The Weekly - June 16, 2020 - 11


of kids' bikes and step-through
women's hybrids.
When gyms shut down and
people were furloughed or working
from home, the bike industry was
well positioned to take advantage of the boom in bike buying.
Manufacturers had most of their
2020 bikes in warehouses, so they
weren't hit hard immediately when
Asian factories closed down.
"We hold a lot of inventory,
so we had a lot of bikes ready
for the season, and it took us a
while to sell through them," says
Birkicht of Pacific Cycle, which
owns Schwinn, Mongoose, and
other budget brands. "We were in
a great position when everyone
went home for quarantine in the
U.S., though no one could have
expected the demand."
Chris Conroy, co-owner of Yeti
Cycles, says the company started
March strong, had a slow first half
of April, and then, by May, business
was "blistering." When shutdowns
hit, Yeti pivoted to producing face
shields and masks with partners
Black Diamond and Smith. "We
didn't panic," says Conroy. "We kept
staff intact. We continued to invest
in product development."
In 2019, under Trump's trade
war with China, many imported
bicycles and related products
were hit with an additional 25%
in tariffs, in addition to existing
11% tariffs. In 2020, many bicycle
industry manufacturers kept
orders lean so they wouldn't get
stuck with overpriced, old-modelyear products they'd need to dump
cheaply when 2021 models started
hitting the market during the
summer, while also holding out
hope the additional tariffs will
eventually be dropped.
"Our biggest challenge is to
know what product to bring in
when," says Conroy. "We don't
know the magnitude of this. COVID could peter out or come back
in the fall with a vengeance. We're
in uncharted territory."

Yeti Cycles
pivoted to
PPE early in
the pandemic.


That said, both Pacific Cycle
and Yeti say they haven't changed
either their product-design schedule or inventory planning moving
forward. "We aren't creating products due to current conditions,"
says Birkicht. "We think this was a
unique event."

Where shops are open, the hustle
is real. But it's on the back of hard
work, long hours, and tighter staff
while balancing it all to keepg
everyone safe, according to Porter
and Benedict.
"As soon as social distancing
and furloughs started, the bike
market immediately exploded,"
says Brian Gootee, owner of Gray
Goat Sports, a chain of four bike
shops in and around Indianapolis
that was considered essential during shutdowns. His stores stayed
open and fully staffed all spring.
In March, on a hunch, Gootee
overordered and opened with new
brands. Now, he says he's surviving on backorders trickling in,

and he can't receive POs without
them being assigned to special
orders, some of which were placed
12 weeks ago. Some suppliers have
told Gootee they're sold out for the
rest of the calendar year.
"It's a feeding frenzy," says
Gootee, 52, who has worked in the
industry since he was 15, opening
his first store in 2003. "We've been
trying to restart the bike industry
since the 1990s. Now we're caught
with our pants down."
Gootee says that increasing
bike sales by 10% a year used to be
tough. Now he's worried he'll run
out of things to sell, and interest
in buying bikes will dry up if there
aren't bikes to buy. He's not sure
how he'll stay in business in July
and August, although his service
departments will be busy.
Indianapolis deemed bikes
essential. Vermont did not, and
independent bike dealers were
forced to close, along with other
nonessential retail. In Burlington,
Vermont, Outdoor Gear Exchange (OGE), a 50,000-square-

foot shop, was allowed one
employee and no customers, so
the management chose to close
entirely. But even with the doors
locked and the website notifying customers of the shutdown,
customers wanted bikes.
Mike Donohue, mission control
for OGE [and also the author's
husband], was getting email messages at the shop's general mailbox
from people begging to buy bikes.
He got creative, drop-shipping a
pair of kids' bikes to his house and
assembling them before delivering them to twin 11-year-olds in
a customer's driveway. Another
day, he rendezvoused with a new
rider at a park 'n' ride to hand off
a bike, then he delivered a bike to
a customer who hadn't ridden in
15 years but wanted to ride with
his daughter. The customer later
called Donohue to thank him
for facilitating a more profound
father-daughter experience than
that customer had had in years.
But after eight weeks of closure
and strict limits on the number of
customers in the store at any time
since, the future remains uncertain.
"Bike sales are the strongest we've
ever seen," says Donohue. "But we're
in a new normal, and it's going to be
a challenging year for sure."

"Everything in Colorado through
August is canceled or postponed,"
says Mike McCormack, organizer
of the Breck Epic, a summer stage
race held in Breckenridge. "You
can put all the social distancing in
place that you want, but once you
get 425 people on a trail, all that
goes out the window."
"We're asking athletes how they
feel and what they want us to do,"
says Kimo Seymour, senior vice
president of Life Time Fitness,
which owns Dirty Kanza, the
Leadville Race Series, Crusher in
the Tushar, and other iconic bike
races. Cancellations to date were
at the direction of local officials.


The Weekly - June 16, 2020

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