Bicycle shops see brisk business during coronavirus shutdown

While many businesses have had to shut their doors, in the face of the COVID-19 virus, at least one of those listed as 'essential' has been busier than expected, thanks to people looking for some space to be active.

Neighborhood streets and Hike and Bike trails may seem busier than normal, as many of us take in a socially-distant walk or bike ride. Before going too far, a lot of those bike riders are finding they may need a helping hand to get going.

Eric Attayi owns the Urban Bicycle Gallery, in Houston's Rice Military neighborhood. His bike shop has been much busier than he ever anticipated, as the virus started to squeeze normal life.

"Within a week, everybody's 'cabin fever' kind of escalated all at once," says Attayi, "We ended up with people coming in left and right."

The sight of people out riding a bike, whether on trails or streets, has been a common one. As folks dust-off an old ride sitting in a dark corner or garage, it may need some TLC to work properly.

Bike shops are designated 'essential' businesses, in Harris County, and Urban Bicycle Gallery's dozen full and part-time employees have been busy making repairs and selling bikes.

A customer waiting for some adjustments on a new bike was glad for the opportunity, "I did own a bike but I wanted a cruiser, so it was nice to have them open," he said.

But it's not business as usual. Areas designed for socializing are off-limits; there's an emphasis on keeping things clean and sanitized; customers need to make an appointment and knock on the locked door to get in. "We want people to wait, so that we have one salesperson, with one person as they come in to drop their bike off for repairs or look at new bikes for purchase," says Attayi.

As a new-normal sets in, the mystery for Attayi and every business is what waits for them when the virus-scare is all over.

"I think people are building habits, right now, that are great habits," says Attayi. "But I think they are so different from the habits we had before, and so it'll be a transition for sure."