On Sunday, the lineup outside Goldstream Bicycles was longer than the lineup outside Thrifty Foods.
Bicycles sales and repairs are booming in Greater Victoria during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’re really excited about all the new faces that we’re seeing,” said Steven Hurdle, owner of Goldstream Bicycles. “We’re seeing people who haven’t ridden a bike in a long time who are rediscovering what an amazing way it is to travel and exercise and connect with loved ones.”
Cycling is replacing other forms of fitness, said Hurdle. People are buying bicycles because they can’t go to the gym anymore.
They’re also doing it for their mental health, he said. “They need to find safe ways to interact with their loved ones — either getting a break from their loved ones — or the reverse — doing something outside the house with their loved ones.”
Hurdle allows a maximum of two groups at a time in the store, which has been split into two zones to keep the two groups separate. He said he’s grateful for customers’ patience as they wait in line.
“Working retail in an environment like this, especially in the early stages when there were more unknowns, was very stressful,” he said. “But what made us come to work each day was that it’s not good enough just to survive the pandemic.
“Bicycles will help people nurture their relationships so that they are not home, and not stir crazy and bickering with each other. They’re out and enjoying themselves and getting some fresh air, some sun.”
Sales are also up for Erin Clermont, owner of Russ Hay’s The Bicycle Store.
“We’re seeing a lot more families coming in to buy bikes. Mom, dad and the kids will be arriving as a family,” said Clermont, noting the store is selling lots of children’s bikes, hybrids, entry-level mountain bikes and electric bikes. “People are definitely coming in to get outside and get exercise in what they feel is a safe way.”
Many people are realizing they likely won’t be going anywhere this summer, Clermont said, so they’re putting money they might have spent on a vacation into bikes — “something that will keep them healthy, keep them fit, get them out of the house and doing something with their kids.”
“We had one family who was going to go on a cruise. The cruise got cancelled, so the money they were going to use for the cruise, they used to buy electric bikes,” said Clermont.
People are also buying bicycles because they don’t want to risk taking public transit during the pandemic. Instead, they’re using a bicycle to run their errands or to commute.
The increase in bicycle sales is matched by sales in accessories such as helmets, lights, mirrors and racks, so people can carry bags.
“The family might ride somewhere, have a picnic and ride back,” Clermont said.
The store is so busy, Clermont is looking to hire more staff. When the pandemic struck, a couple of employees decided to stay home. She’s replaced them and is also looking to hire extra bodies.
“The whole industry, it’s been busy,” she said.
At the Trek Bicycle Store in Vic West, owner Bill Fry took time to figure out how to protect his staff and customers. On March 21, he closed the store completely to regroup and opened a day later with a new plan.
Customers are now greeted outside the store. There is a rope to separate customers and staff, who bring the product to the customers.
Bicycle repairs are in full swing.
“We take a bike in, completely spray it with a hospital-grade disinfectant, let it sit for two hours, power-wash it with a degreaser and then quarantine the bicycle for two days,” Fry said.
Mechanics work in gloves, washing their hands before and after every job. Once they’re finished with the repair, they disinfect the bike again, said Fry, who added that the process is awkward and exhausting.
Christine Warde, owner of the North Park Bike Shop, said the repair shop has been much busier than it would typically be at this time of year. “When this started in March, I wondered how this was going to affect us because I assumed that everybody being laid off would be tighter with their money,” she said. “But our repair department is just bonkers. People are pulling bikes out of the garage they haven’t ridden in 20 years.
“People want to get out. A lot of people don’t want to take the bus and people need to commute. It’s been a bizarre insurgence of cyclist and non-cyclists alike.”
Tyson Schley, owner of Giant Victoria, said the store is selling lots of bikes every day, even though the doors are locked, the windows are papered over and customers are let in one at a time.
“It’s awesome. A lot of new cyclists are saying things like: ‘I never even thought about buying a bike, but all my friends are riding because there’s nothing to do. So I just need a cheap $500 to $600 bike to get out there.’ We’re seeing a lot of that,” said Schley.
You can only sit at home and watch Netflix for so long, he said.
“You have to do something and cycling’s a great way to relax. It’s a good stress reliever. It’s low impact.”