Fear mongering at its finest, eh? I’m not panicking, you’re panicking! Actually, none of that here. All the social distancing, school shutdowns, and event cancelations are not because we’re going to die, but rather to slow the rate of infection to not overload the healthcare system. Okay, cool. No dying. Moving on. How does all of this affect the industry that we love and care about? Let’s run through the different ways…
Pretty easy to see all the event cancellations going down. The first one to get shut down was the FISE/UCI World Cup in Puyang, China. The event was set to take place in early May, but was cancelled “way back” on February 21st. At the time, Coronavirus was limited (mostly) to China so this made total sense in a “well, obvioussssly” type of way. I didn’t really think twice about it. It was quiet for a couple of weeks, but the next event to get cancelled hit close to home. Vans was all set to have a jam at the Vans park in Huntington Beach, California, on March 6th to celebrate the release of Larry Edgar’s new signature shoe. On the morning of the event, the city of Los Angeles had an uptick of Coronavirus cases and, in response, Vans pulled the plug (or possibly told to pull the plug by the city…unsure) on the event literally a few hours beforehand. Shortly after, Full Factory (Odyssey/Sunday) announced the cancellation of their March 21st event. The event-exodus had officially begun. FISE Japan was next to be rescheduled. Toyota Triple Challenge in Denver, cancelled. X Games China, done. Ultimate X in South Africa, nope. All Day Jam in San Diego. Hyper’s Jam. Local Arizona trail Jam. And yesterday, it was announced that Swampfest is being pushed to May 23rd—which honestly, may be optimistic. I’m surely missing tons of events that have all been cancelled or postponed, but it’s a hard fact that no events will be happening in the next month or two. And that feels weird, right?
The immediate impact of all this “social distancing” is more of a bummer than anything else. Jams and events are a good time with friends. For us personally, we were going to cover more than half of those events, so we’re both having less fun and putting out less videos for you guys to watch. On the more serious side, event organizers like FISE and Ultimate X have been working for months for something to NOT happen. Dollars are lost on both sides. The riders who would have won the event aren’t getting paid. The bike shop that was going to hold the shop stop doesn’t sell product. The machine breaks down a bit. But, in the grand scheme of things, events are just one aspect…
“Well, Full Factory is taking some precautionary measures which we all agree are for the greater good. We just called off our annual March Madness Warehouse Sale & Jam this month to avoid a big gathering. Employee air travel is being limited at the moment, which means we will have to miss out on some events. On the product side, there will be some slight delays, but everything appears to be getting back on track now.
Outside of keeping up with the frantic pace of the news these days, daily life around our offices is pretty normal and it’s business as usual at the moment, but with more hand sanitizer bottles kicking around. We are still forging ahead, and shipping keeps filling up trucks with shop orders. We are going to continue to keep a realistic outlook and we are sincerely hoping that things will improve for everyone soon.” —Nuno Oliveira, Odyssey/Sunday/Gsport
All postponed/cancelled. Kink has put off an upcoming trip to Atlanta (I believe?) in April. Fiend was supposed to be in Vegas next week. Our dude Andrew Knight was in Capetown, South Africa, filming a trip with Jason Watts, Greg Illingworth, Corey Walsh, Dan Lacey, and Boyd Hilder and that had to be cut short. The Madera guys were on a trip in Northern California up until last week and had a potential scare. From Madera TM, Mike Hinkens, “As you know, the entire team was just together two week ago in Long Beach for the Madera ABD DVD premiere. The following day we hopped in a van and drove to Sacramento. We had all been following the news about the risks of Corona Virus and were being surprisingly responsible. Some of the team bought hand sanitizer, we stopped sharing food, and we kept reminding each other to wash hands. But, as the news continued, we saw that Sacramento was suddenly the first place in the US that had a ‘no-known-exposure’ transmission. We quickly learned that meant that the virus could be circulating in the community. Furthermore, we had been riding campuses and areas with tons of people. One morning, we decided it was time to check out the UC Davis campus, but someone mentioned: Yo, that is where the Corona Virus case is being treated. We decided not to ride that spot. As of now—two weeks later—no one on the team seems sick, but it has been kind of a mind-fuck to realize we were in situations and making decisions that we have really only seen in the movies. We have all been really communicative in the Madera group chat about how everyone is feeling in order to make sure we are all good and also about supporting each other in the idea that we need to social distance. It has been weird as a brand manager to cancel trips to events and jams and basically just put all of our plans for the team and marketing on hold, but it’s the only safe and responsible thing to do at the moment. We are hoping to not carpool to spots, but to still ride bikes outside and with plenty of space in order to stay healthy and sane.”
Again, the repercussion of all this is fairly minimal, but as we’re all stuck indoors over the next month, we’ll actually have less to watch than normal.
