Bicycle business pedals through ups and downs of COVID-19

Junior J.T. Walter rides his bicycle this past Wednesday afternoon in front of the Chapel of Memories. Walter is one of the growing number of MSU students who ride their bikes on campus.

During the unprecedented time of COVID-19, bicycle shops, like Boardtown Bikes of Starkville, are facing many unforeseen challenges. The local business has dealt with a massive demand since schools and businesses shut down earlier this year and has been unable to keep a steady inventory of bikes and bike parts since. 

Matthew Nunes, the owner of Boardtown Bikes, said there are many ways COVID-19 has affected the workplace, one being the implementation of procedures based on the CDC and state regulations.

"We have been sanitizing surfaces and all the bikes that have come in. One factor was all the protocols, but with the employees we offered paid sick leave to try to encourage them to come forward if they were feeling ill," Nunes said.

Nunes also commented on the immediate increase in demand following the shutdown of schools and some businesses. 

"When things started closing, we pretty much saw an immediate uptick in the number of customers coming in. When that happened, we had inventory, but we quickly sold out of what we had. By mid-April, we didn't have any more bikes to sell, and there was no way to resupply them. We had lots of hoops to jump through while becoming two or three times as busy." 

All bike shops were suffering when inventory ran out. China, where most bike supplies come from, shut down exports because of the pandemic. This caused a greater imbalance between supply and demand.

"Everything exists in a closed system," Nunes said. "While we were very busy in the beginning of this, now there is nothing to sell. We did about three months of business in one month, but now we are all out. So it balances it out."

Mycah Sanders, a sophomore majoring in kinesiology from Belden, Mississippi, has noticed more people biking since the pandemic hit.

"My family went on more walks and bike rides. In our neighborhood, we saw a ton of more people riding around," Sanders said.

Sanders said she can also see a difference in the number of bikers in Starkville.

"In Starkville I've seen a lot more people biking, but it might be because I live in a neighborhood," Sanders said.

Another avid biker is Eliot Jones, a sophomore majoring in forestry and member of the cycling club, who rides his bike often both on campus and for mountain biking. During his free time, he planned on fixing up some of his bikes but was met with a shortage of parts everywhere. 

"I live not even a quarter mile away from a bike shop, and I was talking to the worker about getting some new bike parts. He said that they are all sold out everywhere; every bike shop is selling out. Every part that I needed would take months to come in, whether it was a headset or a wheel. Wheels were super hard to get and probably still are," Jones said.

Jones said biking was the best way to travel on campus and frequently rides his bike to school. 

"As long as it is not raining, I will ride my bike to class," Jones said. "Even when I lived on campus last year, I rode my bike everywhere. You can ride on sidewalks which is the shortest way to buildings, but you are also moving faster than walking. I could get from the Humphrey Coliseum to Fresh Foods in about five to seven minutes."

Jones said there was a clear difference of how many people were getting outside. It makes sense that more people have time to do things they normally wouldn't, he said.

"When I went biking, I would always see people outside, and that has not always been the case. I even picked up fishing because I wanted to do more outside. I would go to Walmart and they would also be sold out of fishing supplies."

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