Bikes are going, going, gone, bought out by consumers who have ravaged supplies at Target, Walmart, Academy Sports and Outdoors and elsewhere as they seek exercise options while maintaining social distancing.

Apparently this has become a worldwide phenomenon.

“Bicycles are the new toilet paper,” screams a headline in The Guardian, a British newspaper writing about Australian bike retailers.

“It’s crazy, pretty ridiculous,” Bicycle World salesperson Jameson Keese said about traffic in the shop at Mary Avenue and University Parks Drive.

He said the shop sold two $7,000 bikes and a $4,000 bike on Wednesday.

Local big-box retailers do not carry two-wheelers priced anywhere close to those numbers. Truth is they are carrying little at all when it comes to bikes. Availability has fallen so rapidly and steadily it suffered road rash.

And it is not as if companies are avoiding filling the void.

“We get bikes consistently, with every truck making a delivery, but they sell out very quickly,” Target store director Christina Ferber said.

“Any sporting goods or fitness items have been popular,” Ferber said.

Visits this week to Academy Sports & Outdoors, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart stores at Franklin Avenue and New Road, I-35 in Hewitt and in Bellmead revealed almost barren bicycle display areas.

The bikes were there once upon a time. Price tags and model descriptions remained for the viewing, but the bikes had vanished, probably to be found on a trail in the woods, a city street or a sidewalk in the suburbs.

Speaking informally, not being interviewed, a management staffer at Academy Sports & Outdoors said bicycles have been among the most popular purchases since the store reopened for “retail-to-go” April 24. The first item the store brought to a waiting customer after reopening, however, was a trampoline.

Academy spokesperson Elise Hasbrook could not be reached.

Tara House, a spokesperson in Walmart’s general merchandise division, said in an email response that bicycles now are very popular. She had no official comment on the phenomenon or inventory outlook.

Kirk McCommas, who owns B&K Pawn at 3400 N. 19th St., said he closed the shop to have it remodeled during the COVID-19-related pause.

But that move did not eliminate his bicycle sales.

“I’ve had family and friends make purchases,” McCommas said. “They’ll call and say, ‘You have any bikes up there?’ I’ve sold a few the past week.”

Jason Burt, who owns Crunch Fitness at Valley Mills and Waco drives, is busily preparing to reopen his gym on Monday, when the state says he can.

He said he understands the recent passion for bikes.

“Personally, in my neighborhood, I’m seeing more people out riding their bikes. I’ve been riding my customized Crunch bike,” Burt said. “It’s sad it takes an epidemic to get people out doing things. I’m sure there has been a run on personal fitness equipment. My son asked to buy a squat rack.”

Grocery giant H-E-B sells fitness supplies, though not bicycles.

Right now, H-E-B has neoprene dumbbells, resistance bands, foam rollers and a few other cardio and core implements, Waco-area community coordinator Rhonda Featherston said in an email response to questions.

“We typically bring these types of items in during January — New Year’s resolution time,” Featherston said. “H-E-B is always listening to our customers’ wants and needs, and to meet customer expectations and desires, we started bringing these items back nearly two weeks ago.

“Sales have been brisk and continue to rise.”

Bicycle World mechanic Gerid Bridges said demand has forced him to address a month’s worth of repairs in about a week.

“Oh, yeah, we are super, super busy,” Bridges said by phone late Thursday. “We didn’t even leave for lunch today.”

He said walk-ins arrive with old bicycles long stored in sheds and garages. They request overhauls having struck out in their pursuit of new wheels, and typically need to have rusty chains and dry-rotted tires replaced.

“We have shipments arriving weekly, and we’re literally selling the deliveries as quickly as we can get them scanned,” Bridges said.

“People gotta do something,” he said. “They’re tired of sitting at home.”

Photo gallery: Waco reopens for business — Scenes around town

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