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Bike biz takes off as homebound get out

Gym, school closures leave families with time on their hands

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When it comes to social distancing, residents of Nassau County’s South Shore may be luckier than most. With more than 60 miles of beautiful pedestrian trails and bike paths, the area in and around Seaford and Wantagh is a rich environment for anyone seeking a cure for cabin fever.

It is not surprising then, that the Covid-19 crisis and its concomitant cadre of stay-at-home families has been a boon for the bicycle business.

“Pretty much everything,” was one sales associate’s response at Merrick Bicycles when asked last Thursday what was selling. He was even too busy to give his full name, simply identifying himself as “Mike.”

Dan Sirota, one of the managers at Brands Cycle & Fitness, finally got a breather at 8 p.m. on Saturday evening. Normally, Wantagh’s venerable bicycle emporium, with more than 50 years’ experience, closes at 6. But with the crisis, the store has an appointment sheet similar to those used at computer stores to book consultations on equipment and exercise regimens.

Cycleries always show an uptick as winter gives way to spring, Sirota said, “but this year’s different.” People cooped up inside are looking for ways of escape.

The two stores limit the number of customers who may be inside at any time, and drop-ins are strongly discouraged. Some of the stores’ employees work from home, but “this is a face-to-face business,” Merrick’s Sean Mahon said on Monday morning, when the store was quieter. 

Both Sirota and Mahon said home exercise equipment was a top seller right now. Indoor trainers like Wahoo allow cyclists to program their courses, including factors like wind sheer, difficulty of gradient and even the country or area they want to cycle in.

And clubs have formed, according to Brands’ Byron James, enabling people to have some sense of social contact as they ride the loops in Central Park, for example.

On the other hand, demand for apparel has gone down. “We’re selling everything from kids bikes to racing bikes,” said Mahon. But clothes and shoes? Not so much, he said.