But where have the bicycles gone in the stores? While global demand for this mode of travel
keeps growing, the tensions on supply caused by the Covid-19 crisis have led to a scarcity of cycles for sale. Before getting on a brand new model, you have to be patient. “For some bikes, the deadline will be only one month, but for others, we do not even have a precise delivery date” explains Florent Gibert, director of the site “Marché du Vélo.com”, specializing in the electric bicycle.
To understand this phenomenon of shortage, we have to go up the production chain. The machines are often assembled in Europe, but the parts are mostly produced in Asia. Each country or manufacturer is therefore dependent on this region of the world, where the specialized factories are operating at full capacity… without managing to produce enough to meet the strong demand. And without a derailleur – whose world market is controlled by two companies (Shimano and Sram) – or without a brake, impossible to finish editing and sell the cycle.
“A bicycle is made up of around a hundred components, coming from all over the world (…) Today, we have very poor visibility on what will be delivered, and when, to our assemblers” reminded Gauthier Buffat this summer, Head of Decathlon’s bicycle supply chain.
In addition to this uncertainty about production times, there is the problem of transport. Because cycling is not the only sector in strong growth in recent months. Other industries dependent on Asian factories (toys, computers, etc.) are also in the process of recovery and want to be delivered as quickly as possible.
The problem, as explained by maritime economist Stavros Karamperidis in an article in The Conversation, is that the Chinese ports, where the products are loaded “operate today at reduced capacity due to sanitary restrictions. From Shanghai to Hong Kong via Xiamen, ships line up in long lines to unload ”. Finding a container to ship your goods is therefore becoming more and more difficult. “The cost of transporting a 40-foot container (about 12 meters) from China to Europe is currently around 14,000 dollars (about 12,000 euros), ten times more than in normal times”, notes Stavros Karamperidis.
No return to normal before the end of 2022 … at best
Too low production, difficulty in delivery: nothing more was needed to cause this shortage of bicycles and spare parts. A situation that strongly penalizes independent shops. “Obviously, when you need a few parts, and you have a large sign opposite that orders 2,000, you go after” explains Khaled Boulegroun. Manager of a store in Dijon for thirteen years, he had to resolve to close definitively a few days ago. “As early as last year, we noticed that delivery times were increasing. On certain parts, it was necessary to reach six to nine months before being delivered ”. Impossible to continue under these conditions.
Stores and other repairers have cause for concern, as it will take time to get back to normal. “With a component supply lead time of more than 300 days today, it is difficult to imagine a way out of the crisis before the end of 2022, beginning of 2023”, Gauthier Buffat assured this summer. “Manufacturers of electric bicycles are telling us about a return to normal in 2023 or even 2024, which is linked in particular to the production capacities of batteries”, indicates for his part Florent Gibert. Instead of a brand new bike, many may therefore have to settle for their old mountain bike for a little while.