Where’s My Bike?!? Your 2021 Bike Industry Questions Answered
We hear you. It’s been a strange year, and you’re looking forward to some degree of normal this season. You just want to get out and ride again, maybe race, depending on local safety measures in your area. So what’s going on with the cycling industry right now? And where exactly is the bike you ordered?
Here are some of the most common questions we’re getting right now from our community.
Where’s my bike?!?
If you’ve placed an order or paid a deposit for a new bike and expected to be out riding already, you may be very frustrated with the wait. In some cases, your local shop may not be able to tell you a firm date when your bike will arrive. The same may be true for regular maintenance appointments, tune-ups and small parts orders. So what’s the issue?
The delays that we’re facing now are the result of a perfect storm of disruptions due to COVID-19 restrictions in production facilities, a massive increase in demand for bikes in 2020, and a large increase in global shipping volume overall as thousands more shoppers went online, leading to delays in shipping hubs and a strain on courier and delivery companies. All of that added up to a production and delivery backlog on a global scale.
Let’s look specifically at the factories where bikes are produced. Most are located in Asia, and most work with many different bike brands. When we saw a huge increase in demand for bikes in 2020, all of those brands increased their orders. That meant that a typical 45-to-60-day delivery window stretched to 300 days, then 400, or even to over 500 days. That’s a huge difference. On top of that, factories and shipping hubs have had to decrease productivity to maintain COVID safety measures and physical distancing. Bicycle Retailer and Industry News recently quoted industry sources as saying that shops won’t be up to the stock levels they had before COVID until well into 2022, due to these factors – and some sources say 2023.
At Argon 18 we were lucky to have placed our orders with the factories early, and we will be shipping our 2021 bikes to shops globally beginning in May and June - much earlier than many other brands. Your shop will get bikes into your hands as quickly as they can.
Why did you switch from Shimano to SRAM?
You may have noticed that Argon 18 switched our North American spec from Shimano to SRAM for our 2021 models. This comes down to availability, due to the factors we talked about above: many component manufacturers simply cannot keep up with the demand they’ve faced over the past year, making it hard for many brands like Argon 18. Like frame manufacturers, they had to decrease staff in factories to maintain distancing, and are facing the same shipping challenges. As larger bike brands have stepped up orders and production, they’ve also stepped up their component orders, meaning there’s increased competition for decreased levels of products. We switched to SRAM because they were able to deliver our specific order faster for 2021, and provide the quality and performance our riders expect.
Why can’t I even get my bike serviced?
There are a few reasons why your local shop may be under a lot of pressure right now. First of all, they’ve probably gone through the stress of lockdowns and closures, and have also had to reduce hours and staff due to physical distancing precautions. Your bike shop is also facing the same issues we’ve mentioned above – they are having a hard time getting small parts due to production and delivery backlogs. And you’ve probably noticed the huge boom in cycling over the past year. Shops are facing a huge number of servicing and maintenance appointments, as thousands of new cyclists hit the road – or pulled their old bike out of the garage – to avoid public transit or to take the place of a locked-down gym. While that boom of business is a great thing for cycling and cycling infrastructure, it has led to a bit of overload for mechanics. We encourage you to be patient – your shop is working as hard as they can to get you out on the road.
Will race season be normal this year? Should I even bother getting a new bike?
We’ve been seeing many races start up again, respecting COVID distancing measures and other safety precautions. While we probably won’t be back to ‘normal’ in the 2021 season, don’t let that discourage you. Obviously race organizers and host communities are prioritizing public health, and will only offer opportunities that meet safety standards. If there is a specific race you’re interested in, sign up for updates from the organizer, and be sure to closely look at their cancellation and refund policies before you register. There are still many last-minute changes and cancellations when needed for the health of athletes and others involved in racing events.
Should you wait to invest in a new race bike? Well, we’re obviously biased here. We’d always like to see you on a new bike! But one thing we’ll say, if you are getting a new bike this season, is to be sure you give yourself enough of a buffer before race day. Factor in possible delays in receiving your bike, and delays in any new parts you may need to get your perfect fit and race-day setup – stems and saddles, for example. We’d hate to see you miss a race because of a delay in receiving your bike or small parts.
I’m seeing prices go up on a lot of bike brands. Why?
A recent article by Bicycle Retailer says that retail prices will likely go up by 10-25% in 2021. There are a lot of reasons for this, including increased shipping costs globally, increased raw material costs, rising tariffs and rising labour costs. Already major brands like Specialized, Giant and Cannondale have increased prices to cover these costs.
Right now, Argon 18 has not made any price increases due to these increased costs. We’ll be honest and say that it’s a situation we continue to monitor closely, because we’re in the same boat as the brands who have already increased their prices. But please know that none of these brands are increasing prices to take advantage of consumers during a boom in business. Rather, they are trying to maintain their production in a precarious situation, to keep the flow of bikes into shops – and get you onto the roads and trails.
Are we going to see changes in the way bikes are made?
There are a few major players in the industry who would like to see increased production capacity in global factories. Many brands expect the bike boom to continue even after pandemic restrictions on gyms and transit are lifted, and worry that production won’t keep pace. So far, there haven’t been any new factories or major expansion in current factories, but there are increasing calls for more production to meet demand.
Over the past few years we’ve also seen a huge number of new, smaller brands enter the industry, notably in the e-bike space. While those smaller brands may feel the worst crunch due to current supply chain shortages, those that make it will continue to increase the reach and level of innovation in the industry as a whole. That’s only positive, for all of us.
Another positive change is that we’re seeing increased calls for cycling infrastructure in many cities around the world. The boom in the bike business has led to an increase in acceptance of bikes as a key form of sustainable transportation. Increased safety, security and accessibility for all riders is something we greatly support, and we’re cheering on these new developments.
For more details, listen to our podcast episode hosted by Martin Le Sauteur (CEO of Argon 18) with his guest Albert Cabbad (CEO of R&A Cycles)