The coronavirus has thrown up no shortage of unique and unforeseen challenges, but few industries have experienced the peaks and valleys of the pandemic in quite the same way as the bicycle industry.
After experiencing a boom like no other in the weeks and months that followed the introduction of the NSW Government's public health order restrictions, bike retailers on the Mid North Coast and beyond have had an increasingly hard time getting their hands on stock as distributors across the country continue to sell out of products.
Taree retailer Dean Grace of Deano's Bicycle Repairs only has one new bike left in his store.
Paul Nixon, who owns the Bicycle Centre Forster and TRS Cycle Centre in Port Macquarie, is facing similar shortages across much of his range.
In short, the problem stems from the fact that no one in the industry saw the pandemic and the subsequent interest in bikes it led to coming, so not enough stock was ordered into the country to keep up with public demand.
This fact was further complicated by pandemic-related shutdowns at bicycle assembly plants in places like China and Taiwan, leading to ongoing delays in the delivery of replacement stock.
I've probably turned 400 people away for new bikes.Dean Grace
For Mr Grace, the shortages have turned what should've been his best winter ever into an increasingly lean period.
"What should've been a boom for us wasn't really, once things dried up," he said.
"I've probably turned 400 people away for new bikes."
With many people digging their old bikes out of the garage, the shortages have also extended beyond bikes.
"Parts are our biggest problem now because we're a repair shop," Mr Grace said.
"Because we can't get parts, we can't repair bikes."
Director of distribution company BikeBox, Guy McCausland, says it's a problem that extends right across the world, with rumours circulating that America has essentially run out of 26-inch tyre tubes.
His business sold out of what would've ordinarily been four to six months worth of stock in the space of a month.
But he says there have also been some upsides.
"Because people have been desperate we've had a great opportunity to get rid of old stock," Mr McCausland said.
Mr Nixon admitted the problems facing the bike industry were relatively minor compared to the problems facing a lot of other industries.
"We're going well compared to other businesses," he said.
And the fact more people are hopping on bikes is something no one in the industry can really complain about.
"It's been good for people to get back on their bikes and experience it again," Mr Grace said.
"Once people get on their bikes they realise they enjoy it and I hope for their health they continue to do it," Mr Nixon added.
Mr McCausland believes the renewed interest in bikes has led to a shift in attitudes across the country - and he hopes it will last.
"I really don't think the bike is given the kudos it deserves in this country," he said.
He pointed to cleaner air quality, greater family connection, and a host of health benefits as just some of the positives to come out of the recent boom in bike riding.
"It's a lifestyle over there (in Europe) and it's a sport over here," Mr McCausland said.
"But it seems to be becoming more of a lifestyle over here."
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