Boom (bike) box

If you work in a bike shop in L.A. during the stay at home order-that’s-more-of-a-suggestion, you are probably out of bikes. To say bike sales are booming is an understatement.

For whole ranges of bikes such as cruisers and kid bikes there is nothing available, anywhere.

For another range of bikes including low-end road/mountain/hybrid bikes and moderately priced e-bikes, well, those are all sold out, too.

For a range of bikes that aren’t even bikes, by which I mean smart indoor trainers and now dumb ones, too, nothing is available.

If, and only if, you’re looking for something in the highest end, there are still bikes to be had.

Since most of the above items are made in China and the global supply chain is mostly broken, don’t look for new bikes to be filling the shelves anytime soon. And once China’s factories begin operating at full capacity, expect a massive backlog in orders, further slowing down new bikes for purchase.

The bike boom seems to be going full tilt in equipment as well. Online prices haven’t dropped that much for derailleurs, tires, and … Rapha. Because in the middle of a pandemic cum Great Depression, what could possibly be more important than a new $300 jersey?

For the first time in modern memory, the bike shop is finally getting its due. If I had told you a couple of months ago that people would be standing in line to enter the Bike Palace in San Pedro, that they would sell out most of their inventory in a matter of weeks, that their repair services would be overwhelmed, and that PEOPLE HAD STOPPED HAGGLING OVER PRICES, you would have shaken your head and advised me to lay off the psychotropics.

People in the business thought there would be a big bump in the beginning of the pandemic, and there was. Everyone ran out to get their kid a bike and to “dust off” their crunchy cruiser with that euphemistic tune-up.

“I think she just needs to be cleaned up a bit.”

“Uh, sir, the chain has rusted off, the brakes don’t touch the rims, the tires and tubes have rotted, and the bottom bracket has frozen.”

“How much is that going to cost?”

“You’d be better off buying a new bike.”

“Okay, I’ll take one.”

“We don’t have any.”

“When will you have more?”

“I have no idea.”

“So what do I do?”

“We can refurbish your rusted hulk of junk for $445.29.”

“Okay. When will it be ready?”



This is the type of surreal exchange playing out in bike shops everywhere, violating all the rules of physics that govern bike shop purchases, which is really only one rule, which is “That’s too expensive I’ll get it online.”

After the first wave of customers, a funny thing happened. Parents were stuck at home with their kids and all the strip clubs were closed. Parents couldn’t hang out all day on Pornhub because the kids were using the computer for classes. So people started riding with their kids.

This was fun at first until the parents a/k/a Dad realized that riding with kids wasn’t fun at all, and was simply an extension of being indoors with them, minus the non-existent Pornhub access. This created the second wave of bike purchases.

“I want a bike.”

“We don’t have any.”

“What are those?”

“Those are high-end road bikes.”

“I want one.”

“Okay. What kind of riding do you do?”

“Anything that will let me go fast enough to get away from my fucking kids.”

That’s harder than it sounds, by the way, because the kids all got fit and fast in a week and Dad … didn’t.

The third wave is beginning, which is the wave that’s coming from the people who either bought bikes or who had old ones repaired, and actually rode them. Those bikes now need all manner of repair because one of the first things that grown men do when they get a new bike is leap off of it onto the ground, hard.

The third wave includes broken wheels, slashed tires, torn clothes, bashed derailleurs, and the saddest/highest charge bike shop work order ever: The I-tried-to-fix-it-myself-and-now-the-chain-is-in-Phoenix-please-help.

What we all want to know, though, is whether there will be a fourth wave once the stay-at-home-just-kidding order is lifted? How many of the newly purchased or totally refurbished bikes will find their way back into the darkest corner of the garage? How many riders will finally kick the car habit and discover that there is no freedom like bike freedom? How many starry-eyed children will set their hopes and dreams on the lofty goal of one day becoming a droopy, doped-up masters racer?

I don’t know.

But for now, I hope you aren’t shopping for a new bike.


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9 thoughts on “Boom (bike) box”

  1. Even seeing this play out in west Texas. Hear the Metromess is the same.

    1. West Texas is Houston if you’re in Orange. Odessa is in the eastern part of the state from the Devil’s River … where are you exactly?

  2. Those pictures look like holdovers from yesterday’s post. I write that having just consumed a fresh slice baked only 75 minutes ago with I-Love-Butter, and Blood Orange Marmalade. Decadence lives!

  3. Wrench Monkey

    Does anyone want to buy a bike? Right now I’m at something like N-4. They all function perfectly, but may be a little out of date. For some reason I always fix ’em up before I decide that “Nah. It needs to be new.” Rigid 7spd MTB, a full suspension rig w/ everything, including 11 extra lbs.,an ugly aluminum road bike that almost fits me, and a TT bike because who wants to ride an outdated torture device?

  4. At a local bike shop, I just saw about 30 bikes in boxes waiting for assembly in the parking lot. They have not had to shut down (essential business here.) They’ve been busy when I have dropped by, but still have selection, I think. Near San Jose.
    In general, I find the shift to more people not in cars, and fewer cars wonderful.

  5. It’s still illegal to ride at the beach here but that didn’t stop me from re-building a beach cruiser yesterday using parts from 4 bikes. I still need a chain. Not sure how many links it needs to fit.

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