The bicycle supply chain shortage continues even as COVID starts to subside. There are a lot of factors involved and it’s going to be a while before things return to normal and honestly, that normal might be a lot different than the old normal we were once used to.
To fully understand, I will provide you with some history about the bicycle industry. If we go way back into the 70s bicycles and parts were mostly manufactured in their country of origin. Basically meaning that if the company resided in a certain country, so did the manufacturing of that product. So Shimano parts came from Japan, Peugeot bicycles were made in France, Schwinn was manufactured right here in the United States, Chicago to be exact. BMX got its big boom in the 70s and almost all of the bicycles were made in California. By the late 70s and early 80s there started to be a mass exodus of companies outsourcing their manufacturing to Taiwan. I mostly saw this happen with most of the big BMX brands, but it was happening to the entire bicycle industry. Redline, Mongoose, and Haro all come to mind when I think of companies outsourcing in the 80s from the solid USA manufactured brands to being exclusively imported from Taiwan. By the late 90s, GT and a few others closed their US plants and outsourced to Taiwan. As for other bicycle brands, not BMX-related, they did the same thing. Most newer companies that came around since then just simply started having the products made in Taiwan and even more recently, over the last decade or so, China.
This is where bicycles and bicycle parts now come from. Almost nothing is made in the USA anymore.
I personally have been bringing this up for a long time, but not many people really care or listen. This has become the new norm. As clean as the bicycle industry wants to say they are, it is in fact a very dirty industry. Not only are factories in China and Taiwan not required to have very high environmental standards, but all the product also has to be shipped 1/2 way around the world on dirty polluting ships to get to their destination. But that has little to do with the supply chain issue, it’s just been a pet peeve of mine for a long time.
So fast forward to 2016 and a new president is elected. Yes, Trump became our president and one of the first things he started doing was starting a trade war with China. He raised tariffs and talked bad about China over and over. The concept was valid, the way he went about it was very sudden and it impacted almost all products coming from China causing prices to rise.
Then in early 2020 COVID came along. Many companies in the bicycle industry panicked because they thought COVID would leave them overstocked and unable to sell products. So they lowered orders and slowed production plans way down expecting hardly anyone would be able to buy a bicycle or parts due to COVID and the restrictions that came with it. Well, the exact opposite happened. With all these people stuck at home and told that they can go outside and get exercise, people rushed to the bicycle shops, which were sometimes closed or only taking online orders, to buy bicycles so they could recreate. Mountain biking had a huge growth spurt, as did other aspects of cycling but not as big. This is when the old “Supply and Demand” concept took hold and you guessed it, supply dropped while demand spiked. It caught almost the entire bicycle industry off guard.
Low stock and limited sizes are common today.
As time when on, shipments were halted or significantly slowed in fear that those ships would bring more COVID here to the United States. Adding this on top of already strained relationships with China wasn’t helping the supply chain issues when demand was spiking.
Now that COVID is starting the subside, we hope, there are other issues happening around the world that are now impacting the supply chain. Demand for bicycles and parts is still really high and companies are working hard to catch up on the issues over the last two years. Now recently Russia invaded Ukraine and that puts a whole new strain on things, especially pricing due to oil costs going up because of the war and new sanctions put on Russia. On top of that China hasn’t criticized Russia for its actions and that puts even more strain on the relationship between the United States and China. All while this is happening, China has been saying Taiwan is part of China and is threatening to take it back after they basically uprooted any form of Democracy, as well as a free press, in Hong Kong. This all leads to a lot of uncertainty in the bicycle industry.
The world has suddenly become pretty unstable and we don’t know what direction things might go from here. All of the US bicycle companies decided to outsource and make us almost 100% reliant on Taiwan and China for products just for some small profit gains. Now the United States doesn’t even have the expertise or capacity to manufacture bicycles and/or bicycle parts at high volume. So expect the supply chain issues to last quite a while. I have heard that it could be this way well into 2023 if not longer.
If you need parts or plan to buy a bicycle, it’s a good idea to get your orders in now because it’s likely to be a long wait. I personally wanted to order a Surly Ghost Grappler to ride and do a review on and all bikes that haven’t even been released yet are spoken for. This is the new normal!