Bicycling in the pandemic: Ridership, bike shops thrive as manufacturers struggle to meet demand

Zach Kring swapped his bicycle for car keys almost three decades ago and never looked back. It took a global pandemic to realize what he’s been missing all these years. He bought a bike.

Kring, 43, is a born-again Colorado cyclist taking part in a nationwide bicycle boom.

“It rekindled that spark I had as a kid,” he said.

A study conducted by the global market research firm N.P.D. Group found that U.S. sales in March of adult leisure bikes rose 121%. Children’s/BMX bicycle sales skyrocketed 56%.

Locally, the nonprofit advocacy group Bicycle Colorado has reported a significant uptick in ridership since the coronavirus pandemic hit. It’s left Denver big-box retailers and bike shops struggling to meet consumer demand as stir-crazy Coloradans search for new and safe avenues for exercise, travel or the outdoors.

Kring, unable to swim because his local gym is closed, bought a 29-inch Specialized Rock Hopper in late April from Bike Source in Denver via curbside pickup.

“I started goofing off riding around the neighborhood,” Kring said. “Now, I ride it to work as much as possible. On the weekends, I get on the High Line Canal Trail, sometimes go 10 miles out and 10 miles back.

“I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it.”

Those late to this bicycle renaissance, though, might be left waiting weeks — or even months — to buy and receive a new model from nearly every major bike manufacturer.