Mobilizing the Bike Industry

Mobilizing the Bike Industry

RKP isn’t what I’d call a news site. It wasn’t founded on the idea of being the first word on anything; indeed, I’d rather be the last word on something, as in the definitive word. Every now and then, however, I do think it’s worth mentioning something that is especially present tense.

A recurring news story regards the many shortages that abound. Like many of you, despite all the news stories talking about supply chain issues and production shortfalls due to a sick workforce, I still struggle to understand why some items (natural peanut butter?) are in short supply. I haven’t seen a container of Clorox wipes since wint—er, the rainy season.

It would be easy to think that many of the problems plaguing our current situation, like the scarcity of personal protective equipment, fall outside of the bike industry’s expertise. As it turns out, a number of bike industry manufacturers have shifted metaphoric gears to help out.

In a first-among-equals nod, Yeti Cycles deserves a round of applause for working with Smith Optics and Black Diamond to produce face shields for healthcare workers. The message from Yeti is so simple as to be poetic:

“You’ve always had our backs. It’s time we had yours.”

Yeti is producing the shield portion of the face shield, while Black Diamond and Smith are supplying band material used in goggles.

While Yeti is producing their masks in-house, Specialized is working with their Asian suppliers to produce masks on a large scale and has brought in more than 40,000 three-ply and KN-95 masks.

Specialized has yet another initiative that is worth noting. Recognizing that essential workers need reliable transportation, the big, red S has created a program for essential workers to apply to receive a free bike; alternatively, if you know an essential worker, you can refer someone to the program.

Closer to home (my home, anyway), Santa Cruz is making face shields in-house. They may be producing some of the more sophisticated face shields out there as they are using a CNC machine ordinarily dedicated to cutting carbon fiber and a 3D printer to produce some of the small parts. They report that they are producing 1000 shields per day.

Our advertiser, Primal, is producing face masks for all of us who live in states where we’ve been ordered to do so, or if not ordered to do so, are just operating with good sense. And if you’ve got an idea for something cool to put on a face mask, you can place a custom order with them (minimum of 25 pieces). They are also producing a variety of Maskas (also known as buffs), and are offering 50 percent off to members of the military, first responders and medical professionals.

Similarly, Champion System and Eliel are also producing masks. I especially like that one of Eliel’s masks is emblazoned with the words, “Inside, I’m smiling at you.” Not being able to see faces and ascertain whether someone is smiling or frowning has been unsettling.

Park Tool, which is based in Minnesota, contacted the Minnesota Department of Health emergency services and offered to donate 35,000 pairs of nitrile gloves. They reported that someone was on scene within an hour to pick them up. And yes, the gloves were blue.

And because so many health care workers are logging overtime, Clif Bar has committed to donating 6.6 million Clif, Luna and Clif Kid bars to health care workers as well as others in need. They’ve already delivered 3 million to first responders, food banks and other nonprofits.

We’re living through a time about which books will be written, college courses taught, a time that will spur any number of future college students to study everything from microbiology and virology to emergency planning and economics. So until the next generation figures out how to prevent this from happening again, I am reminded that we all have a role to play right now. Good luck out there.

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  1. Hank Wimbrow

    It is great seeing these stories about folks in the bicycle industry (and across the country) that are stepping up, frequently out side their “boxes”, to help in this time of need by so many. It is often said that in time of crisis you get to see a person’s (or company’s) true character and values. Chapeau! to all those doing the “the right thing”.
    A number of weeks ago I received an open letter from a US based bicycle saddle manufacturer, it discussed the COVID crisis and their desire to help using their manufacturing capability and materials knowledge; they were specifically looking for contacts of those who needed the help. I expect this letter went to their entire email list, their desire to find a constructive way to help seemed very genuine. I have their saddles on my two bikes and liked the company’s ethos (even more after the letter). I live in Connecticut, fairly close to NYC where there was a desperate shortage of PPE; tent hospitals were being setup in Central Park by the Army Core of Engineers, a convention center was being converted to a 2,500 bed hospital, temporary morgues were being built in hospital parking lots and the President was sending a military hospital ship. NY Governor Cuomo had put out a call for any manufactures who might be able to help with special contact phone numbers, probably a long shot, but I forwarded this information in case there might be a connection.
    Several weeks later I received an email/advertisement from the manufacturer, on offer was a very expensive carbon fiber mask. I reread the ad hoping I had missed the part where they said something like – for every mask sold we will donate 3 to first responders. But no, it was just a super premium $100 mask to be delivered some time in the future. (seemed a lot like the ads piling up in my spam folder, only 2 to 4 times more expensive). At the time I was very disappointed in how the company had chosen to “help”, I unsubscribed and distanced myself from them.
    In retrospect, it would be nice to think that this was good intentions gone off course. As they say, if your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Maybe if your primary tool is high tech carbon, every problem looks like a NASA project. But I cannot help but think that someone should have considered the optics of how this looks and who really needs the help. From my perspective they have done more harm (to themselves) that good.

    1. Author

      Your experience I think reflects the situation we find ourselves in. The world is a big, diverse place. We are going to find companies that get it and just do good in a way that benefits people without profiting. There will be companies that try to cash in. There will be companies that think they are doing good but don’t see the bigger picture and fail at what was meant to be helpful.

      It’s my hope that we all can see these efforts and, except for those who are gouging or taking some other kind of advantage, allow them the grace to try to be a part of the solution.

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