How are bike shops coping during coronavirus outbreak?

Close up of a man in an orange t-shirt sat on the ground repairing a bike wheel
Some bike shops are carrying out pavement services for their customers
Bike shops are reporting they are busier than ever as more people appear to be cycling - either to get to essential work or to exercise, as new restrictions to reduce the risk of further spread of the coronavirus come into force.

Non-essential businesses around the UK closed their doors on Tuesday (25 March) following strict new measures announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson but staff at bike shops have been providing a key role during the current lockdown.

Repairing and servicing bikes needed by key workers have kept staff busy and enabled those workers to travel to their workplace without using public transport where social distancing guidelines can be difficult to observe.

The Bicycle Association of Great Britain which represents manufacturers, distributors and retailers say its members have reported an increased demand in recent weeks.

It has also provided guidance for retailers about prudent precautions to minimise infection risk to staff and customers. Some shops are choosing to open for limited hours or only by prior appointment or to support key workers - such as NHS staff - only.

“Bike shops are providing an important service at this time,” said Steve Garidis, the Bicycle Association’s Executive Director, “servicing and repairing bikes for transport and exercise during the lockdown period.”

Jonathan Harrison of the Association of Cycle Traders said some of their members were offering free service repairs for NHS workers but were also seeing more enquiries form leisure cyclists too. "I believe the upsurge in sales of entry level bikes is due significantly to leisure users," explained Jonathan. "With less traffic on the road, more people are thinking about cycling again as their daily form of exercise."

I believe the upsurge in sales of entry level bikes is due significantly to leisure users. With less traffic on the road, more people are thinking about cycling again as their daily form of exercise.

Jonathan Harrison - Association of Cycle Traders

Bittersweet emotions 

Among those shops staying open is Push Cycles in Newington Green, London, where staff say they have seen an increase in frontline workers coming to them to ensure they can continue to travel to work.

Ciaran Carleton, who runs the business described the increase in business as “bittersweet” as he continues to stay open while being concerned about his own family during the outbreak.

“It has been hectic the last ten days. Last week I was working from 8am to half six most days and this week we are running reduced hours from 11am-3pm so we are still helping to keep people moving whilst also trying to look after my own wellbeing.”

Ciaran says he is operating a “pavement service” so people do not need to step foot in the store to ensure safe distances could be observed.

He says sales were up too: "It has been more like what we would see in a busy July than we would expect to see in a normal March but people who are buying bikes are saying it is because they don’t want to use public transport".

Extra measures 

Jack Priddle, manager of Handsome Bicycles in Hastings says they have seen few health service customers, but many people who are coming into the store are switching to cycling to stay healthy after other sports have been curtailed or gyms closed:

“We have been busy in the last seven or eight days with people who are working from home and now have some time on their hands and want to be able to ride their bike."

Extra safety and hygiene measures are in place to offer reassurance to staff and customers, Jack says.

“We have shut the front door and we are operating a one-in, one-out policy. Staff are wearing gloves and we have anti-bacterial wipes available for customers and we have put a green line down on the floor to keep people a safe distance from the till.”

Other cycle businesses have taken the decision to close temporarily - among them is Pilgrim Cycles at Box Hill - which has also shut its cafe. 

Some Halfords and Evans Cycles stores are open again after previously closing stores temporarily last week.

Help frontline workers 

Matt Mallinder, Cycling UK director said:“It is a challenging time for everyone at the moment with the current curbs on our daily lives, and especially so for lots of small businesses.

"So, it is encouraging that many bike shops have been able to continue to remain open and are able to keep new and old customers cycling.

"If everyone strives to use cycling more for those short essential journeys to work or to help vulnerable people, they can really help to reduce the sort of crowding we have seen on public transport in London in recent days.  

"More space on trains and buses in our cities will help those frontline workers, especially from the NHS and carers who are using these services better able to observe social distancing guideline and stay healthy as they continue to care for those at risk.

 "All of us can benefit from cycling of course, for essential travel or for exercise ensuring we remain physically and mentally healthy, and to boost our immune system.

 "Once the restrictions are eventually lifted, we really should remember to take a minute to thank the staff in our bike shops for what they have been doing to help cyclists to make those short essential journeys during this time.”

  • Have you experienced exceptional service from a local bike shop to enable you to continue riding during the developing pandemic? If so, Cycling UK would love to hear from you, email and tell us your story.