Why Bicycles Cost More Now

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If you don't have a car — and maybe especially if you rely on public transit — getting around by bike might seem particularly appealing right now. Even if you do drive, there are all kinds of physical and mental health benefits to riding outdoors. Actually acquiring a bicycle, however, might have been a little easier before the pandemic.

Planet Money recently delved into the increased demand for bicycles in the U.S., which ties into a bigger economic picture spanning the entire globe. Since COVID began emerging late last year, supply chains have come into sharper focus. The Trump administration's ongoing trade war with China was already putting additional pressure on manufacturing supply chain. Although some bikes may advertise being American-made, that may not be strictly true: Parts are often manufactured all over the world, particularly in China, so your American-built bike may only have been assembled stateside.

"The cycling industry is very supply chain–dependent," marketing director Eric Bjorling told Planet Money. "You might have as many as 50 suppliers to make one bike."

Because of that, fewer bicycles are being manufactured, just when riders are looking to avoid close quarters in subway cars and buses. With that kind of mismatch between supply and demand, prices are likely to go up, which may be why you've been surprised at just how much a new bike costs these days. Some might point out the surplus of used cars on the market as an alternative, but especially if you've already got a bike, talking yourself into biking more often just a question of perspective.