Shortage of bikes from spring continues through holiday season

  • Dwight Sperry, right, watches as his son Oliver, 14, tries out a toddlers balance bike while waiting for an Omer and Bob’s employee to find a part at the Lebanon, N.H., store for a dirt jumper he is building from an old kids bike Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. Oliver Sperry, a member of the Hanover High mountain bike club, is growing out of a bike he purchased from the store early in the coronavirus pandemic while stock was still available, and beginning to search for a replacement. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Zack Weimer, of Lebanon, tunes up a bike for a customer at Omer and Bob’s in Lebanon, N.H., Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. Weimer returned home from Europe early in the pandemic, abandoning plans to participate in some amateur road races, but hopes to resume racing in the U.S. next year. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • With an enthusiasm for biking that boomed during coronavirus pandemic lockdowns in the spring, Omer and Bob’s co-owner Jonathan Wilmot found that the supply of new bikes had dwindled by the later start of the New England biking season as consumers in southern states snapped up existing stock. Orders placed in spring finally began coming in to the Lebanon, N.H., store by September and October and new bikes are now backordered for up to one year. Wilmot was preparing photos of an e-bike to send to a customer who called from a Boston suburb Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, because he could not find one locally. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/12/2020 7:02:57 AM
Modified: 12/12/2020 7:27:22 AM

LEBANON — Breck Taber has had to turn away more business than he would like this year, and it’s not because he doesn’t want it. He just can’t provide the bicycles his customers are looking for.

The co-owner of Omer and Bob’s — the sport shop located on the downtown Lebanon mall — has seen the availability of bikes decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.

This week, he said, roughly 60 total units were on the floor and maybe a dozen were downstairs in boxes. That includes all the cycles Omer and Bob’s offers, such mountain bikes, e-bikes, kids bikes and a normal hybrid model.

“When people say the bike business must have killed it this year, well, if we could’ve got the bikes, we would’ve,” said Taber, who is also the Lebanon High girls soccer coach. “But there were so many times somebody came through the door wanting to purchase a bike and you couldn’t sell them one. It’s gonna go through next summer. We still can’t get kids bikes for Christmas.

“We got a guy waiting for a certain size bike with gears for Christmas for his granddaughter; I’m keeping my eyes open, but it’s getting slimmer and slimmer,”

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, everybody rushed for toilet paper and hand sanitizer. But as stay-at-home orders carried into the spring, the want of getting outdoors became a necessity to many.

According to The New York Times, nationwide sales of bicycles, equipment and repair services nearly doubled in March compared with the same period last year. By the end of April, distributors had sold out of low-end consumer bikes.

The rush for bikes didn’t vanish this summer, either. Taber said his shop sells bikes from Specialized and Trek, two of the biggest cycle manufactures in the world, and the biggest problem now is trying to catch up with the backorders from the summer while making enough bikes to keep up with the current demand.

At Omer and Bob’s, which caters to the Upper Valley area, the hope is to get a replenishment of stock in early spring, but they won’t see some mountain bikes until next summer.

And now, the surge in sales from the spring and summer is trickling down to holiday sales.

“When we started to see some availability issues, we put some bikes on order and backorder,” Taber said while standing next to his business partner, Jonathan Wilmot. “We literally still have stacks of orders that people placed that are still on backorder. We’re talking regular bikes, e-bikes. And we have a whole separate Google doc of people who came in looking for a hybrid bike — between $600 and $800, saying, ‘If you get one in my size, give me a call.’ That list at some point was almost 50 names long for people who walked in and wanted to buy a bike on the spot. There’s the scenario people don’t think about.”

Jason Ouelette, the owner of Mason Racing Cycles, which is based out of Lebanon, has had a similar experience. This summer, he was turning away 10-12 people each day who were looking to purchase a mountain bike.

The way his business is established, he isn’t completely reliant on walk-in sales but on special orders and reorders. Yet this summer, there was nothing to sell because of all the backorders. Mason Racing also services bikes, which Ouelette said has ramped up throughout the pandemic.

He’s also made an emphasis to purchase as many fat bikes this winter as possible. Fat bikes allow for cyclists to ride through snowy conditions or sand since they run at low tire pressure. Upper Valley trails, such as Boston Lot Lake, are maintained through the winter and allow for the use of fat bikes.

“Normally, at this point, I’d be sitting on 30-plus bikes, and I’m now sitting on zero,” Ouelette said over the phone on Tuesday. “Effectively right now, I’m sold out. Every bike that came in went out the door this fall.”

Dick Drummond said his business, Drummond Custom Cycles of Enfield, has also seen an uptick in e-bikes. The only ones that Drummond sells are Class I, meaning they are pedal assist and don’t have a throttle. The drive system is activated only once the rider starts pedaling, and the max speed is 20 mph.

The way he explains it, the e-bike provides a boost for those who might want to commute to work by bike but want to make it in a timely fashion. It also accommodates people who enjoy mountain biking and want the help going uphill.

Liz Burdette, the chairperson of the Upper Valley Mountain Bike Association, said there has been a significant rise in usage of trails from what she has seen. Thanks to the extensive network of trails in the region, however, the paths have not become overcrowded.

Parking lots were packed this summer, showing the rise in the sport.

“The club’s membership is the highest that it has ever been,” Burdette said. “My husband and I ride two or three times a week, and we’ve been seeing people that we’ve never seen before, which is great. I think a lot of people have a set bike routine, so you would see your familiar riding group you might see after your ride. I think people were looking for ways to get outside and try new things.

“Once you’re out there and try it, it’s really hard to not to want to do it again. And that’s one of the reasons why I think sales have just gone up.”

At Omer and Bob’s, Taber is expecting to turn away some more people this holiday season, and that’s OK. With some shipments expected in the early spring, he will make it through the winter just fine.

He also admitted that the sports shop has already identified the next pandemic trend.

“It’s already cross country skis. It’s insane,” Taber laughed.

Pete Nakos can be reached at pnakos@vnews.com.




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