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Local bike shops see uptick in business during COVID-19

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Specialized Roll offered at Bill’s Bike and Run | Facebook

IDAHO FALLS – As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many small businesses are closing or modifying the way they ordinarily operate.

But for some local bikes shop, business is actually looking up. Doug Swanson, the owner of Bill’s Bike and Run in Idaho Falls tells many people are purchasing bikes because it’s a way to get out of the house while still social distancing themselves from others.

“I don’t know if you drove by the greenbelt on Saturday or Sunday, but we saw a lot of families out,” Swanson says.

This month is the bike shop’s annual Speed into Spring sale, and while they are still open for customers to drop by, Swanson says they are making some adjustments to their business model. In addition to cleaning more regularly and staying home if they’re sick, they’re also promoting online shopping through their website and their home-delivery service.

Swanson says an older couple is interested in some e-bikes (electric bicycles) and they don’t want to come in the store. Employees will be delivering the bikes to their house so they can give it a test ride.

“Then we’ll process the transaction over the phone and be done with it. So, we’re going to do anything like that we can to help (customers),” Swanson says.

Delivery is free to anyone within 25 miles of the Snake River Landing location.

About 13 bikes have been delivered in the last several days, Swanson says, which is higher than in previous years.

“Our goal for this month is based on an increase from last year, and we’re paced to beat that by about $25,000,” he says.

During COVID-19, Bill’s Bike and Run will also pick up your bike, give it a tune-up and bring it back to your house.

The most popular purchase this year, Swanson says, is the Specialized Roll. It’s a street bike that caters to those who want to ride around the neighborhood or the river. E-bikes are a hot item as well.

Adam Artner, owner of Oregon Trail Bikes in Pocatello, says it’s hard to say whether there is a spike in business since this is only his second year in operation. But there is a lot more business right now because people have more time.

Bike repairs are the shop’s main focus but they also sell bikes. Salsa and Orbea are two of their most popular brands.

One thing they’re doing to cut down on the spread of COVID-19 is doing business outside the store.

“We’ll go outside and talk to people to see what they need. A lot of times you end up looking over people’s bikes and quoting them on stuff anyway so it’s an easy way to do that,” Sales Associate Lincoln Pettinger says.

A large majority of students at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg have returned home due to the spread of the coronavirus, but that hasn’t negatively affected business at Sled Shed, a bike, board and bouldering shop in Rexburg.

Chris Babb, the assistant manager, says business remains steady and is typical for this time of year. The Trek Mountain Bike is one of their most popular.

Biking in the community

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May is bike month in Idaho Falls and Bill’s Bike and Run typically hosts a number of rides and events. Swanson says they haven’t yet decided whether those things will still happen. But they have decided the 2020 Scenic River Classic in June — an annual race sponsored by the bike shop and other organizations — will be a virtual race this year.

“What we’re going to do is mark the course and have it open for a week. You can run the marathon at your convenience,” says Swanson.

Registration for the event is already open.

Artner was planning to increase the shop’s community presence with rides and other events, but those are on hold for now.

If you can’t go to the gym right now and you want to get out, Babb says they can help. A riding group meets at the store every Tuesday, and so far, that hasn’t changed.

“They’re (meeting) right now, mostly because the group is pretty small. It’s still less than 10 people, so they’re still doing it for now and then playing it week-by-week,” Babb says.

During this turbulent time, Swanson says cycling offers a healthy break mentally and physically and can offer a boost while people are stuck indoors more than usual.

“Cycling can be a good way of breaking up the monotony of scaling back all of your activities and not working,” Pettinger says.

And whether you’re mountain biking or road biking, Pettinger says to be very careful because you don’t want to go to the hospital and overburden the staff there.

“Be careful out there. Take care of your health and recreate as safely as you can,” he says.

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