Regina bicycle shops busy with services, sales during COVID-19 pandemic

Regina bike shops buzz as warm weather settles in amid COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: The owners of Dutch Cycle say they're servicing the old and selling the new as more people take to cycling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regina’s Dutch Cycle has been closed to the public for nearly six weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but business is far from stagnant.

University student Rishabh Prasad was one of two new bicycle owners picking up their wheels outside the shop Monday morning.

“A lot of my friends have been riding bikes lately, so I knew I needed a new one,” Prasad said, adding his former bike was 10 years old.

“It’s super old. We rode it the other day and I barely could ride it.”

READ MORE: Summer in Saskatchewan will be like no other in recent memory due to coronavirus

Prasad said he hopes to eventually cycle to class at the University of Regina, but right now, his new bike is for socializing.

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“There isn’t enough to do right now, but biking is like the one thing we can do together at a safe distance, so that’s nice,” he said.

COVID-19 restrictions on social activities, coupled with warm weather in the Queen City, may be leading to the spike in bike activity at Dutch Cycle.

“I haven’t sold that many kids bikes in five years. Now we’re moving on to the parents picking out something so that they can go enjoy themselves.”

“All in all, it’s been great because I think we’re seeing more people biking this year than we have in the past,” said Freddy Vandelinden, Dutch Cycle vice-president and co-owner.

“The sales this past week could rival a best week last summer.”

But it didn’t start out that way. Vandelinden said when the retail store closed on March 26, sales were tight for two weeks.

After that, the first items to move in excess were children’s bikes.

READ MORE: Winnipeg bike shops see increase in customers as weather warms up

“I haven’t sold that many kids’ bikes in five years. Now we’re moving on to the parents picking out something so that they can go enjoy themselves,” he said.

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As for repairs, Vandelinden said the shop has been busy with regular clients, but added the process is also slower.

“Every bike has to be cleaned when it’s brought in, disinfected when it’s finished as opposed to the old in and out into the repair stands,” he said.

Both the sales and service experiences have changed with the times.

Helping the visually impaired ride bicycles
Helping the visually impaired ride bicycles

Customers looking to buy new get one-on-one appointments, via video call, which then leads to a socially-distant on-site visit for a test ride before purchase outside the store.

Bike servicing drop-off and pick-up also happens outside, maintaining physical distance.

Vandelinden said appointments are staggered to reduce the amount of people in the area at once. Even when Dutch Cycle reopens May 19, things will be different.

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“Arrows controlling the flow of traffic within the store, limiting people in the store to a couple per sales person, maintaining the social distance,” he said.

“It’ll be a lot easier than it is now, because at least I can show you something.”

Mobile repair opens in Saskatchewan

The pandemic offered a unique circumstance for Wade and Tess Ariss to open up their Velofix franchise in Saskatchewan.

“It’s been interesting. Obviously, it’s a little harder to get out there and get into the community. No events, which is a big part of what we do too,” Wade told Global News on April 22.

Velofix is a repair and service shop operated by a mechanic, solely out of a van.

The Ariss’s are based in Assiniboia, Sask., but also service Regina, Saskatoon, Swift Current and Moose Jaw.

Regina small businesses offer ways to support local during the COVID-19 pandemic
Regina small businesses offer ways to support local during the COVID-19 pandemic

Prior to the pandemic, the North American company prided itself on offering clients a chance to speak directly with the mechanic as repairs are made.

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We have to shift the whole focus. Rather than having the customer come in the van, hang out, have a coffee and enjoy the wifi, we’re having them set their bike outside their house,” Wade said.

Wade said he calls customers when he arrives, after which they set the bike outside their property.

He then takes the bicycle into the van, parked out front, for the service. All contact parts are sanitized prior to and post service, and the owner then notified when it’s complete.

“I think with the no contact service, people are attracted to that right now because it keeps everybody safe. Our family and their family,” Wade said.