Area bike shops see strong demand

Jan. 25—Nearly three years after COVID-19 shutdowns led many people to hop on their bicycles, area shops are still seeing high demand for new bikes and the upkeep of old ones.

"We've already had a fabulous start to the 2023 season with sales and service," said Kyle Brazen, manager of Cedar Bicycle on Pittston Avenue in Scranton. "I'm thinking maybe it's because of the warmer weather."

Brazen noted people continue to purchase bicycles as more inventory returned to the shelves presenting customers with additional options.

"They're able to get what they want right off our floor," he said. "We've had decent stock pretty much all of 2022, but we really noticed a big shift at the end of summer and beginning of fall."

Specifically, the shop was able to order specific colors and sizes of bikes and get them shipped to the business for the first time since shortly before the COVID shutdown, Brazen said.

Supply chain disruptions affecting bike parts have also lessened since the height of the pandemic.

Many popular parts like eight-speed chains, 26-29 inch replacement tires, and tubes are back in stock, however, some higher-end parts like electric drive trains are still more difficult to acquire, Brazen said.

While Cedar Bicycle carries a variety of bicycles, including mountain, hybrid, road, pedal assist, and gravel models, Brazen anticipates a big push for e-bikes heading into the spring.

"We don't just cater to one group; we try to be a bike shop for everybody," he said. "In the past, we would only stock seven or eight e-bikes and now we're sitting on between 30 to 40. With the e-bike industry growing as fast as it is, we're prepared for what we feel is going to be coming this cycling season."

Demand for repairs also has been rising for several years, culminating with an especially busy 2022, Brazen said.

"I never saw a year like that before even during the pandemic when we were scrambling to the fix bikes because people couldn't get anything brand new," he said. "More people are still getting outside and the more they're riding them, the more they're breaking things and wearing everything out."

Sickler's Bike and Sports Shop closed its Kingston location in July and consolidated operations to its store on Noble Road in South Abington Twp.

"We thought let's take the employees we have and do it right in one shop instead of being spread thin in two," manager Phil Cable said. "We're cranking here. It's the offseason, but we still have repairs coming in and bikes going out."

Cable stressed the decision to shut down the Luzerne County shop was due to inadequate staffing, not lack of business.

"We were super busy; we just couldn't hire anybody," he said. "We were back on our heels with repairs for a year-and-a-half. We lost a few employees and weren't able to replace them."

Cable remains optimistic about the future of bicycle shops in the region.

"There is a little talk about a downturn in the industry, but my take is the tide is going to stay a little higher," he said. "There are more people riding bikes, which is very exciting."

Kevin Czekalski, owner of Plains Bike Shop in Plains Twp., quickly saw an influx of new repair jobs following the closure of Sickler's Kingston location.

"Since there are so few bike shops left, our repairs have gone dramatically upward, and I see the trend continuing," he said. "Repairs doubled because there is really nobody doing the service work."

Czekalski witnessed several changing trends at the store over the years including a decline in demand for BMX bikes — one of its best sellers.

Bicycle sales are down at the shop as more youths are opting for a different set of wheels.

"The whole juvenile market has been taken over by the scooter craze and we've capitalized on it," Czekalski said. "It drives a lot of our business."

While those businesses were able to adapt to various challenges, Veloce Bikeworks in Scranton closed in November after five years citing economic factors and industry changes, including a lack of available inventory.

Contact the writer: rtomkavage@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9131; @rtomkavage on Twitter.