synchronized batches of intense, highly calibrated production. That calibration is exactly what isn't working right now.
That said, we do also get some of our bikes from the Far East too. Many Devinci bikes are made in Vietnam. But, because Devinci is a Canadian company, Canadian customers are first in line. Another good reason to support a Canadian company! So, unlike many other stores, we can say with confidence that you will get a bike. But, whether that bike arrives in Q2, Q3 or even Q4 2022 remains uncertain. What we can say is: the earlier you place the order, the earlier you'll get it.
In other words, there will be delays. And, that means if you're buying a bike from us, we need your patience. The supply chain is so out of whack that no vendor can reliably forecast when their products are ready for shipping. A handlebar might show up early, a seat-post might show up weeks late. The complete bike can only ship once all parts are gathered and assembled. It's really a day-by-day affair, and the added stress of global customers like us calling or vendors for constant updates grinds the whole thing down.
That means that if you are expecting a hard deadline from us when ordering a bike, we simply can't do that and nor can you expect this. Yet through this, all of us are pushing, hard. Our vendors are busting their butts to get bikes out in time. Everyone is losing sleep. Too much coffee is being consumed. No one is riding as much as they normally would be. We're doing everything we can, as a global industry, to get your butt on a bike!
"There will be delays. And, that means if you're buying a bike from us, we need your patience."
WHAT SECURITY DO I HAVE? Lots! We know that in normal years you would pop by the shop after brunch, browse a little, maybe try a bike out, and then go home to think about it. The expectation is that if the bike you tried sold, we'd have plenty more in stock. Well, those days appear to be over, and this isn't just because of covid or because of shipping delays, it's because everyone has discovered how awesome biking is.
We can't control shipping delays or parts shortage, but we've done everything to control everything from our end. We've made our Purchase Orders live on our website so that you can see when goods are expected, and we update this weekly as any sort of ETA is a moving target. We've installed software that lets you pre-order bikes with a very small deposit. And finally, we offer a 100% refund anytime up to when the bike arrives. And, when the bike arrives and after you test ride it you're still welcome to refund it. So don't worry, we got your back. If you want a refund at anytime, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
"We can't control shipping delays or parts shortage, but we've done everything to control everything from our end."
OK, SELL ME A BIKE! How? Well, we've done our best to show you what's available and when we expect our bikes to arrive (keep in mind, these are best guesses). You can see the list of bikes available here. Please remember that this is first-come, first-serve. We've shown how many bikes are sold in the furthest column, so it's just a matter of subtracting total bikes from sold bikes, and then finding the next available month of delivery.
If you want to order a bike but have questions, of course we would love to help! The best way to do this is to book a sales consultation. You are also welcome to email us at email@example.com, or you can chat with us (during opening hours) on our website.
Please note that we're also running on reduced staff due to social distancing and workplace safety, so we apologize if we aren't always at our promptest. We're doing our best!
"While we have more systems in place than 2020 or 2021, the only thing that is going to make this work is our customers understanding."
AND FINALLY, A THANK-YOU! It was June 2020 when we realized that 2021 could be an even more difficult year than 2020. Already back then - in the midst of a year where each new day brought entirely new challenges - we took the time to place our 2021 orders - nearly a year in advance. Usually, a bike store will place orders in October for March delivery, and we thought we were being particularly proactive. And, our suppliers also felt confident too!
Instead, there is no end in sight for the global disruption in bicycle supply. This goes especially for 2022. And, while we have more systems in place than 2020 and 2021, the only thing that is going to make this work is our customers understanding. Last year we truly felt the awe-inspiring grace of our customers. Many seemed far more concerned about our well-being than getting their bikes!
As a store, we take our commitments, and our communication seriously. And now, with our commitments changing day-to-day and our communication strained, we can only ask that you accept our apologies for delays or any mistakes made, and we will do our best to get you on a bike as soon as humanly possible!
- With love from the Curbside staff