By Alan Gionet

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (CBS4) – It was about a year ago when Wheat Ridge Cyclery noticed the pandemic was starting to motivate people to bike. General manager Steven Heal figures a fear of indoors with COVID drove them to rediscover the outdoors.

Soon they were coming in in droves to have bikes that sat in the garage fixed and to look at new or better bikes.

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“All of our suppliers are just rushing to keep pace as best they can,” he said. “We’re the very end of the supply chain.”

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Bikes, cars, appliances and furniture are all running in short supply. It started with companies scaling back, believing the economy would continue to slow during the pandemic. A funny thing happened on the way to the home office. People were spending a lot less on travel and looked around and decided to change their lives and surroundings.

“At any given time this room would be full, and as you can see, it is not,” said Tony Wilson, owner of Rare Finds Warehouse as CBS4 looked at a warehouse for his two stores. “There’s really been a huge flourish of home furnishing buying because people are now working from home and doing things from home.”

Wilson sells off the showroom floors with largely unique products, unlike furniture stores that have models in stores and furniture in warehouses. He travels the world to buy things, often India.

He can buy it, but getting it is another matter.

“Well it’s costing everyone. People don’t even know it,” he said.

There are problems all the way through getting it delivered because of shortages of staffing and things like shipping containers, which are sitting unloaded.

“From their factories to their trains or trucks to their port to the oceans to our ports, to our rail yards to our truck yards,” he explained. “I had two containers come to Denver three days ago. We still can’t get our hands on them because they don’t have access to chassis here locally at the rail yard. So they’re like parked and we can’t even get them here yet.”

The cost of shipping has risen, too. Wilson says they’ve about doubled what he was paying in 2019 and the service is far worse.

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“I honestly feel that at some level there’s some profiteering going on. There’s no real reason for it to cost this much, but they can, so they are.”

For bikes, there are troubles in production on top of transportation.

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“It’s really like a recipe where a bike is made up of a bunch on ingredients,” Heal said. “And so if there’s a delay in any one of those ingredients. It could be a battery for an electric bike. It could be a bolt. It could be a fork. It could be a tire… then there’s delay until when the whole thing is in place.”

It’s hit harder on lower end bikes which see more volume.

“Typically there’d be three more rows of bikes right where these are sitting here. It’s been easy to social distance amid the bike shortage,” he explained while showing shelving moved into place and stocked with bike accessories. “And this whole area would be bikes under $1,000.”

Now many of those bikes are reserved ahead of time online as they come in, or are assembled and sell that day. They’d like more bikes, but can’t get them.

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“We’re getting 300-400 bikes in a month, but we’re selling 300-400 bikes a month so we’re, our inventory levels are just kind of staying right where they are.”

More expensive bikes are available in the showroom, but still selling well.

“We would be increasing sales if we could get the bikes and we’ve got thousands of bikes on order under a thousand dollars a piece that are just trickling in.”

Getting things back on track will involve hiring workers who were cut or left during the pandemic and getting components produced for assembly. That takes time. It is an economic motor running in a lower gear than demand, but at least moving in the right direction.

Heal is thrilled  people want bikes and they’re doing well, setting sales records.

“I think we’re going to keep this same pace all summer long. No idea what to expect winter, we’re pretty weather dependent.”

He thinks it will take until the middle of 2022 to get caught up. Some models are even back-ordered further out.

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“Some bikes I have on order I know I won’t see until 2023.”

Alan Gionet