Keeping Supplies Coming During the PandemicJan Heine
If you’ve been trying to buy a bike or components lately, you’ll have noticed that many things are out of stock. Shortages have affected not just the bike industry, and it’s been all over the news…
We’ve been less affected by this situation than most. We have long-term relationships with our suppliers. When Covid first hit, and it seemed like we were heading into a big recession, many companies cancelled their orders. We talked to our suppliers on how to share the burden – we’d reduce orders in the future, but keep our existing orders, so our suppliers didn’t need to idle their workshops. That turned out to be a real positive when demand surged as more people started riding bikes during the lockdowns. When others were scrambling to reinstate orders that they had cancelled, our orders were still in line. We’ve sat down with our suppliers (via Skype and Zoom) and looked at what we need and what can wait, and while we cannot get everything we want, we’re grateful that we have such good relationships.
In some cases, even goodwill from our suppliers isn’t enough: There’s a real shortage of raw materials. That’s why we’ve been out of stock on certain chainrings sizes. Our 12-speed-compatible chainrings can only be machined from the very best aluminum – it’s not enough to get the right grade, but how it’s formed into aluminum sheets is equally important. If the raw material has inbuilt stresses, the flat aluminum sheet warps when much of the structure is removed as we cut out the chainrings. (This is called ‘potato chipping.’) That’s why most cranks have four or five arms: The three arms of our Rene Herse cranks are plenty strong and significantly lighter, but the manufacturing tolerances need to be much tighter. Our suppliers are working on getting the right material, and we hope to have this resolved soon.
The biggest issue that we can’t control is shipping. Last week, there were 15 container ships anchored in the Puget Sound, waiting to get into the Seattle harbor. It appears there’s a railcar shortage, so containers are stacking up on the docks, and there’s no space to unload more ships. That affects our shipments as much as all others. That’s the main reason why a lot of tires are currently out of stock.
The good news is that this is temporary. Our shipments arrive a week or two later than planned, but they aren’t delayed indefinitely. We just got a shipment with handlebars and racks. Frame tubing has just landed in port. And our tire shipment is on one of those boats anchored in the Sound. We expect to have all tire models in stock again within the next 5-10 days. (Some colors may not be available immediately, and some supplies will still be limited.)
One thing that we’ll see as a result of this are some price increases. The costs of raw materials have gone up, and our suppliers are starting to pass this along to us. Shipping costs have doubled, tripled and quadrupled, and that will have to be factored into prices, too. The increases won’t be huge, but they’ll come down the line eventually.
So as far as we are concerned, there’s no reason for alarm. While it’s prudent not to hold off until the last minute if you need tires or components for a big ride, we’re also confident that we’ll be able to supply the parts you need to enjoy your cycling adventures. And when things aren’t in stock for a while, we appreciate your patience. We’ve added a sign-up to each product that’s out, so you’ll get an email as soon as it’s back in stock. Thank you for your support!
Jan & Natsuko