In the era of social distancing, finding ways to stay busy while also maintaining healthy boundaries from others is the name of the game.
For most of a chilly spring season, staying in and binge-watching Netflix was the most convenient social distancing option. But now that the weather has finally changed for the better, people are flocking to outdoor activities like never before, with biking high on the list.
In fact, bike shops around the country have practically been cleaned out because of the surge in demand for two-wheelers.
“Basically every bike shop in America is empty,” Otsego Bicycles owner Sam Baskin said. “Bikes are a national shortage at the moment. I’m pretty much sold out.”
According a May 18 New York Times story titled Thinking of Buying a Bike? Get Ready for a Very Long Wait, bike sales and equipment and repair services in March almost doubled in comparison with the same time last year, according to the market research company NPD Group.
The same is true for the local bike scene as Baskin said his sales numbers in April were twice as high as the previous year. Currently, only a handful of bikes remain for purchase in the Otsego Bicycles showroom.
“I have a list of people to call when certain bikes become available,” Baskin said.
“It’s just been a mix really,” he said when asked what demographic has shown particular interest in biking. “A lot of people are trying to get out and ride more because they’ve been working from home.”
Because the shortage is nationwide, Baskin isn’t sure when his inventory will be replenished.
“I really don’t know,” Baskin said. “In the next few months? I’m not too optimistic.”
Even if buying from local businesses is not a priority, the Walmart in Oneonta was also short on bicycle inventory in recent weeks.
The New York Times story mentioned that since new tariffs on foreign goods were imposed in 2018, close to 25% fewer bikes were imported into the country in 2019. Compound that with the fact that the pandemic forced factories in Asia to shut down for several months, and it’s hard to predict when these bike stores will be stocked up again.
While selling new cycles is basically not an option at the moment, repairs have kept Baskin busy despite his shelves being mostly empty. Dozens of bikes sit in the store’s back room waiting to be fixed, a workload that has put Baskin behind by two weeks.
“I’ve seen a lot more people bring out bikes that they’ve had to get refurbished and repaired,” Baskin said. “I’m hoping that sticks once this is all over.”
Baskin, 23, has owned Otsego Bicycles since January after he took over for former owner Ed Lorenz. A former competitive racer, Baskin was part of the Otsego Composite Bike Racing team for four years when he was in high school. The team hosted its first race last spring at Oneonta High School, and was scheduled to do so again this spring before it was canceled because of the pandemic. The season has been moved to the fall, with Otsego Composite slated to host an event at OHS on Sept. 27, according to coach Mike Maben.
Oneonta is home to five mountain biking trail systems and more than 40 miles of trails, serving as a biker’s paradise for riders ranging from seasoned veterans to beginners. Mayor Gary Herzig even feels the plethora of routes “certainly can be a factor” in revitalizing the city, according to his column in The Daily Star on Aug. 11.
As an active member of the area biking community, Baskin is encouraged by what the newfound interest will do to an already passionate group of local riders.
“When I’m mountain biking or riding home, I definitely see a lot more people riding,” Baskin said. “Other people starting to hike are starting see we have some pretty nice trails. I hope people get out and enjoy them.”