Itching for any excuse to pop outside and get some exercise, I’ve found that the ultimate silver lining of these past months has been acquainting myself with Citi Bike, New York’s bicycle-share system, and the city’s bike routes. Masked, gloved, and helmeted, I’m reminded what incredible lengths I will go to in order to avoid the dread-inducing practice of running.
Out on my regular loop, I’ve heard whispers about how the pandemic has been impacting bicycle shops and have been curious to learn more about what, exactly, that has felt like for some of my favorite bike-makers. So, I got in touch with the people behind tokyobike, Terry Bicycles, and LINUS, to find out what kind of wild ride 2020 has been for them so far.
Adam McDermott, Founder of LINUS
Linus is a bicycle brand with a sensibility that is equal parts 60s French design and contemporary California.
What’s the strangest or most unexpected thing that’s happened in the last few months?
As the realities of isolation and quarantine set in, we saw an immediate surge in demand. It was as if the entire population uniformly realized that they can’t go to the gym or yoga and decided to buy a bike.
Has demand changed during that time?
There’s an urgency I’ve never seen. In the past, customers were happy to wait for a particular color or they would visit the store multiple times before they finally made a purchase. Now they’re just like, “Give it to me, I’ll take it.”
Have there been challenges in keeping up with demand?
That’s been the greatest challenge: Our whole supply chain is delayed due to COVID-19, so we have unprecedented demand coupled with unprecedented inventory shortages. It’s extremely frustrating. We did manage to ship a lot of inventory to our dealers, so if the website doesn’t show stock, our stores often will have bikes. It’s a good time to support your local bike shops.
We are extremely grateful that our business has continued to grow through this crisis. It’s been challenging with the supply chain interruptions and even working from home with a two year old hanging from your neck, but as a business there is no better problem to have then too much demand. The one thing we carry and are humbled through all this is survivor’s guilt. So many of our friends are furloughed or their businesses are shuttered and now with the planet collectivity addressing racism we are constantly reminded to think beyond ourselves.
What have been the most popular bike models? Any other biking accessories that have been especially popular?
At the moment every model is selling out, but traditionally our classic city bikes sell the best, such as the Roadster and Dutchi models.
Have you had an influx of first-time customers?
Most of this new demand is coming from people who don’t have a bike or haven’t ridden in a really long time. It’s really encouraging, and hopefully now cities will start to recognize and promote bikes as part of the transportation solution.
Paula Dyba, VP of Marketing and Creative Director of Terry Bicycles
What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened in the last few months?
It’s all very strange right now, but perhaps most unexpected is the role that the bicycle has played in the shutdown-era: family entertainment activity; freedom from confinement; transportation alternative to mass transit; gym replacement; social distancing device in the outdoors; indoor fitness trainer.
Has demand changed?
At the onset of the shutdown in March, we felt a sharp decline in our consumer-direct business (25% or so) but a dramatic decline in our wholesale business (90%). While wholesale has been very slow to recover, we have been stunned by our consumer-direct sales increasing by 100% in May and June.
Our staff has been incredible in making the adjustment to working from home. Both our warehouse operations manager and customer service manager have been rock stars in setting up safe protocols and doing everything possible to provide customers with excellent service at a very difficult time. Customers have been incredibly supportive and this has also helped immensely.
Juliana Di Simone, Director at tokyobike Americas
tokyobike is an independent Japanese brand of bicycles that balances nimbleness with sleek, no-frills design.
What’s the strangest thing that’s happened in the last few months?
The surge in bicycle ridership has certainly been the most unexpected and positive surprise. During stay-at-home orders and the reduced car traffic, we’ve watched cyclists take back our streets and lean into cycling not only for its exercise and mental health benefits, but also as a form of transportation—not so much in long-distance commuting, but neighborhood errands and shorter trips. Our cities became much smaller during COVID-19 and felt much more European, where the bicycle is an extension of everyday living.
How has demand changed?
Bicycle demand has increased all over the world and we’ve experienced this in every territory tokyobike has either a physical or online presence. Here in the US, we surpassed our total 2019 sales in only 12 weeks.
Have there been challenges in keeping supply up with demand?
Absolutely. As a global brand with a footprint in many countries, we had to quickly come together and make decisions on where to shift our inventory—and the US was that location. While that shift of inventory was helpful for us, it was also temporary as sales have yet to slow down.
With the increase in demand and requests from customers for pre-orders, we decided to make future inventory available and we are now taking orders for August, September, and November deliveries. We had also been working on two new models and when demand skyrocketed, we decided to expedite production for those models to make tokyobike more accessible to a broader range of customers. We soft-launched a new balance bike, which we call Paddle, and will be releasing a new single speed in two weeks. We’re incredibly excited about the latter as it is tokyobike’s most affordable offering to date for an adult bicycle—it’ll be available on tokyobike.us and in select bike shops.
What have been the most popular bike models?
Our most popular models continue to be the Classic Sport and the Bisou. They can accommodate accessories such as racks, baskets, and fenders, and as geared models, they are incredibly useful for cities that have range in elevation.
New York, as a majority flat city, continues to be the perfect place for a Single Speed—another reason for a push in production for this new tokyobike model as the city continues to be our biggest market.
Feature Image: Getty Images.