You, or at least somebody you know, has been either completely or partially vaccinated by this point. It's awesome. Although there are surely issues with the vaccine rollout, about 2000 people a day here in Vermont are able to get their shots. That number is only going to increase with the availability of more vaccines, as well as the implementation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and it's single shot application. Coinciding with spring, it's uplifting, refreshing, and it begins to give a feeling of renewal and a shiny new start. Super positive vibes go along with that, and we are all in need of a huge dose of that. For the outdoor people...we're still going to have some issues moving forward, and some of them pretty damn long lasting.
I placed our preseason bike order last September. I placed our preseason kayak and canoe order last September as well. Of the 120 or so bikes I ordered, I'll be receiving 11. 11 bikes. We sold out of every bike we had in our shop last year. When we are able to switch over to bikes, we'll have 11 bikes in the store. I have been promised more bikes as the summer goes on, but there are zero assurances behind this promise. Of the 40 boats we ordered, I was able to and pick up 8 last week, with 20 of the remaining to be available (hopefully), in late June, again with little heat behind the promise.
As late as mid March, there were more than 40 container ships sitting off the coast of California waiting to be unloaded. There are only two ports in California which are able to do this unloading, and they are working at a microscopic pace compared to normal operation due to the thousands of issues surrounding COVID; labor shutdowns, lack of testing, long waits for tests, the methodic way vaccines have to be rolled out, etc. This hold up results in a shortage of containers and ships that can unload and then head back to Asia to reload with product to bring back to the US. This supply problem is a two way street for sure, but I'm speaking from our perspective.
Compounding this issue, is the back up in the Suez Canal that you've certainly heard about by now. While many of those ships may never circulate to US shores, many of them will and will also steam to Asia and beyond, bringing product to and fro. Typically an issue that most people think nothing of, I promise if you ride a bike, paddle, or hike, you're going to be thinking about it this spring and summer. I would guess that you're going to get really damn tired of it as well.
I worked throughout the winter to try and stockpile whatever bike parts I could as they were available. Tubes, cables, tires, pedals, grips, shifters, brakes, etc. I took any and everything I could find, and what I was able to find was minimal at best. We work with QBP, the US's largest bicycle parts wholesaler. We also have dealer access to Shimano, Sram and subsidiaries, Fox, Park, Blackburn, Giro, and dozens of other bike related vendors. I scoured other wholesale suppliers like Down East, JB, etc. What I was able to compile is a fraction of our normal inventory.
I poked and prodded and searched and I still keep looking for parts and bikes all the time. Today I got an email from one of my bike reps and he sent along a graphic that lays out pretty plainly the mess the bike industry in particular is in.
The graphic gives you the number of days of lead time on receiving the particular product. The lead time is the number of days that it would take for the dealer to obtain the final, shippable product. Add another 15-30 days for warehouse processing, order picking, and shipping to dealers.
For example, if you needed a fork for your mountain bike that doesn't happen to be in stock, you're waiting 300-330 days. That's correct. Almost a YEAR. No amount of fussing, foot stomping, complaining or promises to "never shop here again" will have any affect on it. I have a mountain bike sitting in the shop right now that is waiting on a warranty repair. The customer brought the issue to our attention in the fall, October I believe, but I cannot rectify the issue until mid April. And even in rectifying the issue, I'm not able to repair the part, I have to replace the part with a non OEM part. This type of situation is going to be rampant FOR THE NEXT YEAR.
Patrick Ross is President and Owner of Tygart Mountain Sports. He holds BA degrees in Secondary Education Social Studies, History, and Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Masters of History from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He's been an avid skier since early childhood and has more than 18 yrs experience in the ski industry.