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Bicycle sales soar as shops in Medway, Tunbridge Wells and New Romney struggle to meet demand


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Bicycle sales in Kent have surged since the coronavirus pandemic hit, resulting in a mass shortage of models and month-long waits for repairs.

People across the county and even from London have discovered a new-found love for the two-wheeled mode of transport during lockdown, using it as a method of exercise and to avoid public transport.

Wildside Cycles have sold around 2000 bikes during lockdown
Wildside Cycles have sold around 2000 bikes during lockdown

Websites like Trek have completely sold out of their most popular models, as manufacturers across Europe scrabble to meet the huge increase in demand.

Daniela Kelly, owner of Wildside Cycles on Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells, hired new staff to work through the night so the business could keep up with the demand for bike servicing.

She said: "We have a bit of a waiting time because we are prioritising key workers because they are at the heart of the community.

"It's important for us to contribute and help. We have nurses who take the bike out of the shed and it's rusty, the brakes are dangerous, and I think it's our duty to fix those bikes first."

Since March the business has sold on average 20 bikes a day, compared to around 2-3 before the pandemic.

Weekends are the busiest time for the cycle shop, with prospective bike owners queueing to get in the store.

Daniela said: "Saturdays are shocking - we have all our stuff, myself and my husband and we still can't keep up.

"It's non-stop from nine o'clock till six, I've never seen anything like it."

People from London are even travelling down to Tunbridge Wells to buy bikes from the store, due to a lack of stock available in the capital's stores.

She said: "Londoners are descending on Kent hunting for bikes or on a Saturday, you see these queues outside of people we've never seen before.

Daniela spends a lot of her time hunting down bikes from suppliers
Daniela spends a lot of her time hunting down bikes from suppliers

"They say 'we are from London Bridge, we are from Stratford and there are no bikes.'"

The shortage has affected all bike retailers in the county, as they wait for manufacturers to work through the backlog of mass orders.

Keiran Burton owns The Bike Warehouse, with stores in Faversham, Gillingham and Sevenoaks.

He said: "The sheer lack of bikes in the country is a problem - we've got around 300 bikes on orders with suppliers.

"As soon as we opened again, everything from £200 to £500 was in demand, then when they weren't available to replace it was whatever we had in stock that was selling, because people want a bike there and then."

The Bike Warehouse in Gillingham
The Bike Warehouse in Gillingham

His Faversham store has also seen a big increase in demand for electric bicycles, particularly for the older generation.

Alongside selling the bikes, Keiran's staff are busy working through a five-week-long list of repairs and services.

He said: "We're currently taking bookings for the end of July, because we just can't keep on top of the sheer demand of repairs."

With the influx of new customers as a result of the pandemic, the bike shop owner has his fingers crossed that the retail surge will outlast the pandemic.

He said: "We are hoping, probably like everyone else, there will now be a new core of bike riders."

Steve runs Romney Cycles Kent
Steve runs Romney Cycles Kent

Despite the boom in business for retailers, not everyone is feeling optimistic about a continued obsession once the summer comes to a close.

Steve James is the owner of Romney Cycles Kent in New Romney, and thinks interest will wane sooner rather than later.

He said: "I think there will be a good percentage that won't carry on, it's just a thing for them to do now.

"The bike industry hasn't been great for the last four years because of the internet, but local bike shops have had a little boom, because people are going to the shops to see things.

"People have just wanted to get out and the weather's been good, so that's helped."

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