facebook-pixel

So you want to buy a bike? Here’s why it isn’t the breeze it used to be.

Demand is up and supplies are down as shops go “full throttle” amid a pandemic-induced spike in cycling’s popularity.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jerks Bike Shop owner Kirk Sherrod works on a bike tire at his store on State Street in Murray on Monday, June 21, 2021. Bicycles and bike parts have been in short supply due to the increased interest in cycling this past year.

Editor’s note This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.

If you’re looking for a bike this summer to tool around town, cruise the canyons or resume rides to the office, be prepared to make snap decisions or spend some time waiting before you get your new wheels.

Finding a balance bike for your toddler son or a typical two-wheeler for your 10-year-old daughter may not take you long, but just about every shop in the Salt Lake Valley and beyond is struggling to keep up with demand for adult bicycles — unless you’re willing to shell out more than $1,000.

Bikes are being snatched up practically when they hit the sales floor, leaving few if any options for shoppers to browse or test-ride before buying.

“I want to sell bikes to people,” said Kirk Sherrod, owner of Jerks Bike Shop in Murray, “but it’s just not a good time to buy a bicycle.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Stacks of bicycles wait to be repaired, at Jerks Bike Shop on State Street in Murray on Monday, June 21, 2021. Bicycles and bike parts have been in short supply due to the increased interest in cycling this past year.

Business has been booming during the COVID-19 pandemic at many bicycle shops. People who were cooped up in their homes as offices closed sought ways to get outdoors, and those whose group sports were canceled needed a new activity.

“All of these people that were stuck at home decided that they wanted to get into biking,” Sherrod said.

Contender Bicycles stores in Salt Lake City and Park City have been operating “full throttle” since March of last year, owner Ryan Littlefield said.

Even with about half a dozen suppliers of bikes and bike parts, Contender still doesn’t have many models of any type — from mountain to commuter to electric — at least for under $1,000.

Typically, employees would show shoppers a few options of the size or type of bike they are seeking, Littlefield said, but now they can just offer one or two to examine.

It’s similar at Jerks.

“You get a bike in,” Sherrod said, “and it’s gone the same day.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Owner Kirk Sherrod works on a wheel at Jerks Bike Shop on State Street in Murray on Monday, June 21, 2021. Bicycles and bike parts have been in short supply due to the increased interest in cycling this past year.

Bingham Cyclery, which has locations in Salt Lake City, Sandy, Sunset and Ogden, is selling bikes before they even come in the door, owner Angela Wright said.

Bingham peddles more pedals through conversations than actual road tests now, Wright said. Shoppers will come in, make a phone call or send an online request for the types of bikes they’re interested in, and an employee will try to suggest a potential fit based on upcoming orders or shipments on back order. If the shoppers like the sound of a bike, they could pay 20% upfront to reserve it.

“It’s a very odd way” to sell bikes, Wright said. “It’s not what we’re used to doing.”

It can be just as hard to find a used bike, Sherrod said.

Jerks sells used models as well as new ones and has a repair shop. Many people, Sherrod said, dusted off and sold old bikes — often at a premium since demand was so high.

For the bikes that need to be fixed, it can take a while, too, Sherrod said, since there is a shortage of parts.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jerks Bike Shop owner Kirk Sherrod helps Paul Jensen find a helmet at the shop on State Street in Murray on Monday, June 21, 2021. Bicycles and bike parts have been in short supply due to the increased interest in cycling this past year.

Lulu Avila, youth program coordinator for Bike Utah, has been hunting for a new mountain bike since hers was stolen last year.

An experienced mountain biker who has also worked on bicycles, Avila said it’s been “frustrating” seeing the prices shoot up for models and parts. She’s looking for a midlevel bike for about $1,400 that can comfortably fit her height — about 5 feet 10 inches — but she has come up empty.

“I’ve spent hours on KSL[.com] and Facebook Marketplace,” Avila said. “I still haven’t found anything.”

She has a commuter bike and one that works on gravel that could be used for some trails. For now, she’s borrowing a friend’s bike when she goes mountain biking. It’s a bit small for her, but the discomfort is worth the time spent.

“I’ll just push through,” Avila said, “because I want to be riding.”

It could take a year or two for the bike market to bounce back to pre-pandemic normals, Littlefield and Wright said, as demand dies down and supply chains speed up.

Along with the rapid jump in demand, manufacturers slowed production in some cases because of the coronavirus. Even now, as other countries wait for access to vaccines, some factories, ports and other parts of the supply chain shut down intermittently.

“Be patient with us,” Sherrod said. “We want to help [customers] as we have, but we just can’t right now.”

In the meantime, the store owners advise shoppers to move fast.

“If you find something, and it’s a good option,” Littlefield said, “snap it up.”

Return to Story