Business / Economy

Bikes riding off the racks at local stores

Off the Chain and Big 5 Sporting Goods report supply can’t keep up with demand.
Jacob Funk's Bike. Photo by Jacob Funk.
Jacob Funk's Bike. Photo by Jacob Funk.

Brian Lucas has a problem that many businesses in the COVID-19 era would wish for: his inventory is selling faster than he can unpack it.

“Our sales for the last two months have been pretty consistent,“ said Lucas, owner of Hollister bike shop Off the Chain. “I have been selling them as quick as I can. Sometimes I sell them before I can even get them out of the box. I have never seen anything like this before.”

The flow of bikes into the store has been slowed by unprecedented demand. A recent NPD Group report mentions that U.S. bike sales in March doubled and store inventories went into serious decline in April.

“People are grabbing any of them,“ Lucas said. “Our most popular bikes before were in the $700-$1,000 range, but now people are willing to take anything we have. They don’t care about style or color. They just want a bike.”

Other local retail stores are also unable to keep up with the demand. A representative at Big 5 Sporting Goods in Hollister said that the lack of bikes has forced customers to get creative in finding other forms of exercise and entertainment. Fifteen-foot trampolines, exercise bikes and ping-pong tables are the new sporting goods of choice. BenitoLink also reached out to the Target location in Hollister about its bike sales, but a representative declined to share that information.

In a League of American Bicyclists, an organization founded in 1880, publicity release reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 and sheltering on mental health, the organization said “we can’t promise going for a bike ride will solve every mental health concern, but we do know that bicycling can help all of us maintain our physical and mental health. Even short rides have massive benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, and improving happiness, mental focus, and sleep.”

Over the last few months, on visits to the Off the Chain’s showroom, the store appeared full with bikes at ground level and on racks suspended from the ceiling. Lucas, however, was quick to point out looks are deceiving.

“The bikes you see are all here for repair,’ he said. “Usually the racks would be full of new bikes, but we only have three BMX bikes and a few children’s bikes. All the hybrids and Specialized bikes are gone. I have a ton on order, but they told me I was not going to get them all at once. They have to spread them out all over the country.”

Off the Chain remains the meeting place for weekly scheduled bike rides, but with the influx of bikes in need of repair, Lucas has no time to join them.

“I have been working 15 to 17 hours a day literally seven days a week,” he said. “People are bringing their old bikes in to be repaired and some of those really take time to tune-up.”

Though Lucas is too busy to join the group rides, longtime rider Jacob Funk has been coming out to join the group regularly.  

“Here in Hollister, we have a lot of beautiful rides, like Cienega which is a 33-mile loop,” he said. “One of our favorites is going from Off the Chain going to Santa Ana Valley and out to Tres Pinos, then back to Southside Road back into town. It’s a 22-mile loop with mild climbing and it’s perfect to take new riders on.”

Funk, 29, is familiar with Off the Chain and Lucas through a personal connection.

“I’m riding one of Brian’s old bikes, a Klein bike from the early 2000s,” Funk said. “It’s a hand-me-down. He put a few twists and turns on it and I have done a few upgrades on it myself.”

With all the bikes being sold and repaired, are there more riders on the roads? Funk said there are.

“In the last three to five weeks I have seen a 50% increase in riders, people on brand new bikes with new gear,” he said. “You can tell that there are a lot of beginners from their speed and how they ride. They might have been riding all their lives, but they are not really used to the long rides. I tell them to just go for long, slow miles and don’t worry about speed. Just build up your strength and endurance.”

Funk advised newer riders, if they are traveling in groups, to study up on basic riding etiquette as well.  

“For us as riders, when we go out in a group, the first person in the group will usually call out things like potholes or obstructions and everybody passes that down the line,” said Funk. “You point these things out and that saves everyone problems. That is what Brian taught me and we are conscientious about it.”

For Funk, riding is a form of liberation. “I go out and cycle and see where I end up. Basically, have fun. There is no planning. I have my water and a spare tube and that’s about it. I can go out and ride and not have to be anybody.”



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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.