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Bicycling boom sweeps nation, Region
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Bicycling boom sweeps nation, Region

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The sign Ridge Cyclery owner Jeff Herak placed in front of his shop tells the story.

"We do not have bikes right now," Herak said.

Herak has a waiting list of 300 people with bike purchase requests he can't fulfill right now.

His Highland bicycle shop isn't alone.

Most area shops said they have a waiting list and even once they do get bikes, a few at a time, they are sold almost immediately.

Repairs to old bikes are also in demand, area bike store officials said.

"Bikes are the new toilet paper," quipped Ridge Cyclery employee Joyce Agner.

Brad Fennema, manager of A-1 Cycle Center in Merrillville, said the demand for bicycles began sometime in early spring, a couple weeks after the shelter in place order by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

"Everyone was in shock and didn't know what to do," Fennema said.

His shop had 130 bikes in stock and sold them all in six weeks.

"Bike stores were deemed essential for those commuting and were allowed to be open," Fennema said.

Shaun Zimmerman, a manager at Bucks Bicycle Shop in Valparaiso, said his shop had a big inventory of bikes and he noticed the demand in late February to early March.

"We were selling 300-400 bikes a month," Zimmerman said, adding, "April and May were our big months with our inventory flying off the shelves."

Zimmerman said it's difficult to compare sales from last year to this year, in that if they had more bikes they could sell them.

"As far as sales from this year to this time we could have been double in sales. It's definitely a record year," Zimmerman said.

Lots of people come into the store and don't believe employees when they say there are no bikes, Zimmerman said.

"A lot of people don't realize that our bikes come from China," Zimmerman said.

Herak said most of the mid-range bicycles sold in the United States are shipped over from Giant Manufacturing of China.

The bike shortage was created due to the pandemic with the factories in China closing down for several months.

"That's why everyone is behind the eight ball," Herak said of U.S. bike shops.

Vicki Morgan, a sales manager at Trek, said she's worked at the Schererville store for six years and has never seen anything like it.

"In that time this has been the busiest spring I've ever seen. Everyone wanted to get outside," Morgan said.

Morgan said her store had a three month back supply of bikes that sold out in two weeks.

"Even now, when shipments come in, the bikes get snatched right up," Morgan said.

Morgan and other area bike shop owners said they are encouraging customers who can't get a new bike right away to refresh their old bike.

"Since stock is low in the family type bikes, Trek is encouraging customers to refresh their bikes, including repairing flat tires or putting on new tires," Morgan said.

The most popular new bike sold for families is the FX3, which costs about $550.

Trek, and some area bike shops, said they do have some of the higher end bikes in stock, costing $1,000 and up, and some of the electric-assist bikes.

Herak, who has owned his Highland shop since 1988, said he sees a bright side to the bicycle craze and shortage since it's caused people to discover something that's been on the decline.

"This is the greatest thing. Biking wasn't increasing," Herak said.

Jodi Scherwitz-Boling of Winfield said she and her family have enjoyed a new found love of riding.

She said her family was looking for a fun activity earlier this spring given the shelter-in-place order, and turned to bicycles.

Her son, Brandon, 12, had outgrown his, so she checked eight different websites and found his bike at WalMart.

His bike was delivered in about 10 days.

"I got a refurbished bike from a guy in Valparaiso," Scherwitz-Boling said.

Her husband, Jeff, and son, Dylan, 9, rode bikes they already owned.

"We've been taking family bike rides and it's nice to take a quick ride either early morning or late evening, not interact with the public and stay healthy," Scherwitz-Boling said.

Now that that summer is in full spring, her boys can use their bikes to ride over to their friends' homes.

"We've lived in our neighborhood 16 years and it (bike riding) is kind of nice. It brings back that neighborhood feeling. It's fun," Scherwitz-Boling said.

David Anderson said his wife, Pam, also of Winfield, are avid bicycle riders, and she needed a new bicycle, so they went to two shops early this spring.

His wife found two Liv bikes she liked at Bucks in Valparaiso and one at Trailblazers Bike Barn in Hobart.

Anderson, who upgraded his bike, said his wife wanted to purchase one of the bikes at Bucks but when they went back, within one day, both were gone.

"The shop was allowing one customer at a time so we waited and they matched Buck's price," Anderson said.

Both he and his wife enjoy riding the area's various bike trails.

"I've never seen that many people on the trails," Anderson said.

Anderson's observation is correct, given statistics provided by Mitch Barloga, the active transportation planner for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Outdoor Recreation saw a tremendous increase in trail use around the state in early 2020, particularly in March and April.

According to trail counter data collected from 57 trail counters throughout Indiana, use of trails in March 2020 more than doubled, with a 108% increase from March 2019. Also noteworthy, the monthly total for April 2020 finished at a record high of 255,035 trail users counted, a 45% increase from April 2019.

"Trail usage exploded nationwide," Barloga said.

Gallery: Region Riot Criterium bike races in Hammond

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