Pedaling Forward

Bicycle sales shifted into a higher gear, surging nationwide by 50% in March, according to market research company NPD Group. It reported a 121% increase in adult leisure bike sales and a 59% rise in children’s bike sales compared to last year. As the summer months approach, it is not surprising people have begun seeking out alternative ways to stay in shape and get some much-needed vitamin D. One facet of the fitness industry that is anticipated to explode is cycling.

Why cycling? Biking can be done independently without close contact to others and is accessible to most. According to a recent survey of 1,004 American adults, roughly 21% of respondents who own a bike have been riding more during the pandemic. Most of those surveyed (63%) said riding helps relieve stress and anxiety.

Within the state of Michigan, bike shops were deemed essential businesses and allowed to reopen in mid-May.

“We went from famine to feast quickly when stores reopened,” said Brad Alvesteffer, general manager of Ray’s Bike Shop in downtown Midland. “The executive order ended, allowing us to open sooner than anticipated, so we scrambled to get things together on the showroom floors and implement PPE. I have never seen demand like this in all of my years of working here. From servicing bikes to new bike sales and trade-ins, it has been monumental in terms of the sales and activity we have experienced. At first it was amazing and exciting, but now it is a bit tricky because we are running out of inventory and having issues getting things back in stock.”

Alvesteffer feels the pandemic may be a positive for the industry, but he worried it could impact the experience of new riders this season.

“There is a silver lining. People are getting back out there again and rediscovering their bikes,” he said. “So, it’s really encouraging from our end, but it can be frustrating because we want to help everyone — and especially new riders, who we want to make sure have entry-level bikes available to set them up for a great first experience. We want them to hopefully fall in love with biking, too.”