How is the coronavirus crisis affecting the bike industry?

We speak to industry insiders about what lies ahead - and what you can do to help

The cycling industry is a worldwide operation and even homegrown brands rely on materials from elsewhere. With borders in lockdown and offices closed as workforces set up hotdesks at home, how will the bike trade be affected by Coronavirus?

The traditional spring calendar of bike launches has been replaced by a scrap to get hold of each new bike in time for its launch date.

Thankfully the major new models for 2020 are all safely en route to Cycling Weekly writers, and we’ll be putting each through its paces on our own home turf as long as we’re allowed.

For customers themselves, we’ve been reassured by some that there’s to be no shortage of bikes – for now.

UK Marketing Manager at Canyon Bikes, Jack Noy told us: “As of today we have more complete bikes in stock at Canyon HQ than ever before. [However] it’s a little too early to comment on supply chain issues.”

With regard to stock for the year 2021, he added that again, “it’s too early to say”.

With factories in Taiwan and China respectively, one of the greatest concerns may have been over the effect on supply from the groupset juggernauts SRAM and Shimano.

However, both have confirmed in statements that the production line is back up to speed, Shimano told Cycling Weekly: “operations in China resumed in mid-February following Government protocols [and] production of products originating from Shimano’s other Asian production centres remains unaffected.”

SRAM stated: “All SRAM Factories are in operation. They are an essential part of our team. We are following the same guidelines as in our corporate position, protecting our team members through appropriate hygiene, social distancing, and several other measures to ensure safety.”

Smaller operations don’t require a huge scale backlog of stock, but they do need customers with open wallets to stay afloat.

Lee Prescott is Director both at Velo Atelier, a bike fitting and servicing outfit in Warwickshire, and the chief frame builder at his own brand Meteor Works.

“On the Meteor Works side, we’ve got at least a month to 6 weeks of work in the books already. So the first month or two wont be too bad, it’ll be what happens after that [that’s the concern] I don’t think anyone’s going to be splashing out for a little while,” he said.

On stock and components, he added: “I guess the biggest issue for us will be forks, because carbon forks that we use on our new production frame comes from Dedacciai [in Italy] and I think they are unable to produce at the moment. Luckily I do have a fairly decent stock at the moment. All the factories in China have gone back to work now, so all of those lags are picking back up.”

When it comes to servicing and fitting at Velo Atelier, aside from confirming that the fit area is held to a strict code of clinical hygiene, he’s thinking outside the box with bike pick up and drop off options – which is a similar line to that taken by local bike shops, who look set to be most affected as an already struggling industry.

Surrey’s Maison du Velo bike shop and café, which recently took on the historic Forest Row store InGear, is preparing for a battle.

Maison du Velo cafe is a busy community hub

“I imagine we’ll have to shut the café side of the shop at some point or at the very least just move to takeaway coffee,” said co-manager Tim Bishop.

“The café is steady, reliable income whereas the bike shop fluctuates hugely. So it is a big loss for us, as is the sense of community it offers.”

Avenues the shop is exploring include having a closed off workshop, remote purchasing options and Zwift community rides.

“We know the virus is going to have a huge effect. In the face of that we’ve got to balance trying to make sure the business is as strong if not stronger at the other end of it, then there’s our social responsibility to do everything appropriate to minimise the risk to the local community and limit the spread of the virus, and also a desire to serve our customers and do what we can to help keep their spirits up.”

The shop organises regular rides as well as social evenings, and has built up a strong base of loyal customers.

“We’ve already had quite a lot of customers reaching out to us online non prompted, asking what we’re going to do, if there’s anything they can do to help, which has been really touching,” Bishop says.

Answering the all important question of ‘what can we all do?’, he added: “The big one is stay in touch. The situation is changing constantly, what we’re doing and what we can offer will change accordingly.”

The Government has announced it will cut business rates to help small businesses’ cope, and Bishop said this should help, if implemented quickly. “The situation with business rates has reached a bit of a tipping point for small businesses even before this came along, it's something we’ve felt needs looking at for a long time,” he said.

One business that’s seeing a lot of interest is Zwift. With cyclists in countries like Spain in lockdown, and fined as much as 3000 euros for attempting to ride, people are looking to maintain their sanity in Watopia.

Zwift is preparing to support the cycling community in any way it can (Picture: Zwift)

UK PR manager Chris Snook told us: “I think a lot of people are turning to Zwift, and we're definitely in a great position to be able to help out, but it’s making sure we're able to do it on scale and to a global audience. It’s not just the number of events, it’s also running them across multiple time zones to make sure we can cater for Asia, North America, Europe and so on.”

For teams and sponsors searching for avenues to make the most of investment lost through cancelled races, Zwift is an obvious platform.

“We’re currently receiving high numbers of inquiries from athletes, sponsors, event organisers, and the likes. We are having to manage this flow and determine what we’re able to deliver, on scale, on top of the existing plans we had in place for the next few months – things like the Tour of Watopia.”

Asked if Zwift has capacity to house the entire cycling community if need be, Snook said he’s got no concerns, “We've put a lot of work in over last 2 years to really boost the capacity which we can handle, so I don’t think we'll see any issues with scale in that sense.”

Our take...

The bike industry is without a doubt facing a very difficult period. Small businesses have been reporting struggle for some time, so forced closures or breaks in supply chain will not help. However, Coronavirus does not mean we have to stop riding – though it remains to be seen if that will be outside or inside. Regardless, if you’re buying kit to keep you pedalling, don’t forget the local businesses’ in your stomping ground, they need you now more than ever. Maintaining a sense of community during this tough time is important for all of us, so check in with your riding buddies regularly.

They say…

Santini has factories in Italy and supplies kit around the world

"Our factories are open, in compliance with all the restrictions and rules applied according to government laws. [We are] making sure staff welfare is a top priority. At present, we do not anticipate a slow down in stock availability in 2020 or 2021 though as you can appreciate we're living day by day and we can't give data for the next months.

"Shipments are not stuck and borders are closed only for people and leisure travel, not for items.The backorders are in production and custom orders are in progress and we schedule to deliver them in time."

Ribble has a UK store in Preston but recently unveiled an online portal to help customers access remotely

“We have put protective measures in place across the business and will continue to review our position as required. We are operating at normal capacity, manufacturing and delivering our World Class bikes across all territories and within out standard time frames.

“To further enhance our online shopping experience we have made it easier to get expert advice at home through extended customer service availability hours and new ways of interacting with us.”

Sigma Sports recently unveiled plans to expand with a new Midlands store 

“We are not taking the CV-19 situation lightly and as such measures have been put in place to make our Hampton Wick store and International distribution centre as safe as possible for customers and our staff. We are open for business, so stay safe & we hope to see you on the road soon.”

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