For people cooped up inside all day, unable to get to the gym but badly in need of exercise, that beat-up old bicycle in the garage looks extra appealing these days.

But it hasn't been used for so long — what if the inner tube leaks or the brakes are shot? Are there any bike shops open to do repairs or sell parts?

Yes there are. And business for them is way up since the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Kern County.

Thanks in part to vague wording in Gov. Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home order, and bicyclists' ability to maintain social distancing while having fun in public, local bike repair shops are doing well at a time when many retailers are struggling or shut down entirely.

NOTICEABLE BUMP

Alan Bradley, owner of Finish Line at 8850 Stockdale Highway, reported Thursday that business is up "quite a bit" lately, not only in terms of repairs but also sales of a wide variety of new bicycles.

Keeping customers and employees safe during the pandemic is a top priority, he said, so everything now gets sanitized frequently: counters, bike grips — "all the touching points."

It's a similar story elsewhere around town.

Snider's Cyclery decided to close its southwest Bakersfield location during the stay-at-home order, substantially cut operating hours at the remaining store at 2700 Union Ave. and limited access to one customer in the store at a time — and still business has more than doubled.

NATIONAL TREND

Owner Olivia Snider said it's not just Bakersfield. Her cycling friends around the country tell her they're also seeing a jump in business since social distancing took hold.

She understands her customers' desire to ride through nearly empty streets at a time when people seem to be developing anxieties about staying inside all day every day.

"Being on a bicycle is freedom, in a sense," she said. "We get to ride and explore things.”

As for whether bike shops have permission to continue operating during the governor's stay-at-home order, Snider said it's pretty clear they do.

ESSENTIAL ACTIVITY

Newsom's March 19 order shutting down most businesses to keep people at home has been interpreted as exempting businesses that perform "essential" services including maintenance and repairs for transportation, she noted.

State guidance posted online March 22 says employees "supporting or enabling transportation functions, including ... maintenance and repair technicians" may continue working during the stay-at-home order.

"It doesn’t say what kind of transportation," Snider said, adding that some of her customers rely on their bicycles for transportation and shopping.

What's more, the same set of state guidance says California residents may go outside to exercise: "So long as you are maintaining a safe social distance of 6 feet from people who aren’t part of your household, it is OK to go outside for exercise, a walk or fresh air."

SURPRISE VISIT

Not everyone necessarily sees it that way.

On Thursday, a Kern County environmental health representative paying a visit to Action Sports at 9500 Brimhall Road initially took the position that the store was not an essential service and therefore needed to close down immediately, owner Kerry Ryan said.

Ryan said it took him 10 minutes to convince the county official that the store had a right to remain open. He ended up pointing out that Action Sports fixes wheelchairs for disabled people, among other important services.

It's true more customers than normal have been coming in lately and that business is up about a quarter, he said. But he said the store has been careful to ensure that customers and employees are given plenty of space to keep themselves apart from other people.

There's a lot more sanitation and wiping down surfaces than normal, he said, plus, marks have been placed on the floor advising how far apart people should stand. If a customer forgets and starts to lean on a counter, employees politely ask them to back up, Ryan said.

BIKE OVERHAULS

The recent increase in business has mostly been concentrated in repairs and sales of relatively small-ticket items such as tires and tubes, he said. That is, people have generally been more inclined to fix up an old bike than buy a new one.

That suits him fine as long as people are able to get away from "cabin fever" and stimulate their brains with a little exercise, he said.

"The coolest thing about it (is) I’ve seen more families out riding their bikes together because of the virus," he said. "It’s really, really fun.”

Snider said she thinks the new bicycle boom is helping people get out into nature and improve their mental health. Plus, until the recent rains, you could hardly ask for a better time to get out on two wheels.

"It’s been beautiful riding conditions," she said.

Follow John Cox on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf.

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(6) comments

Mac Daddy

How do these riders stay at home and cycle simultaneously? Oh I see, they must ALL be using stationary bike stands to do their peddling.

Comment deleted.
REMUDA

Yeah . . . listen up y'all . . !

My 2nd cuz, Michael >> biz guy (on 'vacation' in China)who married a Chinese national, now honoring her periodic required home visit since 2019:

"A new lock-down in China on the Russia border - Suifenhe

Under the lockdown, each family can nominate one member to venture

outside their home for essential supplies every three days, according to the

local epidemic control department. Mask and temperature checks will be

conducted by officials, as well as resident permit and health checks. These

measures are similar to those imposed on Wuhan's residents at the height

of the outbreak in China. All hotels have also been closed and entry into

the region has been limited to only residents until June 1."

(Uh oh) "Yep, seems the virus strains i Suifenhe are

not the original DNA from China, the virus appears to mutate

into differing strains as it migrates globally. I read the NYC

virus strains are mostly European strains so Trump's blocking

traffic from China worked in this order to stop incoming traffic,

he didn't look ahead about Europe until much later."

Inconvenient Truth

“Hello, 911?”

“Yes, I’d like to report a non-essential business that needs to be shutdown.”

“There are Health Department Stasi Officers running around, harassing essential businesses, and trying to bankrupt them.”

“No, I didn’t realize they were ‘just following orders.’”

“I guess that makes it okay, then...”

Comment deleted.
All Star

Really? Geez.

KenWitham

The KCPH website is a great tool to help inspectors determine where to go. How some individuals are choosing to report businesses they don't frequent or understand is asinine. Sniders is also a locksmith. That's essential in my book. Action Sports stated their case in the article.

Lilyrose

Wonderful.

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