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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Demand might be high at the swap’: With bikes difficult to come by, Spokane swap offers rare opportunity

Workers at the Spokane Bike Swap & Expo work Friday to prepare for the event Saturday at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.  (kathy plonka)

Rick McDonald’s mother was “furious,” he said, when she found he’d spent $213 buying a brand new Raleigh Grand Sport at Wheel Sport Bikes on North Division Street in 1972.

But to say McDonald got his money’s worth in the nearly half-century since would be a major understatement.

Among the countless rides and adventures the avid cyclist enjoyed on the sky-blue 10-speed was a cross-country trek, from the East Coast, where he was working, back to his hometown in the early 1980s.

And on Saturday, during the ninth Spokane Bike Swap, McDonald’s profit from that 49-year-old purchase could become not just experiential, but financial.

He was among a steady stream of sellers checking in their for-sale cycles at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center on Friday afternoon, and he set the price at $349.

That’s a good profit from McDonald’s investment, but it’s also a steal in a climate when bikes are in extremely short supply and high demand.

Which is one way of saying, you might want to wake up early Saturday if you want a chance at McDonald’s Raleigh and the hundreds of other bikes for sale at this year’s swap.

LeAnn Yamamoto, chair of the nonprofit Spokane Bike Swap, said even in a normal year, demand is strong enough that people wait up to an hour to enter.

But this, of course, is no normal year.

The 2020 swap was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and supply shortages have tightened the market for both new and used bikes.

One sign of the ongoing imbalance between buyers and sellers, she said, is that some of the shops that usually sell new bikes during the swap have declined to participate due to a lack of inventory.

Some of those selling their old bikes were aware of the market pressures – and of how they might help their cause.

Peggy Schwyn – whose name is pronounced, but not spelled, like the bike brand, she noted – was consigning her husband’s 1997 Specialized Stumpjumper mountain bike because, with so few available, it “seems like the time to sell it,” she said.

Ron Simmons was reluctantly parting ways with a tandem road bike that he and his wife had shared for a decade.

“It seemed like demand might be high at the swap,” he said. “So it seemed like if there was ever a time to get rid of it on the secondary market, this was it.”

Sellers still had a few hours to bring in their bikes, so Yamamoto wasn’t yet able to gauge whether the supply of used bikes will be bigger than usual when the doors open at 10 a.m. Saturday.

“It’s hard to know what to anticipate this year,” she said.

But despite the unusual circumstances, some things will remain the same.

Kids will get a free helmet and free fittings. A range of local transit agencies will offer information about bike-related issues. Bikes clubs and race organizers will sign up interested participants. Three bikes will be given away.

Doors will remain open until 4 p.m. And the 10% consignment fee that’s part of all sales will go toward putting on future swaps, with any extra funds donated to other nonprofits, Yamamoto said.

As for McDonald’s Raleigh, he said he’ll be glad if it can go to someone who has had trouble finding a bike and who “needs it.”

But if it’s doesn’t sell, he said, “I’ll be fine with that.”