Why one bike maker is struggling to meet pandemic demand
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If you’ve struggled to buy a bike recently, you were most likely put on a waiting list with others looking to safely commute to work, get exercise or spend time outdoors during the pandemic.
Mehdi Farsi is co-founder of State Bicycle Co., a bicycle maker specializing in fixed-gear, single-speed and off-road bikes in Phoenix. Farsi said his business saw two to three times more site traffic and purchases as a result of the growing interest in biking over the past year.
“We started seeing increased interest in bicycles around mid- to late April of 2020. A lot of folks were still commuting around town and a lot of gyms were closed, so a bicycle was one of the best ways to get your exercise in and enjoy time outside,” Farsi said. “So compared to normal years, we were seeing two to three times more site traffic and purchases across the board.”
Farsi said while he did shut down State Bicycle’s retail location in the beginning of the pandemic, once it reopened, business more than doubled compared to last year. He attributes some of it to more people working from home and having flexibility in their schedules for leisure activities like biking.
“With the sharp uptick in demand, that obviously put some strain on the supply chain, leading to shortages, bikes being sold out, longer wait times and ultimately longer production times. So pre-pandemic, we were looking at 90 to 120 days, and currently, I would say for the most expedient models, we would be looking at eight months,” Farsi said. “You know, the bikes require a variety of parts and components like steel and aluminum. Those are in short supply, but where we’re seeing kind of the most strain in the supply chain would be with parts like bike chains, tires required for virtually every bike. We’re still profitable. However, our costs are definitely higher than they’ve ever been during the pandemic.”
Farsi said some orders for parts are backed up until 2023 because of supply chain shortages, and he’s resorting to alternatives such as product substitutions or finding other suppliers.
“Moving forward, we think things are going to kind of stabilize a little bit, but yeah, it’s a bit of a balancing act because we obviously don’t want to under order, but also we want to be cautious so that we don’t have a huge, huge surplus,” Farsi said. “We’re all really grateful that we’re selling a product that helps people with their fitness, their mental health and all in all, we like staying busy. We’re nimble, and we’re rolling with the punches.”
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