Robert DeMarzo, 60, of Smithtown, hasn’t owned a bike in years, but on Saturday, he purchased one as a form of his own personal therapy.
“I wanted one because of the inability to go to the gym, the fear of walking around the neighborhood and walking too close to people, and because of the physical distancing aspect," DeMarzo says. “You can ride alone, get fresh air and get out and get some exercise — it helps you clear your head.”
DeMarzo sees biking alone as a way to cope with the quarantine and he’s apparently not alone. Bike shops are exempt from the closures ordered for “nonessential” services since a bike is considered a form of transportation that some people need to get to and from work. But some Long Island shop owners say they’ve seen a recent uptick in sales and repairs for recreational bike use, with some reporting sales they normally wouldn’t see until consistently warm weather arrives in May.
At the store where DeMarzo got his bike, Campus Bicycle in Stonybrook, owner Neal Passoff says that in March sales were “extremely high … We did two to three times what we normally do.”
Chris Fitzsimmons, owner of Bike Discounters in Saint James, says the “activity is ridiculous” at his store since the coronavirus social distancing efforts were advised and that he has 10 times the business he would usually see this time of year.
“It’s been 10-fold the foot traffic and we have to control it through appointment booking and allowing one person [in the store] at a time,” Fitzsimmons says. “People need something to feel good about and to get some fresh air.”
Early last month, some shops even had crowds of customers.
“We had lines out the door — especially that first weekend when everyone was quarantined,” says Dante Cipriano, of the situation at his shop, The Bicycle Planet in Syosset. “[D]epartment stores are closed that normally sell bikes, so in the past couple of weekends our business has doubled, and in the first weekend [of the quarantine] it tripled.” He adds, biking is “enjoyable; it’s self-isolating and you can keep your fitness going.”
But while the shop owners say they’re getting a good ride with sales, they’ve since employed social distancing measures, including having employees wear face masks and gloves, allowing a limited number of customers into their stores at a time, instituting appointment-only entrance, handling purchases by credit card over the phone and having delivery and pickups done outside the store curbside or in parking lots.
“People need ways to escape and do something recreational while keeping in line with social distancing,” says Byron James, store manager at Brands Cycle & Fitness in Wantagh. For those using a bike for work, James adds, “They don’t want to use trains or buses — they don’t want to use public transportation.”
Nick Attisano, owner of Twin Fork Bicycles in Riverhead, says his shop is seeing a lot of people seeking repairs for bikes they already own but might not have used in a while.
“We’re seeing a lot of repairs for flat tires, not for extensive repairs,” says Attisano. “People just want to get their bike fixed enough so they can go out and ride ... We’re the gateway to the Hamptons so in the first week [of the quarantine] we did summertime business. People don’t want to be cooped up in their houses.”
However, an injury specialist warns against going bike riding just for recreation at this time, since you could end up getting hurt and taking a trip to the hospital, which is not a very safe destination right now.
“Stay at home,” advises Kristi L. Ladowski, an injury prevention and outreach coordinator for Stony Brook Medicine Trauma Center. She adds that she also “strongly advises” parents not to allow their children to go riding with friends because lack of supervision could result in unsafe behavior and close contact among riders.
“If you decide to ride, go solo or only with members of your household,” Ladowski says. “If going solo, tell someone how long you plan to be out and when you expect to be back. Bike in areas that are not crowded so you can maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people.” She also says to avoid planning stops for purchases or other activities that will increase your exposure to people and contaminated surfaces. “Bike riding increases your risk of injury. The last place you want to be right now is in an urgent care center or emergency department if it can be avoided.”