Bikes are NOT the new toilet paper.
Updated: May 21, 2020
I’ve seen a number of people post “Bikes are the new toilet paper” recently, but I have to say… I think it’s a crappy comparison.
I know people are just having a giggle comparing the shortage of bikes to the shortage of toilet paper in the early days of the pandemic. I get it. It’s fun to talk potty talk. Why do you think “Everybody Poops” is a best seller? But the analogy is ten cent two-ply at best.
The whole TP ordeal was silly, irrational panic driven by unfounded fear, media jocularity and that little nagging “what if…” voice in the back of our minds. There was no indictor that toilet paper production was going to be affected and the supply chain never skipped a beat. But the frenzy showed us something ugly about humanity… and now it’s like a societal skidmark that just won’t wash out.
The bike shortage, on the other hand, indicates one positive effect of quarantine: more people want to ride bikes. Or, to trace it back further, more people are being driven by positive compulsions instead of silly, irrational fear. They want to stay active, stay sane or do something, anything, to get their families out of the house. Maybe they need to get to work. Not all the new bikes and repairs are for recreation, but the vast majority are... and that’s ok! That’s great. This bike boom is good news for a lot of people.
Ironically, any panic we might be experiencing around the bike boom could be seen as rational. The recent demand was greater than the supply and production was paused long enough to affect the supply chain. Bikes will not be restocked like toilet paper, which is hard to hear if you sell bikes for a living. There might be some sort of bicycle “famine” in the near future, but we’re already seeing creative ways both riders and retailers are overcoming the shortage. A scarcity of bikes in stores indicates an abundance of bikes under butts. That’s a good thing.
So, that’s all I wanted to say. The analogy doesn't work. The toilet paper thing is something I can’t wait to forget, but the bike boom is a story I can’t wait to follow.