Cycling appears to have become the outdoors activity of choice for many Americans amid nationwide shutdowns from the coronavirus pandemic, as evidenced by the surge in bike sales in recent months. Indeed, bicycle makers report spikes in sales so dramatic as people look for ways to get outside and to safely commute that they are struggling to keep up with demand and are now grappling with inventory shortages.
Basic adult bicycles, known in the industry as "leisure" bicycles, have seen double- and triple-digit sales increases, according to research from NPD Group. Sales of adult leisure bikes were up 121% in March, according to its data.
"Consumers are looking for outdoor- and kid-friendly activities to better tolerate the challenges associated with stay-at-home orders, and cycling fits the bill well," NPD sports industry analyst Dirk Sorenson said.
Bevin Carroll, a partner in Bicycle Sport, a bike shop in Vero Beach, Florida, said customers started flocking to the spot about eight weeks ago and scooped up much of its inventory.
"We saw panic buying on bikes in the lower price range, around $400," he told CBS News. "People were just coming in and were going to buy anything we had on the floor at that entry price level."
What inventory remains is "really picked over" and mostly in the higher-end range, Carroll added.
Dave Weiner, who founded Priority Bicycles, which makes low-maintenance bikes that can be ordered online, said he's worked at the company's New York City showroom until 1 am every morning this week fulfilling customers' orders. The online sales setup of his business has proved to be a model that works well in the coronavirus era.
"Demand has been tremendous, not only because more people are looking for a good social distancing activity and alternative modes of transportation, but also because people don't want to go into stores and we sell bikes online," Weiner said.
Thank home-schooling, the closure of big office buildings and shuttered gyms for the sudden surge, NPD Group senior sports industry advisor Matt Powell said. "It's a good recess activity and people are looking for exercise they can do and still social distance and that falls right into the bike business for sure."
Still, there's a downside to the crush of new orders.
"We are selling out of everything we have, which sounds amazing, but is not as good as it sounds because then you don't really have anything to sell," Weiner of Priority Bicycles said.