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The LockDoune Bike Boom!


Lockdown 2020. What did we buy to get through it (apart from lots of toilet roll)? On the list of most bought items, everything from puppies, inflatable hot tubs, pyjamas and bicycles feature. Yes, bikes! Bike shops were one of the few retailers deemed ‘essential’ and allowed to operate throughout 2020, and by mid-April bike sales started to soar. And it wasn’t just new bikes, any second-hand bike for sale was snapped up in minutes. Gumtree cites the humble bicycle as the “top-selling item during lockdown”. Perhaps it’s because from the moment we learn to cycle as children, the freedom and exhilaration we felt became hard-wired into our minds and this feeling was something we all craved during those first long months of isolation and incarceration in our homes.

For us here at Roots Cycles, March 2020 was a daunting time. We thought we faced imminent and indefinite closure. The relief at being able to stay open was replaced pretty quickly by a feeling of overwhelm as the bike boom took hold. The Bicycle Association reported that “Cycling during the pandemic lock-down reached its high point between mid-April and mid-June, regularly exceeding 250% of normal pre-COVID levels”. That meant an extremely busy shop, reflected in shops across the country whose sales grew “by 60% since March 2020”.

As challenging as it has been to manage the bike boom as a business, it is fantastic to see so many more people on bikes. The biggest growth sector we’ve seen, is in the sale of electric bikes, from high-end electric mountain bikes to the very accessible step-through ‘cruiser’ bikes. Electric bikes are brilliant for making the sport more accessible to those with mobility concerns or for those who have spent many years out of the saddle. The trend in e-bikes has been seen across the UK during 2020, with e-bike sales “more than doubling” and that “one pound in every five spent on bicycles during the pandemic was spent on e-bikes” (the Bicycle Association). As cyclists on e-bikes tend to cycle 3-times further than those on regular bikes, you can easily see the appeal of an e-bike, especially during times where exercise and maximising your 1-hour outside were key.

Unsurprisingly, we’ve also seen an increase in families with young children getting on their bikes, using the cycle path to go from playpark to playpark. Gravel biking (road bikes with wider, tougher tyres) is absolutely booming in this area, thanks to the recently launched ‘Gravelfoyle’ – over 200km of forest roads and trails in and around the forests of Aberfoyle. It’s the ‘trendy’, new cycling discipline that looks set to grow and grow. Gravel bikes are also popular with bike packers (think backpacking adventures but, on a bike,), another growth area in cycling, especially in post-lockdown Britain, as we’ll be holidaying at home but perhaps prefer to be off the beaten track.

But what was the result of the bike industry more than doubling its size in a matter of weeks? A global bike shortage. There is still a shortage now as manufacturing tries to catch up but has to work within the covid workplace safety regulations. If there’s not a bike in stock, or already on order in your size, you’re likely to have to wait until this time next year to meet your dream bike.

It’s not just demand that has caused delays, there are well-reported shipping issues – shortages of containers, over-loaded ports, and a container ship that got stuck in a canal… Then Brexit wreaked havoc with our supply chains.

All bike shops have full diaries and lengthy lead times for services and repairs. Even when your repair slot arrives, it could be that the part required for your bike is sold out or won’t arrive for a few weeks, sometimes months.

So how can we sustain the growth in cycling? If you have a bike, look after it well! Careful cleaning and lubricating can extend the life of the bike’s components. Plan ahead; if you’d like to buy a new bike have realistic expectations of when you might be able to get one (pre-ordering is a must!). The same goes for bike services. Ideally, your bike should be serviced once a year, just like your car, so book in plenty of time and before things go wrong.

But please rest assured; small repairs and fixes are done quickly. We will never say no to fixing a puncture or if you’re out cycling and something goes wrong, pop in. We love cycling and want to see its growth sustained and maintained. We hope that our wee shop, tucked away on Queen Street, can help do that for many years to come. Please do come in and see us or give us a call on 01786 842 080.

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