I’m posting this as an update as we all hopefully emerge from lockdowns of various stripes.
While my writing work of course saw a steep decline with the cancellation of multiple broadcast trade shows and events, and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, my part time gig at a local bike shop became an exhausting yet exhilarating experience.
Bike shops were deemed essential as ‘transportation,’ here in Maryland, so we never closed. On March 13 (a Friday!) we suddenly had our best Friday ever as every family in lockdown realised that riding a bike was one of the few things one could do if almost all businesses closed. All the people who had been going to a gym, or a yoga studio, or a spin class, or youth soccer, or whatever, had to find something new. A lot of people caught on quickly that cycling was one activity that was still allowed and quite safe from a virus perspective.
Many saw it as an opportunity to get young kids on a bike more than they otherwise would have, and it quickly became common to see families riding around. Many people decided to start the process of becoming proper road and trail and mountain cyclists, either solo or with friends.
Bikes and helmets and water bottle cages sold like never before, with every day for months being similar to the best busy Saturday we had ever had. Bikes became rare, and things like helmets and water bottle cages and racks for cars sold out, were replaced, then sold out again. Scores of bikes came in for repair. While we initially maintained normal 8 hour days, we quickly switched to reduced hours … a shift would end and I would head home, shower, then fall asleep. Work was hugely exhausting.
Today, in late July, about four+ months later, and we are out of new bikes and selling bikes that we know will be coming in off back order in weeks at best, or sometimes months. I have sold dozens of bikes that the customer will not see for two or three months, and I just sold one that won’t be in for six months!
For repairs, parts and tires are getting hard to source, as we continue to fix up scores of bikes that had been languishing in the shed for decades. We have had more than 200 bikes in for repair at one time, and that means that we need to store them outside during the day, and then pack the floor with the bikes waiting for repair at night. We have been backed up 3 weeks on big repairs but the July heat has slowed that down a bit thankfully.
It remains crazy busy although we now occasionally get a few minutes without a phone call or line of customers. At the shop I am selling bikes that will be delivered in September, October and November right now, taking half down. We ordered hundreds of bikes on back order in April and May, and now the bikes are trickling in each week, with 95% or more already sold. The bike factories in China had closed back in January-Feb-March so there is a supply issue that met huge demand basically.
It has been our best four months ever and surely will be our best year ever. And 2018 and 2019 had been our best years as we are a good, established local shop.
The industry had been weakening as kids were on the silly phone, and adults were riding exercycles together in candlelight while listening to Enya, followed by group stretching and emotional support animal therapy, rather than just riding a bike as they should have been. Many bike shops had gone away in recent years, and only the strong had survived.
The repair shop is open normal hours and I work a modified 5 hr sales shift 5x/week. Selling 2-4 bikes over the phone and sometimes in person, and selling tons of helmets. A 5 hour shift is exhausting and there are often 2-10 people in line at the door, waiting patiently for repair evaluations or accessory or bike buying.
It is physically and mentally exhausting, and we all wish for normal again. Even the owner, who of course chases every penny, would be happy to stop working so hard … it is exhausting for me as I also ride 1000km per month or more. But I get a small commission and that is nice, and the owner buys beer most days at the end of the day and we all decompress in back. We have a very experienced staff with and average age of 40+, so we are allowed to make rude jokes and insult each other, and the couple of guys we have under 30 are good and haven’t yet demanded a ‘safe space,’ or anything like that when we make fun of them for wearing white shoes in a dirty, dirty bike shop.