Bike sales and trail use climb uphill during pandemic
David Langworthy first thought that his DL Bike Shop being labeled an "essential business" wouldn't have a big effect.
To his surprise, the store has instead seen a boom in business.
"Two-thirds of our yearly bike sales were done in April and May," said David Langworthy, owner of the DL Bike Shop. "Almost half of our yearly bike sales were done in April alone."
The surge in sales during Minnesota's stay-at-home order from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more people biking in Detroit Lakes on both the sidewalks in town and in the trails at Detroit Mountain. But, it's also created a shortage of bikes.
'The demand was so high, so early'
Langworthy thinks the essential business label and closure of fitness centers, combined with early warm weather, are why he's had an increase in business.
"In this community, after eight years of doing this, 50 degrees and sunshine. That's when people are going 'Oh, we got to go to the bike shop,'" Langworthy said. "I feel very fortunate that we have been able to continue to work ... and provide a service to people."
The DL Bike Shop's sales peak is usually in June. This year it was earlier, landing in April, and was a much larger peak, Langworthy said. On one Saturday, he recalled, they sold 16 bikes in just five hours, which was their best day yet.
"The demand was so high, so early," Langworthy said. "We would literally get them out of the box, ready to ride, and in 10 minutes they were gone. Out the door."
The spike in business was seen in across the country. The NPD Group , an American market research company, found that for the cycling market in March, adult leisure bike sales increased by 121% and children's/BMX bike sales increased by 56% compared to the previous year.
As more bikes were bought and used, more bikes also needed to be repaired. Langworthy said that at one point "we were over 40 bikes deep in repairs." Two of his employees would come in after-hours to repair them, which he said has never happened before.
But due to that early and high demand, Langworthy is now experiencing a shortage of parts and bikes.
"We have 14 new bikes right now and we typically carry about 80 in stock," he said.
The shortage is something that Langworthy said is affecting bike shops across the country. Matthew Davis, a member of the Lakes Area Mountain Biking Alliance & Trails (LAMBAT), has been trying to find a new bike for his wife and daughter.
"It's really hard to find a new bike right now," Davis said in a phone interview on Wednesday, June 10.
The shelves at DL Bike Shop that are usually stuffed full of bikes are now empty or have only a few bicycles, spaced apart. The most popular bike, a Trek brand used for fitness, was down to only three options at the time of the interview. Langworthy said those won't be restocked until the end of August.
"The population I feel the worst for are the kids," Langworthy said, looking at the lone children's bike in the racks. "They're the saddest face when they come into the store."
Davis and Langworthy both noted that the shortage has a positive side: more people out using the bikes.
"Just looking in town you see a lot more people out riding bikes," Davis said. "It's a great family activity ... It's a great way to get outside, clear your head, get some healthy exercise."
Bike demand affects Detroit Mountain
While Davis has noticed more people biking around town, he's also seen an increase in bikers at Detroit Mountain. He thought he had been at the mountain every weekend since it opened and that there was only one time that he was the only person there.
"This past Saturday, I'd say the parking lot ... was almost full. That's pretty amazing ..." Davis said.
Detroit Mountain opened some of its trails three weeks early this year, starting May 1 instead of Memorial Day weekend. The early opening was because of the coronavirus pandemic closing gyms and boosting bike sales, plus warm weather coming early.
"We gave ourselves a May 1 deadline for our cross country trails and we got them open around that time," said Brian Faris in a phone interview on Monday, June 1. He is the guest experience and events manager at Detroit Mountain. "With that, we were able to have a lot more people come out earlier."
All other trails and the rental and downhill lift services opened on Memorial Day weekend as normal, Faris said. At the time of the interview, he said that they have "definitely seen an increase" in people using the mountain for the bike trails.
"Our trail usage in the month of May, it's probably been up over double what it was last year," he said.
"I think the pandemic has helped people realize that if a lot of our indoor things are not accessible, the outdoors is still accessible and it's fun," Davis said about more people using the trails at the mountain.
While there hasn't been a change in how many people bring their own bikes versus rent them through the mountain, Faris did say that they have had "a lot of new pass holders this summer." Growing the pass holders and interest in mountain biking has been a goal there since the mountain opened in 2014, he said.
To do that, the mountain has added new trails over the years -- four new options this summer alone because of a 2019 legacy grant -- and hosts different events at the mountain. That includes a LAMBAT family mountain biking event, allowing anyone to try mountain biking for free on the mountain's trails.
"If you can ride a bike on a sidewalk you can ride a bike on our trails around here," Davis said.
'It's going to be a strange summer'
Faris is hopeful on what this summer will look like with the increased use early in the season. Detroit Mountain generally has the business peak in the mid-summer, he said, so having this many people out using the trails this time of year is a good sign.
Langworthy is expecting the opposite at DL Bike Shop: He's preparing for the summer to be very slow there. The early and high demand for bikes, combined with waiting on new bikes and parts to come in, is why he thinks the summer will look vastly different than the last few months.
"It's going to be a strange summer," Langworthy said.
He's not too worried about business slowing down though since they "got literally smoked" so early on. If business really slows, Langworthy said that "we might even close on Saturdays," which he had no complaints about the extra day off after this spring.
For more information on the Lakes Area Mountain Biking Alliance & Trails, and the family mountain biking event, go to https://www.facebook.com/lambatmtb .
DL Bike Shop
- Where: 829 Washington Ave.
- Summer hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Only four customers are allowed inside at once, due to pandemic.
- Info: 218-844-5320, dlbikeshop.com or Facebook @DlBikeShop . Group ride events are posted on Facebook.
- Where: 29409 170th St.
- Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. or by appointment in the summer. Lift hours are the same but only on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Info: 218-844-7669, detroitmountain.com or Facebook @DMRAinc .