Bike Shops Shift Into High Gear

May 16, 2020

Workers at Charlotte bike shops say they’re pedaling harder than ever, as a lack of entertainment options and glorious spring weather have customers wanting to buy and repair bikes in record numbers.

“We’re pulling our hair out. We’ve probably increased business three-fold,” said Dread Fiyah, manager of The Spoke Easy on Elizabeth Avenue. Workers there are using ultraviolet light wands to sterilize bikes and aren’t allowing customers in the shop to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Nationwide, sales of adult bikes was up 121% in March over a year ago, according to retail sales data from NPD Group. Independent bike shops saw a rise in service/repairs of 20%, according to the data.

Fiyah says he’s seen the increased bike demand play out different ways:

  • Sales are way up. “We can’t keep stuff in stock. As soon as we get a bike built, it’s out the door,” Fiyah said. “We don’t even have to sell bikes; people really are just taking everything we have. Usually people are like, ‘Does it come in any other colors?’ Now, they’re like, ‘I’ll take it.’”
  • The demand for bike repairs has tripled. “People have their old college bikes they haven’t ridden in five years sitting in their garage, and they’re bringing them out of the woodwork covered in cobwebs and two inches of dust,” Fiyah said. The Spoke Easy typically turns repairs around in a couple of days, and currently repairs are taking five to seven days because of the high demand. “We’re just busting our butts,” he said.
  • Used bikes are in high demand, too. The Spoke Easy consigns used bikes, and those have been flying out of the store, Fiyah said. (If you’ve got a bike you’re not riding, now might be a good time to cash it in.)

May isn’t typically the hottest month for bike sales, Fiyah said. The cycling season for avid cyclists starts in late February or early March, he said, and then he sees another peak again in July and August.

“That’s what we feel like we’re in now — a strong peak season,” he said.

At The Bike Gallery on Park Road, owner Andres Lizarazo is helping customers by appointment only and has had to reduce hours from the normal 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. to 11 a.m. -- 3 p.m. to avoid too much contact between employees and customers.

Only one customer is allowed in the store at a time, and appointments are limited to 30 minutes.

Longer waits, longer lines: The high demand and limited bike shop capacity means bike owners looking for service are having to call around and wait in lines like they haven’t before.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Dilworth resident Mike Rizer felt lucky he was able to get a quick fix done on his Orbea carbon bike at Charlotte Cycles.

He’d called two other bike shops, where he’d have to wait a week or more, but Charlotte Cycles was able to get him in quickly and do his repair in an hour while he waited outside in the fresh air.

Rizer’s riding schedule has picked up greatly since the stay-at-home order started, and he’s riding with friends about three times a week, so having a well-functioning bike seemed essential.

“It’s a really good thing, right?” Riser said of the big bike demand. “We’re trying to stay healthy, and people are getting around more.”

Reach managing editor Cristina Bolling at cristina@cltledger.com.

This post first appeared in the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter. It is reprinted with permission.