2020 was a weird year for buying a bike. The surge of interest from so many new people to get outside on wheels was largely a positive phenomenon, but the increased demand for bikes and reduced supply “severely impacted inventory across the board, particularly for entry level and mid-price bicycles,” says Wheel Sport Bicycles marketing manager Elle Spisak.
That reduced inventory included new and used bikes, which meant many of the people coming into local shops to buy a bike couldn’t find what they were looking for. “Volume and prices for used bicycles were up at all of the major outlets, including Craigslist, Ebay, Pinkbike and The Pro’s Closet,” says Spisak. “This impacted Wheel Sport’s supply chain for used bikes because they either did not want to let them go for fear of not getting a replacement or found it lucrative to sell themselves.”
If you’re in the market for a new or used bike this year, don’t wait around to see how things work out later in the spring. “Suppliers are seeing inventory come back up, and we expect to be at a normal level of inventory by April,” Spisak says. Yet, she cautions, “many suppliers have warned us not to expect significant back stock in their warehouse. This could impact our ability to refresh our inventory through the summer or special-order particular colors and sizes.”
The availability of parts for repairs was also an issue in 2020, says Spisak. “Where consumers used to be able to buy a used bike off Craigslist, Ebay, or Pinkbike, and plan on upgrading or replacing worn parts when they got the bike, these parts have been more difficult to come by. We have had customers buy bikes online and find out it needed a new part, only to discover it would be three months before we could get that part.”
This added uncertainty highlights the challenges of buying a used bike online that might not be in working order and could need parts that might not be readily available.
Early birds looking to get a jump on peak bike inventory this spring may have fewer opportunities to check out the latest offerings, especially for used bikes, with the 2021 Spokane Great Outdoors & Bike Expo cancelled and Spokane Bike Swap tentatively scheduled for April 10, 2021.
Organizers of the Spokane Bike Swap, which features the largest annual collection of used bicycles for sale, are concerned that ongoing pandemic impacts may lead to this year’s event being postponed.
The best bet to find the right bike this spring is to start looking at a local shop this winter and early spring. Anyone looking to browse the largest selection of used bikes should plan a visit to the Wheel Sport Re-Cyclery near downtown Spokane or Ramble Raven Gear Trader on the Division Street Hill in Spokane.
Derrick Knowles is OTO co-publisher and editor-in-chief.