The disruption to supply chains that has bedevilled the bike industry since the pandemic is deepening, a manufacturer of parts used by riders in the Tour de France and Olympics has warned.
Federico Musi, chief executive of Look Cycle, a French company whose high-end products span clipless pedals, carbon frames as well as whole sports bikes, said the delivery times for parts it buys from overseas continue to lengthen.
“They have very long lead times. There’s a few component makers that are today a bottleneck. They’re not going down,” said Musi. “It’s 12 to 18 months easily.”
Global bike production has been convulsed by the pandemic, as consumers across the world turned to bicycles as a means of avoiding the risk of being infected by Covid-19 on public transport.
The supply problems have been exacerbated because the production of brakes, derailleurs, chains and cassettes is concentrated in a handful of companies including Japan’s Shimano, SRAM in the US and Italy’s Campagnolo.
The groups have been wary of expanding production too significantly for fear that the boom in demand will not outlast the coronavirus crisis.
Musi expects it will take as long as 18 months before disruptions to supply chains are ironed out for the industry, which has also been hobbled by a reduced availability of certain raw materials such as aluminium and steel.
The prediction from Look Cycle contrasts with that of Halfords, one of the UK’s largest bicycle retailers. The group said last week that supply chain challenges were beginning to ease.
Manuel Marsilio, general manager of the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry, said that difficulties for makers of high-end models including e-bikes were worsening because they have fewer options for sourcing parts.
Look Cycle was founded in the 1950s as a maker of pioneering quick-release binding systems used on skis. Decades later it transferred the technology to bikes to allow riders to lock a special shoe into the pedal. The group expects to generate about €60m of revenues this year, up from €55m in 2020.
Musi said that 80 per cent of the components for its bikes are made in France, alleviating some of the disruption. European parts suppliers have proved more resilient because they are not so narrowly focused on the bike industry, he added.
“In Asia, there’s a cycling hub. When we buy products there, we buy from factories that only deal with the cycling industry. That’s why there’s a bottleneck,” he said. “Being a fully autonomous bike manufacturer for the time being is impossible.”