MILTON KEYNES, United Kingdom (BRAIN) —The U.S. industry, which depends on China for about 95% of its bikes as well as many of its parts and accessories, is bracing for disruption due to the Coronavirus. The virus has sickened thousands in China and led to travel restrictions into and out of the country, as well as within it.
Many bike companies in China and Taiwan have been closed because of the multi-week Chinese New Year holiday. But some were set to re-open late this week or next week. That’s when the industry will learn how much the travel restrictions disrupt business, said Mark Pippin, a long time U.S. industry member who now works for the UK distributor Madison.
“It’s still a little early to tell,” Pippin said. Pippin, the director of Madison’s bike division, has been traveling in China on work for decades, although he hasn’t been there since October.
The virus is most prevalent in Wuhan, where there isn’t much manufacturing. However, many factory workers return to their homes in rural areas like Wuhan for the holiday; now quarantines may prevent them from returning to the factories in more populated regions.
The outbreak is likely already preventing some U.S. and European companies from sending employees to visit factories and other facilities in China.
“Yesterday the State Department put out a memo advising Americans not to travel to anywhere in China and we will follow that guideline,” said Arnold Kamler, CEO of Kent International. “We also worry about the delayed return of workers from various provinces to the factories,” Kamler said.
The outbreak might prevent some Chinese companies from sending representatives to the Taipei Cycle show, which is the first week of March. China has been increasingly restricting travel to Taiwan in recent years for political reasons, as well.
Taiwan so far has had just 8 recorded cases of Coronavirus infections, only three more than the U.S. However, some U.S. and European industry members might opt to stay home from the Taipei show this year out of concern. They also won’t be able to combine trips to the Taipei show with factory visits on the mainland, which is a common itinerary.
“We won’t send anyone (to Taiwan) who isn’t comfortable going,” said Luke Musselman, the president of Goodyear Bicycle Tires. Goodyear’s bike tire factories are in Taiwan and it exhibits at the Taipei show.
Mehdi Farsi, co-founder of State Bicycle, said he’s been told to expect some delays in bike deliveries from China.
“Even though we don’t do business in Wuhan it seems like China is putting some restrictions or delays on lots of travel and transport,” Farsi said. “I didn’t have any plans on going over there in the next month or so, but if I did, I probably would be hesitant to go,” he added.