Remember when we all thought life would be back to normal by July 4th or so? The good news is that there are more people riding bikes, and bike shops have been as busy as sin, so the general environment for bikes has been a plus. But there are some big effects running though the system.
Quality Bicycle Parts (better known as QBP) is the 800 pound gorilla of the bike wholesale industry. Pretty much any bike shop is going to have an account with them, and they're a key supplier to most bike shops. We don't really consider November to be a bike shop, but they are a key supplier to us. From them, we get tires, disc rotors, cassettes, tubes, a bunch of rims, the occasional hub, etc. The amount of out of stock items there is just silly. Most Shimano stuff you just plain can't get, and stock ETA shows up as February 2021. Tires are in short supply (more on this in a bit), and tubes have been completely out of stock most of the time since August. Even the 6 bolt rotor shims have been out of stock since I can remember, so we're going to make our own on those (but they're still a few weeks away).
Chris King has just let us know that they won't have 20h front R45 rim brake hubs until after New Years. This follows on their severe winnowing of product variants - they no longer offer Campagnolo compatible hubs at all, their R45D road/gravel disc brakes are available in any axle format you need as long as it's 12mm front and 12x142 rear, and if you want King hubs for your mountain bike I hope you have Boost spacing because that's what there is. But apart from not having what they no longer have, and the one blip with 20h hubs, they're delivering pretty quickly.
The Mad River Valley (and the Mad River) is pretty awesome
Industry Nine is copping to a 4 week lead time on hubs, and not always able to hit that. Sometimes they're able to do more quickly than that, but not always. COVID-related work restrictions slow down their operations quite a bit.
White Industries is slower than their normal holy cow that was quick pace, but they're holding up pretty well. They have a pretty focused operation, so this isn't too surprising.
We've been waiting for about a month for some Velocity rims, and we're anxiously fidgeting about when we might see them.
Even Sapim has had supply challenges lately. Before I do our weekly order with them, I get a status check on what's out of stock and adjust so that we can make do, resizing spokes as needed with out spoke machine as efficiently as possible.
I did a little sailboat racing last month
Obviously a lot of this stuff goes upstream into supplier's supply chains. You can't just double production and think that the aluminum or steel stock, or rubber, or whatever other raw inputs are going to be there without delay. Just in time supply chains get particularly kinked with external disruptions like the entirety of 2020 has been. Add to this the global nature of al of these things and it gets convoluted quickly.
Tires are an even trickier tricky one. Currently, if you want 23mm tires, you have your choice of Vittoria Corsas or Schwalbe Pro Ones. Continental 5000s are slated to be available by end of this month. Now, those are pretty good choices to have, but Mike and I wonder just how long tire makers are going to continue to make really good tires in 23mm sizing. We've made a bet with the Rail 25 and Rail 55 that a lot of people with bikes that don't have disc brakes and won't fit wider tires have no desire to change bikes and want to keep using stuff that works with what they have, and that bet has been a good one. But it's easy to feel the pressure there - the bike market rarely acts like a "no drop ride" and seems to have no problem leaving people behind. We'll have to see.
In the meantime, we're generally set up well for rim stock, with some exceptions. One of the things I'd give us an A+ on is resourcefulness and finding ways to cope with challenges, and there have been several examples of us being able to get things out when circumstances made that seem impossible. It's always interesting and lively, but perhaps that just becomes part of a competitive advantage and core competency for us.
The fall riding has been great, even though I tried to destroy my shoulder, so hopefully you're all out there enjoying it.