Bicycle shops have bumpy ride since pandemic

Category: Lifestyle/Entertainment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. hobble / ˈhɒb əl / (v.) – to limit the movement, progress, or freedom of something

    Financial difficulties can hobble a person’s ability to pursue their dreams.

  2. slash / slæʃ / (v.) – to reduce something, such as costs, expenses, or quantities, by a large amount

    Due to a limited budget, the company is slashing its marketing expenses for the next quarter.

  3. bright spot / braɪt spɒt / (n.) – a good or positive thing that happens or exists in a bad or difficult situation

    The success of online businesses was a bright spot during the pandemic.

  4. middleman / ˈmɪd lˌmæn / (n.) – a person or company that buys products from producers or factories and sells them to consumers, earning money out of it

    Some farmers prefer selling their crops to a middleman who handles sales to various grocery stores in the area.

  5. fare / fɛər / (v.) – to do something well or badly in a particular situation or circumstance

    Despite the challenges, the new restaurant is faring well in its first month of business.


Read the text below.

Bike shops across the U.S. have had a bumpy ride in the years since a sales boom early in the pandemic.

A surge of interest in cycling pushed sales up 64% to $5.4 billion in 2020, according to the retail tracking service Circana. It wasn’t unheard of for some shops to sell 100 bikes or more in a couple of days.

The boom didn’t last. Hobbled by pandemic-related supply chain issues, the shops sold all their bikes and had trouble restocking. Now, inventory has caught up, but fewer people need new bikes. So, bicycle makers have been slashing prices to clear out the excess. It all adds up to a tough environment for retailers, although there are a few bright spots, like gravel and e-bikes.

In 2023, bike sales totaled $4.1 million, up 23% from 2019, but down 24% from 2020, according to Circana. The path out of the pandemic has been uneven—national retailers, such as REI and Scheels, are stabilizing faster than independent bike stores.

Independent bike stores not only have to compete with national chains but increasingly, bike makers, such as Specialized and Trek, as well. They’ve been buying bike shops and selling their bikes directly to consumers, essentially cutting out the middleman.

In Boulder, Colorado, Douglas Emerson’s bike shop, University Bicycles, is faring better than many, boosted by its location in one of the most popular places to ride bikes in the country. He’s had the shop for 39 years and employs 30 staffers.

Emerson says the shop reached a “saturation point”—everyone who wanted a bike bought one. Now, he’s selling those customers accessories like clothing, helmets, and locks. His shop has returned to its 2019 sales numbers.

University Bicycles has also benefited from some of the shifts in buying patterns. Continued high demand for e-bikes and a growing demand for children’s bikes have helped. And gravel bikes, which are designed to be ridden both on paved and gravel roads, are replacing road bikes as a popular seller.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Based on all the information in the article and your perspective as a consumer, how would you describe the bicycle industry (ex. it is a dying industry, it is only undergoing shifts)? Discuss.
  • How do you think businesses can adapt once they have reached their limit for growth in the market? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Considering the growing demand for e-bikes, children’s bikes, and gravel bikes, do you believe that bike shops should focus more on diversifying their product offerings to cater to changing consumer preferences? Why or why not? Do you believe the shift in these bikes is a temporary trend or a long-term change in consumer preferences? Why? Discuss.
  • In your opinion, how important is it for businesses to adapt to shifts in consumer preferences? Should businesses always cater to consumer preferences? Why or why not? Discuss.