Bicycle shop owner Tim Meyer said that he was hoping to have the Rock ‘n’ Road stores in Grand Haven and Holland open to do repairs on May 1, but was happy to be back in business almost immediately after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last Friday added bicycle shops to the list of essential businesses allowed to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The bikes are flying out the door,” he said from the Holland store Tuesday afternoon.
The Grand Haven store, 300 N. Seventh St., was basically closed Tuesday so its two working employees could concentrate on repairs.
“Although we’re not turning anyone away, we took in 50-plus repairs,” Matt Meyer said as he pointed to bikes tucked in together in two rooms inside the shop. He said they needed to set aside at least one day a week to concentrate on repair work until they could catch up.
Tim Meyer said that both stores had a really good day Saturday.
“We were swamped on Monday,” he added.
Meyer also noted that most customers were wearing masks on Monday.
“Everybody is exhibiting really good behavior,” he said.
Meyer says his employees are careful about where they touch the bicycles when customers want to take them for a test ride. The bikes are then set aside so nobody else can touch them. They are also limiting the number of people in the store at one time and doing as much outside as they can, Meyer said.
Breakaway Bicycles Manager Todd Britton said the Grand Haven (215 N. Ferry St.) and Muskegon (4741 Harvey St.) stores both opened Saturday.
“It was the busiest day I’ve ever had in 25 years of being in Grand Haven,” he said, “and combined with the least amount of people (employees) ever. It was great to be back and the customers were excited to see us back.”
Breakaway Bicycles owner Eric Moe said they took in more than 100 bikes for repair between the stores in two days.
“That’s triple the normal amount,” he said. “The amount of phone calls is probably five times the normal.”
Britton said people were coming in to buy new bikes or repair broken ones that haven’t seen the light of day in 10 or 20 years. A lot of those people are just now discovering what a great nonmotorized trail system there is around the Tri-Cities, he said.
“A lot of people are rediscovering their bikes and enjoying them,” Britton said. “A lot of it is simply having the time, not running in four directions every hour of the day.”
Britton said employees are wearing masks and probably 80-90 percent of the customers are wearing masks, too.
“We’re wiping things down. We’re washing our hands all the time,” he said.
Moe said that he was really impressed by how nice and polite the customers have been.
“We’re running the store short-staffed,” he said. “We have people who can’t come in yet because of vulnerability.”
Moe said they could only run the store like that because of the patience of the customers.
“Everyone is so polite, kind and understanding,” he said.
Loose Spokes Bicycles and Services owner Jack Crawford said their entry back over the weekend wasn’t as noticeable because he and his wife had to be in the store, located on Hayes Street in Grand Haven Township, to repair bicycles for people who used them as their only mode of transportation.
“We took in work from commuters,” Crawford said. “These are people who use their bikes year-round to get to work.”
Like the other bicycle shops, they’ve had a rush in business since the governor’s latest order last Friday. Crawford allows just one customer in the store at a time and cleans everything the customer touches after he or she leaves.
Both Crawford and Tim Meyer said they had placed orders for new bikes and other supplies before the shutdown, so they are in good shape for now.
Supplies are becoming a problem for some bike manufacturers who depend on parts from China, Meyer said. But, for now, they are building bicycles as fast as they can.
As for being out on the trails, Crawford said it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing on a bicycle, so people should only bike with those from their immediate household. Otherwise, he suggests mountain biking as a good option. The closest mountain bike trails to Grand Haven are in the Bass River Recreation Area.
Meyer, who said that Rock ‘n’ Road was not hosting group rides at this time, recommends people not going to a mountain bike trail area if the parking lot is more than half full.
For more information on bicycling, check the League of Michigan Bicyclists website at LMB.org.