“Our first concern at ODI is for our employees, riders and families. We want to make sure that we are part of the solution on this and facilitating the spread of the virus. We are working with our employees to accommodate the near certain issues that this is going to cause for them, including having to care for a sick relative or having to miss days due to closures or other shutdown. We are planning for flexibility with our riders and looking for new ways to help them accomplish their goals with many of the events being cancelled. Looking forward it is nearly impossible to predict what will happen. We are bracing for a temporary shutdown to the entire market due to measures meant to limit the spread of the Virus and not making any major plans for the next few months. We are hopeful that this pandemic will encourage more people to incorporate healthy habits into their life – one of which is riding their bikes more.” —Colby Young, ODI Grips
Product Production (Overseas)
As one industry person (who wished to remain off the record) stated, “It’s a major disturbance.” Let’s run through how this pandemic affects the parts you run and the brands you like. As you’re surely aware, a lot of BMX parts and bikes are made China and COVID-19 pushed China to lockdown its citizens and shutdown factories in late January to early March. Factories are now open/beginning to reopen, but generally running at less-than-full capacity. What you may not be aware of is that there’s a bit of an eco-system when it comes to making BMX bikes. One factory assembles bikes, but gets frames, tires, and cranks from another. Another makes frames, but gets head tubes and drop outs from yet another. When one factory under-delivers, the entire system is delayed. Even factories in Taiwan, which has remained relatively unaffected by COVID-19, has delays because they too rely on factories in China to deliver, ummm, brown leather for seats or bearings for pedals or spokes for wheels—the actual items don’t really matter. Further, even if the factory could produce products, a brand’s product manager is currently unable to travel to China to quality-control the process. While this step isn’t totally necessary, approving a line of products or bikes without being there to oversee the quality opens the brand up to risk.
The supply chain has been broken or delayed, meaning that brands here in the States are unable to get their product, deliver on their pre-orders, and put cash into their pockets. That cash goes to their employees, riders, marketing, team trips, jams, etc. Further, your local shop/favorite mailorder can’t sell the product they don’t have…and let’s not even get into the whole social distancing/mandatory store closure and how that affects things…
So yeah, that’s disturbance. From what I’m told, the backup for brands who are currently expecting new products is around two to three months at the moment. I assume in typical Chinese fashion, they’ll make short work of getting back up to full speed in the coming months. There won’t be a shortage of products—camo tires will still be available, unfortunately—but the delay is real and across the board, brands will be tightening up their budgets with the low-hanging stuff (see: fun) like rider projects, team trips, shop stops, jams, etc. They’ll be doing what they need to do in some uncertain times ahead.
“It’s pretty much business as usual for Kink BMX, we’re not too worried about it but we are doing our part to help prevent any potential spreading of COVID19. We have some people working from home since a lot of what we do can be done remotely, and some of the warehouse crew alternating on and off. But like I said, mostly business as usual, still running full speed ahead, keeping our employees and customers as safe as possible, and shipping out orders on time as usual!” —Matt Antes, Kink BMX
Product Production (USA)
You read Colby Young’s quote above, right? If a brand is purely USA-made, then they’re immune to everything happening in China. Well, yes and no. Brands like ODI, Profile, and S&M/Fit have their own manufacturing facilities, but they’re subject to similar issues as those overseas facilities. Profile/Madera does all their own machining in shop, but they get their anodizing done down the road and they source their materials from another local company. S&M/Fit get their tubing from one company, their stems CNC-machined at another, and powder-coating done at a third. If those businesses shutdown for a period of time, it can affect their operation. Nonetheless, according to Profile’s main guy, Matt Coplon, they have “zero intention of shutting down operations” and said that they’ll be able to produce almost every product, but certain colors may be issues in the coming months (IE, they can do polishing in-house, but certain colors may run out of stock, etc). USA companies have a slew of doing-it-yourself-advantages that will help them avoid serious delays; particularly they’re able to quality control their products, have shorter lead times all around, and obviously, they can make changes as they see fit. After talking with a few people, it’s kind of hard for people to see how this “pandemic” will affect USA-made brands, but people are optimistic they’ll be able to continue producing products on a semi-regular level…
What's The Verdict?
Well, I think the simplest idea is that you should always support the brands you care about. Small brands (see: a lot of BMX brands) will need dollars to keep their ship sailing over the next several months, so make a conscious effort to support those brands/shops. Also, while we’re on the subject, donate some food or money to your local food bank and hit up your neighbor to see if they need anything. Take care of yourself and your family, but don’t forget to be a compassionate human.
But yeah, BMX. The industry will be fine. Brands won’t go out of business. Tires will still hold air. Rails will still be grindable. As for everything else in life over the next couple months, let me reconfigure some basic social distancing guidelines for you:
Avoid crowded spaces, go ride BMX.
Stay six feet or more from people, air a quarter.
Do not use public transit, pedal fast.
Avoid recirculated air, go outside and grind a ledge.
Staying home from work or school, more time to go find new spots.
Maintain a positive attitude, ummm, ride bmx?