SPOKANE, Wash. — When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and the worldwide economy slowed, bike sales soared, along with the biking scene in the Inland Northwest.
Inside the Bike Hub on South Perry Street, the supply chain struggles are starting to improve; inventory is returning and interest in two-wheeled transportation remains right on track.
Chris Andreasen, co-owner of Bike Hub, has long been part of Spokane's bike scene. According to him, mountain biking in the Inland Northwest was steadily growing prior to March 2020. However, the pandemic super-charged demand for anything outdoors.
"We’re seeing mountain bikes, especially with the pandemic, outdoor recreation just kind of exploded," Andreasen said. "So many new riders kind of entering the sport where mountain biking’s become kind of this mainstream sport now.”
Market research company NPD Group reported that a year after the pandemic hit, bike sales increased by nearly 54% compared to March 2020 and a whopping 140% compared to March 2019.
NPD also found that interest in one particular kind of bike is skyrocketing: mountain bikes.
A few months into the pandemic, in June 2020, full-suspension mountain bike sales increased 92% compared to the same month the year prior.
As pandemic restrictions are lifted and life starts to return to normal, local bike riders believe interest in the sport hasn't gone away.
"Thankfully, I think it’s sticking, with the mountain biking specifically," Evergreen East Mountain Bike Alliance's East Chapter President Chris Conly said. "So, we see a lot more kids [and] a lot more families.”
Chapter Vice President Melinda DuPree agrees.
"Biking is a special kind of fun," she said. "It's hard not to smile when you’re riding your bike. It’s a little faster than you can go hiking."
Evergreen is the nation's largest mountain bike non-profit in the country. Last year alone, volunteers in the local chapter put in 4,000 hours of work building and maintaining the dozens of bike trails across eastern Washington.
"I definitely think it will continue to grow and I think we are becoming more of a destination spot for people," Conly said. "A lot of people from the west side are coming over here to bike now, especially a lot of people realizing we have a long fall and so we get some really nice riding addition. Some of the best riding here at Beacon is in October.”
Aside from the surge in cycling driven by the pandemic, Conly said years of work with landowners and conservation groups to open more trails to ride is opening the sport to more people. In the last two years, Evergreen East has built about 12 miles of new trails, with another 10 miles planned in the next two years.
Back at the Bike Hub, demand for high-end mountain bikes remains high, according to Andreasen. While it’s still tough to get certain bikes from manufacturers, customers are no longer having to wait six months to a year for a new bike.
“We have a lot more recreational options, more inventory now than we’ve had in quite a long time," he said. "It's definitely getting better.”
More trails, an increasing supply of bikes and a long-riding season: It's why Conly and Andreasen believe Spokane’s mountain scene is poised for growth. In fact, Andreasen’s betting on it; he’s working to open a fourth bike shop in Liberty Lake.
"Bellingham is kind of the mecca for the Northwest right now, but for bike community, trail access and just for good vibes, I think we’re probably number two on that now," he said. "We’ve just got a great selection. The riding and a great group of people out here.”