The outdoor industry breathed a sigh of relief when apparel, footwear, and travel goods were exempted from a proposed 25 percent tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports earlier this year. But the bike industry wasn’t so lucky: E-bikes and cycling computers are subject to the tariffs, which means possible price hikes in the future.
President Donald Trump’s tariffs are part of an escalating trade war between the United States and China. Bike computers are on the final version of the initial list, which came down to $34 billion worth of imports after the public comment period and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) approval. The tariffs are set to go into effect on July 6. The second round—a new list of 284 proposed products encompassing $16 billion worth of Chinese imports (for a grand total of $50 billion) was announced in mid-June—includes e-bikes. It’ll now have to go through the same process of public comment and USTR approval.
The e-biking trend has grown steadily in the United States over the past several years. According to an eCycleElectric Consultants study quoted in CNN, the U.S. e-bike market grew 25 percent in 2017, to 263,000 bikes. Just last spring, Mammoth Bike Park made a splash when it announced it would allow e-mountain bikes, the first big bike park run on national forest land to do so.
Of course, the tariffs only affect companies that manufacture e-bikes and bike computers in China. For example, Garmin, one of the biggest manufacturers of bike computers, makes its devices in Taiwan and thus won’t face the new tax. According to Bicycle Retailer, Stages Cycling and Wahoo Fitness bike computers will be affected, as will e-bikes from Raleigh Electric, Giant, Pedego, and Trek. E-bikes from those brands could become hundreds of dollars pricier if the tariffs go into effect.
“This is certainly a cause for concern,” says Katy Hartnett, director of governmental affairs at bike advocacy organization People for Bikes. “It is very serious for the bike industry.” With the sport still in its infancy in the United States, a price increase could make an already expensive product even more so and hurt the growth of U.S. e-biking.
According to Rich Harper, U.S. international trade manager at the Outdoor Industry Association, the e-bike and bike computer inclusion is only the beginning of much larger threats gear companies could face if the trade conflict continues to escalate.
In response to China’s retaliatory tariffs on $50 billion worth of U.S. imports, Trump has already requested that his staff draft another $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, to be subject to 10 percent tariffs. “We have no confirmation of the contents or timing of future lists,” Harper says, “but it’s hard to see how you get up to $200 billion without including some footwear and apparel on the list.” He adds that even before the current trade conflict, many outdoor companies had already started trying to diversify their manufacturing and move from China to factories in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
In the meantime, Hartnett and the rest of the bike industry are gearing up to fight the potential tariffs on e-bikes. “There’s a big difference between the proposed and the actual,” she says. We’ll know one way or the other once the public comment period ends on July 31.