Are bicycle shops essential? Here’s how some shops are keeping Southern Utah cycling through COVID-19

Red Rock Bicycle entrance, St. George, Utah, March 13, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — As the coronavirus continues to shape the landscape of how the world works, new terms have entered the daily vernacular. Terms like “flatten the curve,” “social distancing” and “essential services” are now part of everyday speech.

Rapid Cycling on Bluff Street gets set for a day of maintenance and sales, St. George, Utah, March 13, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

When it comes to essential services, with many businesses shutting their doors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, some businesses that have been deemed “essential” continue to operate in order to provide community members necessary services and goods. Stores such as grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies and banks provide obvious services, but what about bicycle shops?

Across the nation, bicycle shops have remained open, many of which are deeming themselves essential services and often changing the minds of politicians in their favor.

The basic argument is that if auto mechanic shops remain open to repair a vehicle, why not a bicycle shop?

“Bikes are a great form of transportation,” Red Rock Bicycle spokesperson Joey Dye told St. George News.

Dye said that because of the transportation aspect alone, bike shops provide essential services, either repairing and maintaining someone’s existing bike or aiding with the purchase of a new bike.

Derek Castro, a sales associate at Rapid Cycling, agrees.

“A lot of people depend on their bicycles to get around,” he said. “I think it’s pretty crucial that we stay open for the time being.”

As a result of current conditions, many Southern Utah bike shops are adapting to changing health mandates and being proactive with protocols meant to keep shoppers and staff safe and healthy.

Both Red Rock Bicycle and Rapid Cycling are offering curbside drop-off and pickup for bicycle repairs and maintenance. Customers can pull up to a designated spot where a staff member will clean and disinfect the bike before taking it inside the shop.

Curbside pickup spots are designated at Red Rock Bicycle Co., St. George, Utah, March 13, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Shopping for needed products and even bicycles can be done in the stores, where employees are wiping down surfaces, handrails, doorknobs, bike repair stations and more every hour and after customers have come in.

“We’re being mindful not to contribute to the spread,” Dye said.

Castro said that staff members at Rapid Cycling are wearing gloves and masks and being respectful of the 6-foot bubble dictated by social distancing mandates as well.

For customers who are not comfortable going into the stores, online shopping, over the phone payments and curbside product pickup is also available at most shops.

Dye said that at Red Rock they are providing as many ways for customers to have little to no contact as possible.

“It’s basically shifting all the things that we are good at and finding creative ways to keep doing them,” Dye said of the shop’s efforts to continue to provide services to the community.

St. George-based Bicycles Unlimited is also working in innovative ways to continue to deliver uninterrupted service to customers.

Bike parts on offer at Bicycles Unlimited, St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2016 | File photo by Kristine Crandall, St. George News

Mechanics at the shop are working two separate shifts — days and evenings — to help with social distancing and to get more bikes repaired and back to customers faster. Similar to the other stores, the shop has instituted safety precautions that include wiping down everything from entry paths, credit card processors and counters after every purchase.

In addition to providing curbside pickup and delivery, Bicycles Unlimited provides free delivery of bikes to customers’ homes.

While some are making the case for bikes shops as an essential service for transportation, at Family Bicycle Outfitters in Cedar City, owner Brent Van Eps said that is not what he is seeing.

“What we have seen here is that almost all of our customers use their bicycles for sport and pleasure, not for daily commuting purposes,” he said. “We would love to change that and make bicycles a larger part of people’s daily transportation, but right now we aren’t seeing that in our store.”

Like other shops, Family Bicycle Outfitters is maintaining vigorous cleaning standards, disinfecting all surfaces, cleaning demo bikes and generally making sure things remain safe and healthy.

Family Bicycle Outfitters, Cedar City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy Ligh:FieldStudios, St. George News / Cedar City News

While the colder climate in Cedar City may not make year-round commuting as appealing as in Washington County, Van Eps said he still sees the value of bicycles as a safe way to get needed recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that he feels it is vital to be able to maintain customers’ bikes or even allow them to purchase new ones.

“I do feel that outside recreation for everyone is crucial, especially for children right now, and bicycle riding is a safe way to do that,” Van Eps said.

The importance of bikes for safe recreation and mental health seems to be the general consensus from shop staff and customers alike, as all the shops told St. George News that calls for maintenance have gone up, and even sales are doing well in an otherwise difficult time for the economy.

The reason we are here is we are all passionate about cycling,” Dye said. “We believe bicycles are good for the mental and physical health of our community, especially during the strange sort of things that are happening economically. … Bikes are about the only thing not closed right now.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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