The bicycle industry has been one of the very few success stories to not just survive but thrive through the Covid-19 pandemic.

But for those of us out to either buy our first bike, trade up, try something different or add to our two-wheeled stable, 2020 has been a painfully difficult time to try to lock in our ideal purchase. And never more so than in the lead-up to Christmas.

Because of the simultaneous unprecedented worldwide demand and supply-side challenges that emptied warehouses when the virus hit hard around the globe early this year, the messages from the bicycle industry in the final weeks before the big man in red slides down our chimneys is: Keep an open mind and, if you find what you’re looking for, grab it with both hands!

Peter Bourke, general manager of Bicycle Industries Australia, says there is no reason to take bikes off your Christmas list but a Christmas Eve shopping blitz would far more likely end in tears rather than squeals of joy the next morning.

“Right now bike shops have limited supplies,” Peter says. “Many shops I’m talking to have five to 10 per cent of their usual stock levels. So you may not be able to get the exact model or the size you want at the moment, you may have to call around, but the reality is, if you find the bike you want, don’t hesitate.

“We already know that a number of models are not available until June next year. And a lot of shops have 500 to 600 people on waiting lists for bikes so it is a challenge to find a bike now.

“The warehouses have been empty since June. And, of course, this is a worldwide issue. You can’t buy a bike in America and Europe is under the same constraints. Component manufacturers are now saying it’s 11 to 12 months to buy components which means the supply of bikes is being delayed dramatically as well.”

And because the cupboards are bare around the world, Peter warns that this is no short-term inconvenience. Strap in for supply shortages for the foreseeable future.

“If there is not another hiccup in the system, supply will still lag for 12 months,” he says. “We are predicting this is a two-year process.

“Because you’ve got a combination of factors. Every warehouse is empty.  Manufacturing is heavily delayed and that’s not just bikes. On helmets now it’s a nine to 12-month ordering wait. But you’ve also got a worldwide shortage of shipping containers. There’s a two-to-four-week wait to even get a shipping container to put your stock in to get it to Australia.

“It’s a real snowball effect. And because components are made in different parts of the world, that shipping container shortage – if you’re shipping a component from Asia to Europe – to then build the bike to ship it from Europe to Australia, that’s twice that you’ve got a shortage of shipping containers. The bike industry is heavily affected but so is the toy industry and the sporting goods and fitness industry. So the shipping issue is a compounding effect of everything being affected by Covid.”

The Australian bicycle industry has worked hard and shown a lot of flexibility in response to the shortfall in stock across the board. Bikes are being cannibalised to satisfy customers’ specific needs and endless streams of old bikes are coming out of sheds to be repaired and restored. As new bike sales have struggled with supply issues, second-hand sales have spiked dramatically and, unfortunately, so have bike thefts. So the other side of the happy Christmas equation is to take extra care with bikes you already have – lock them up when you park them away from home, store them securely at home and don’t let yourself join the growing ranks of bike theft victims.

Christmas is a super fun time for bike fans of all ages – more so in Australia because we can take a new steed straight out for a ride in summer sunshine instead of having to wait for the snow to thaw.

This year is no exception. Just be keenly aware of the extra challenges involved and you won’t miss out on a moment of the joy that comes from a new bike or three under the Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas to all from the Bike SA Team!