No supply: Bike shortage forces Tahoe shops to focus on rentals

Mountain bikers take a break during a ride on the Tahoe Mountain Trail.

Mountain bikers take a break during a ride on the Tahoe Mountain Trail. Photo: Phil Schwartz

The country is in a mountain bike shortage, and Lake Tahoe’s bike shops are no exception.

After placing orders for large quantities of bikes during pre-sale last October, many stores are already sold out or have a limited quantity left.

In South Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Bike Company manager Ed Weber ordered bikes as early as preseason 2020, but is still waiting on his bikes to arrive.

“As far as new bike sales, I’m very limited right now,” he said. “We did a preseason order at some point there, but it really hasn’t mattered. We get an occasional bike in. We never know when it’ll show up or which model it will be. Two or three of them show up and then a couple weeks later, may another one will show up. And that’s how it’s been going since COVID.”

Also located in South Lake Tahoe, South Shore Bikes has the same issue, and is unable to order anymore bikes from their suppliers such as Pivot Cycles, Norco Bikes and Giant Bicycles. With all of their undelivered bikes already sold, the store has moved to relying on rentals and is forced to wait for bikes to maybe trickle in.

“This year is a whole different way we have done business than in previous years,” South Shore Bikes Manager Kyle Hernandez said.

So the question is, what is taking so long to get the bikes?

“The supply chain has not been up to the task of trying to catch back up after all of the extra sales from last year,” Olympic Bike Shop co-owner John Percy said. “I think we all thought we might see some improvement, but the reality is that there is less inventory than ever. At this moment we have one mountain bike on the floor for sale.”

The Tahoe City-based bike shop has sold almost all of the bikes they’ve already ordered, and are waiting for them to show up from manufacturers. Their biggest problem is being unable to determine when the bikes will arrive.

“The way that it’s worked so far, and I think there could be some exceptions, almost all shops have a fair number of bikes on order with the various brands that they deal with,” Percy said. “These companies are saying ‘We’re going to send you bikes’, and in some cases they try to give you timelines, and in some cases, they really don’t try that hard to give you a timeline because they don’t know. But they’re struggling to get all the parts to put these bikes together and get them over here, and we’re going to see a slow trickle.

“A lot of the bikes will be sold before they get here, because we know that they’re coming, or we have a waitlist for bikes we hope are coming, so that we can call people when they do in fact arrive,” he added.

In the meantime, Olympic Bike Shop is moving its business model toward rentals. It’s an option that’s always been available, but is now the happy medium until more bikes can be made.

“This year we not going to be selling as many [bikes], but we’re going to be able to rent a lot more, and with the number of people vaccinated and the CDC guidelines on outdoor activities, I think a lot of our restrictions we had in place last year regarding our regular bike rentals don’t need to be there this year.”

On the Nevada side if the lake, in Incline Village, Vista Trail Bikes offers only rentals for anyone looking to bike along the Tahoe East Shore Trail, from Incline Village to Sand Harbor.

The rental shop offers both electric bikes, as well as traditional pedal bikes, and a small selection of kids bikes and trailers for families.

“Things are good,” said owner Ted Schlater. “We’re busier than last year, for sure. We expect a lot of people, having been cooped up for a while, really wanting to get outside and do stuff. We’re doing a lot of advanced bookings. People are booking all the way to September in fact. But there’s a lot of May and June bookings as well.”

This story first published 
with the Tahoe Daily Tribune on May 15 and is republished here with permission.


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