Twin Cities bike shops battle shortage as demand increases

COVID-19 bike boom
Photo credit Mark Freie/Entercom

Finding a bicycle to buy as COVID-19 restrictions loosen in Minnesota might be next to impossible right now.

A recent story by the Associated Press referenced a report by Jay Townley, who analyzes cycling industry trends at Human Powered Solutions. That report showed that over the last two months, the cycling industry had seen a boom that hadn't been felt since the U.S. oil crisis of the 1970s. 

"Just like a lot of things in this process, it was hard to find groceries as the COVID-19 pandemic really started," said Jonathan Minks, who owns Jonny Rock Bikes in both Hopkins and Bloomington. "The same thing is kind of happening in the cycling industry."

Suppliers are having a tough time meeting demand in the United States and across the world. Whether it's providing bike orders, or parts that ship from overseas, the cycling industry has been overrun with demand.

"I do a lot more planning and prepping when I buy," Minks said. "I was able to get a bunch of bikes right before it got really crazy. Now I've put orders in with some of my suppliers for anywhere from 20 to 40 bikes. I might end up with one."

Suppliers, according to Minks, are spreading out inventory to vendors all across the United States which limits what he and others can offer in the Twin Cities.

"I had one customer call and ask if they could order a bike. I told them I couldn't order one because I wasn't sure when I would even get it."

Part of the rush on the cycling industry comes as COVID-19 concerns pushed people out of gyms, public transportation, and other group activities. Bike shops, such as Jonny Rocket Bikes, are even having a tough time finding parts for bikes people are bringing in to get fixed.

"Chains, shifters, and even inner tubes are hard to find. You can't even find inner tubes," he said. "It's a crazy season to be in the bike industry. We've done a great job prepping for it, but we're going to run out soon."

Service revenue remains good for Minks' shop, but for cyclists, finding a time to get a bike fixed is becoming next to impossible with bike shops schedule out anywhere from two weeks, to two months, in advance.

The biking boom and COVID-19 came at an interesting time for Jonny Rock Bikes, which opened its Bloomington location on March 1, just a few weeks before a statewide shutdown caused by COVID-19. Cycling shops were deemed essential by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz in March, which kept statewide shops open and busy. As more restrictions are lifted, Minks has gone back to being open seven days a week in Hopkins and five days a week in Bloomington.

"I certainly hope it's a resurgence in the cycling industry and that people decide to keep riding bikes," Minks said. "It's great for the industry and I hope people consider bicycles as a serious method of transportation and a way to get around."