Eugene is well known for its bicycle culture and many enthusiasts. Since the pandemic, more and more local residents are taking up biking as a means of transportation and recreation.
Much of Eugene’s infrastructure is designed for bicyclists, with full lanes and roads dedicated to two-wheeled transportation. Nearly every neighborhood is home to a bicycle shop and a bike-share station, and every year Eugene bikers participate in the “World Naked Bike Ride.”
According to Bicycle Way of Life’s manager Andrew Neill, biking has only become more popular since the coronavirus pandemic shut down most public areas and businesses in March. Neill said people were looking for a way to bide their time and spend their newly received stimulus money.
“People were thinking about doing a staycation or doing local stuff, and then they’re looking at ways to get around and getting into bikes again,” said Neill. “And then we had the stimulus check kick in, and really anything under $1000… $600 and $800 bikes were just gone pretty darn fast.”
Now, employees at bike shops are working longer days to keep up with the demand for new bicycles and repairs. Neill said it’s as if peak season began in early spring, months earlier than in previous years.
“We were prepared shop-wise, but we weren’t prepared mentally to be on it and ready to go,” Neill said. “It’s been a big push to have to go full gas since March.”
Jen Champion says she heard Eugene was super bike-friendly before moving from Wisconsin two years ago. She was at Arriving By Bike getting fitted for her first bicycle in nearly 35 years.
“I have looked online, and a lot of bikes are sold out,” Champion said. “I think that I started to do too much research and things got confusing, so I wanted to step out and actually speak with someone in person and ride a couple bikes. Plus, I wanted to go local.”
Champion said an advantage of going to local shop with a showroom is many bicycles are already customized. She said if you’re trying to buy online or at larger sporting goods stores, you’ll likely need to buy all of the attachments yourself, and the pickings are slim.
“One of the really nice things about Arriving By Bike is the fenders were on, the kickstand was on, the reflectors were on,” said Champion. “And all of that came inclusive with my bike.”
With more Eugenians buying up showroom bikes, many shops have less to offer. Though Arriving By Bike’s owner Paul Moore has a large back-stock of bicycles and parts, he is worried about a looming world-wide industry shortage.
Moore said there’s no backup supply.
“All the biggest factories for bicycles are in China and Taiwan,” said Moore. “The fact that China had shut down most of those factories—for a month, six weeks, maybe two months—back in February and March meant there was already going to be a shortage.”
Moore expects people to continue buying bicycles for the rest of the summer season, but isn’t sure when he’ll be able to obtain new bikes and parts from wholesalers. He said mechanics during the pandemic are just as hard to come by.
"At first I thought, ‘well we don’t need more staff because we’re going into this pandemic’” said Moore. “Every other shop in Portland and everywhere else, everybody needs staff. So anybody who’s a bicycle mechanic who has some experience and wants to be working has got a job already.”
While it is unclear how the bicycle industry will fare for the rest of the pandemic, Eugene bikers will likely continue riding as if nothing had changed.
Copyright KLCC, 2020.