Windsor

Pandemic chain reaction leads to inflated interest in refurbished bikes

Cycling has become so popular that many stores, such as specialty bike shops or big chain stores, are having difficulty stocking new bikes. But if you're having trouble finding a bicycle of your very own, there may be a solution: bikes that already have a few kilometres on them.

Lower price point 'an accessible way for people to get into cycling'

The lower price point of refurbished bikes has made cycling far more accessible for people looking to get into it, according to John Wigle of the Windsor Bike Kitchen. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Over the course of the pandemic, people have taken up activities that are fun and adhere to pandemic protocols — like cycling.

In fact, cycling has become so popular that many stores, such as specialty bike shops or big chain stores, are having difficulty stocking new bikes.

But if you're having trouble finding a bicycle of your very own, there may be a solution: bikes that already have a few kilometres on them.

At the Windsor Bike Kitchen, a pilot project from Bike Windsor-Essex, cyclists can donate their old bikes. They're repaired and then resold to someone else for a fraction of the cost of a new bike — between $90 and $150 in most cases.

This refurbished bike sells for just $100 — a fraction of what a new build might be listed. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"We think it's important that the used bikes aren't just something that people buy because they can't find a new bike. The reason they're priced the way they are is because it's an accessible way for people to get into cycling," said John Wigle, program director and shop manager at the Windsor Bike Kitchen.

"We have a lot of new Canadians that come in and lower-income people who can't afford to buy a $1,000 bike."

The benefit of reselling donated bikes, Wigle added, is that parts can be more readily available if they're needed for repairs.

"If there's something that we can't get in because it's backordered, we might be able to find a used part in stock," Wigle said. 

We have a lot of new Canadians that come in and lower-income people who can't afford to buy a $1,000 bike.​​​​​​- John Wigle

Currently, the kitchen has about 20 used bicycles for children and just four for adults — which Wigle calls a testament to the demand in refurbished bikes.

"A $100 bike isn't for the same person as a $1,000 bike. So we're offering bikes that aren't at those high price points," said Wigle.

Ed Janisse, a bike repairman in Tecumseh, says it's not just the average consumer approaching him to refurbished used bikes. A pandemic-related backlog in parts has resulted in bike store operators coming to him as well. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

In Tecumseh, 79-year-old Ed Janisse refurbishes bikes out of his home for St. Vincent De Paul — something he's been doing for more than two decades.

Prior to the pandemic, Janisse used to get his supply of bicycles from donation bins. But with COVID-19 forcing many of those bins to stay locked, almost all of his current supply has come from people dropping bikes off at his house.

"When the kids are done with it, they just drop it off here," said Janisse. "If I can fix it, I fix it. If I can't, I strip it down."

Even the bike [shop] guys come here because they can't get parts no more. They come in here for parts because they can't order them. It's a mess out there right now.​​​​​- Ed Janisse on the demand for refurbished bikes

The bikes are sold for anywhere between $20 and $100, depending on size. Since the pandemic started, Janisse said, he's "definitely" seen a surge in people coming to him to pick up a used bicycle because they just can't find one anywhere else.

In fact, according to market research firm NPD Group, U.S. sales of bicycles increased 75 per cent in 2020 compared to a year earlier. For the first two months of 2021, the increase year over year was 130 per cent. (NPD does not track Canadian numbers.)

The interior of the Windsor Bike Kitchen is seen here. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Additionally, a shortage of shipping containers and understaffing along parts of the supply chain due to physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has caused problems for bike store operators to acquire parts.

"They've looked as far as Toronto," said Janisse. "Even the bike [shop] guys come here because they can't get parts no more. They come in here for parts because they can't order them. It's a mess out there right now."

Janisse said all of the money he receives through selling refurbished bikes goes to St. Vincent De Paul.

With files from Windsor Morning and John Mazerolle

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