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With gyms, golf courses, playgrounds and pools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing being a high priority, people are getting antsy to pursue outdoor activities as the good weather approaches.
One activity that lends itself to social distancing is riding bicycles, so a bike shop in Portland and three Bangor-area shops are busy these days trying to keep up with the expected surge.
“We feel really blessed that bike shops were included on the essential-businesses list,” said Dave Palese, the general manager of Gorham Bike & Ski in Portland. “That has enabled us to do two things: Keep people cycling in our community and keep all of our employees working. We haven’t had to lay anybody off.
“Bicycling really works well inside of the constraints people are under right now, and that allows people to get out there,” Palese said.
Shop technicians are readying or repairing bikes that have been sitting in the garage or the basement for several months and also are selling new ones.
Scott Seymour, the owner of Pat’s Bike Shop in Brewer, said business is a little off compared to previous years, presumably because of the governor’s stay-at-home order, but he’s not complaining.
“We just need that sunny, 60-degree day. That gets people moving,” Seymour said. “All things considered, things have been very good.”
Corey Odermann, part owner of Slipping Gears Cycling in Bangor, said the repair business has been steady and continues to pick up.
“Just being able to be open is definitely a good thing,” Oderman said. “We were unsure of that at first. We closed down for a week in March. But we applied for essential-business status and we got it,” he added.
Jim Rose, who owns Rose Bicycle in Orono, said not allowing customers into the shop to comply with social distancing guidelines has complicated the job a little bit.
“It has been curbside dropoff and pickup, and we also do home deliveries,” Rose said. “That adds additional time to get things done. It makes us extra busy.”
One trend Rose has noticed is people bringing in older bikes to be repaired and tuned up.
“With people laid off, on furloughed or working from home, a lot of families are getting out to ride together so they’re bringing in these bikes from the basement, garage or barn that haven’t been used in four or five years,” Rose said.
Families also are looking to purchase low-priced bicycles, which Rose said is problematic. Several of those bikes are made in China and trade sanctions placed on China by the United States, coupled with the coronavirus outbreak that shut down industries in China, is resulting in a shortage of more affordable bikes.
“We may run out of stuff to sell,” Rose said.
The employees at the bike shops have been putting in extra hours getting bikes ready and to help reduce the wait time for customers.
“Everybody wants to get out and ride and we want to make that happen for them,” Odermann said.
Rose noted that while most people consider bicycling a leisure activity, it is more than that to one segment of the cycling community.
“It is their mode of transportation. Some don’t have a driver’s license or a car so their bike isn’t just for recreation,” Rose said.
Rose Bicycle and Gorham Bike and Ski are operating strictly curbside and for home deliveries right now, while Slipping Gears Cycling and Pat’s Bike Shop are limiting the number of customers in their stores.
The turnaround time to prepare a bike without significant repairs usually takes one or two days at Rose Bicycle and Slipping Gears Cycling, while Pat’s Bike Shop and Gorham Bike & Ski estimate five business days for that kind of work.