My Quest to Buy a Bicycle During The Pandemic
Vancouverites did not go away this summer. Instead, they have been looking for local covid-19-safe activities to do. During the pandemic, while most people were bored out of their skulls, I was busy working long hours as a medical practitioner on the front line. Nevertheless, I sought out activities when I could.
In the spring it was fun and easy to go for a hike around a lake. I remember thinking to myself, when the weather warms up, I’ll not only hike, but also swim in those beautiful BC lakes.
However, when the sunny and hot days arrived after the “Junuary”, to my disappointment, I found out that going for a swim in a lake was not going to be as easy I thought. After driving 1.5 hours toward Alouette Lake Park, as we were arriving at our destination, we noticed a steady stream of cars slowly leaving the park. The parking lot was full, so we decided to try another nearby park, Cultus Lake. Parking there also proved to be difficult, but we managed to find a spot. However, once we succeeded to walk to the beach, I founded it to be too crowded for my liking.
I found out later that recreational lake parking lots were filling as early 7 AM! So, I gave up on the lake idea.
Later when I learned that the local swimming pool re-opened, I was very excited. However, that option also proved to be difficult. The Kitsilano pool I like was open, but with Covid-19 restrictions; one had to pre-book in advance and only allowed to stay 1.5 hours including the time in the changing rooms.
The gym I used to attend periodically has remained closed during the entire period of the pandemic.
I finally had a 2 week break from my work in August. So, I said to myself, why don’t I buy a bike? I have been observing many people enjoying bike-riding since March. Not having ridden a bike for 25 years, I saw this as a good opportunity to get back into cycling and get back into shape.
Alas! Buying a bike also proved to be very difficult. At first I went to the Reckless Bike Store in Kitsilano. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I found a line of people on the street in front of it. An employee told me the store did not have bikes left, and I should try their Davie Street location. The Davie street location was also very busy. I explained the style of the bike I was looking for, and did not limit it to a brand or a price range. In fact it was just a common bike I was seeking. I was told that they did not have any either, but they were expecting a shipment in 2 weeks. The price was going to be between $600 and $1200. I put my name on the list. I was also looking for a bike rack for my car. They were also sold out of those, and suggested I check The Rack Attack on the East side. Upon arrival, I discovered The Rack Attack was also very busy, again with a line of customers in front of it. The employee could only spend 5 minutes with me. They too had ran out of what I needed. So, I put my name on a waitlist. I was told to expect the arrival in 2 months or so, and the rack plus the hitch would cost around $1200. I realized only after leaving that I could not ask any questions during those 5 minutes. (I called them later on another day, and was able to get some answers)
Alas, I was hoping to cycle during my 2 week break!!
Still looking for a bike, I tried Ride On Again Bikes in Kitsilano. Again there was a line of customers on the street in front of it. When I told what I was looking for, an employee pointed a pair of bikes to me, and said the price was $900 (each). They did not look they were worth that much money at all. I said “It is a bit expensive, I’ll think”. He replied “As you wish, there are only 2 of them left”
Later my friend Eylem Sonmez, who knew of my difficulties, advised me to check Canadian Tire. There they had what I wanted, but it was in a box downstairs and needed assembly. The price was around $450. I was told to come back around 3-4 PM the next day, as they would completely sell out by the weekend. The sales person -I think his name was Pedro-, seemed genuinely helpful. Ironically, when I went back at 4 PM the next day, I was told they were all sold out. I said “But Pedro advised me to come back at 4”. So they called Pedro who was working downstairs at the store. I was told he was going to put together a bike for me in 1/2 hour, and I could come back the next day to pick it up. I resolved to to spend the 1/2 hour at the store, to guarantee the bike. I also needed accessories for the bike, in any event, and the sales person Gareth, fresh from UK, was very helpful and pleasant. This time, I was not rushed. I also checked the car parts department to see if I could get a bike rack from them. They had the same bike rack that I was now on a waitlist for at Rack Attack, and for a cheaper price. However they too did not have the hitch. Realizing their prices would be lower, I insisted they place an order for that hitch. But we discovered the sales person could not even place the order, as wholesaler was also out of stock! After 2 hours!! of waiting in the store, my bike finally emerged intact from “downstairs”. Hallelujah! Apparently the delay was due to a miscommunication between the store “Upstairs” and the “Downstairs”. In order to apologize for the wait, Pedro kindly installed the basket for me free of charge. By time it emerged I was very tired, and also late for an appointment, so, I quickly payed for the bike and left.
The next day Eylem told me “Bahar it was in the news today, the bike shortage”.
It turns out the fitness addicts locked out of gyms, commuters fearful of public transit, and families going stir crazy inside their homes during the coronavirus pandemic had created a boom in bicycle sales, the likes of which not seen in decades. The bicycle shops across the country had almost no inventory left.
The main manufacturers located in China were unable to meet the demands, as the factories were closed during the lockdown.
The increased interest in biking and the low-inventory trend was apparently mirrored around the globe!
Here’s another interesting example of a booming market due to the pandemic that I discovered.
I took a couple of paintings to a framing shop a month ago. While paying for the job I was told -to my surprise- to come back 1-1.5 months! I learned that the shop had been busier than ever. The sales person’s explanation was : “I guess people were staring at their walls too long during the lockdown.”
Apparently puppy sales also boomed during the pandemic, while other businesses went bankrupt such as yoga and fitness salons, bars, restaurants, live entertainment venues, just to name a few.
I am now happy like a child whose parents just bought her a bike. I got it in the nick of a time, before the rainy season is about to begin in Vancouver. However, my 2-week break from work has just come to an end.
Bahar Çınarlı / Notre Anatolie / Bizim Anadolu / August 21st, 2020
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