It’s no secret that while bicycling is popular, bike shops are suffering. This hit home for A Dude when he was in Bicycle Sport Shop on Guadalupe yesterday and learned that it was going to shut down. Retail will stop on September 28, but repairs may continue for a little while. When word hit two years ago hat the local chain was taking over the site of dearly departed Ozone Bikes (which lasted 23 years!), people were happy and relieved.
But the sales of nearby college students and homeowners never materialized. It’s especially sad because this is where Sophie the Fairdale Weekender Archer that I won in a raffle came from here, and I’ve gotten to know the shop folks. The good news is that all the employees they’ll all be able to be absorbed into the remaining BSS shops to keep their jobs.
Dockless Bikes and Scooters: The Bicycle Killers?
The other shop that’s closing is Waterloo Cycles, further down Guadalupe. The owner Michael is forced to close due to losing his lease, and similarly stalled sales. While I didn’t frequent the shop, the owner has been a long-time fixture and maintained a quirky, “Keep It Weird” vibe that certain places and people in Austin still evoke. We’ll be sad to see his shop go, too.
The question must be asked, though the answer isn’t clear. It seems obvious that the ubiquitous damn contraptions are at least partly responsible for the downturn in bike sales. Why buy when you can rent one on a whim and ditch it just as easily? No fuss, no muss with storage, repairs, worry about theft, etc. It makes sense if you’re a college student, young adult or even kid — at one level. Those demographics might have the money to burn, but they might not.
I’ve never used either (well, I tried a scooter for like 10 seconds and promptly decided they were too risky). I can see the attraction. For me as a car-free commuter and more, not having a bike is not an option. Hopefully it’s a long way off into the future before I won’t be able to physically ride a bike. But the attraction of scooters and rent a bikes never made sense for me. Sure, a tourist or college kid, even a downtown office worker.
The Bike Industry Is Hurting Nationwide
I’m not positive that’s the only reason the shops are closing. I don’t have all the details and am no expert, but it’s not just Austin where bike shops are hurting. Online sales, a fear of biking on the road and an uptick of injuries and deaths, in-home trainers and the popularity of spin classes.
There’s also maybe fewer kids having to (or being allowed to) bike to school. That means when they are adults, the previous young bicyclist may discourage their own kids from biking for safety reasons. Or they could just drive them everywhere. Suburban sprawl tends to not build a lot of bike lanes, either.
I’m just speculating, but this article from Bicycle Retailer in 2016 talked about rain, low gas prices and other factors in closures at that time. A month ago, Bicycle Sport Shop owner and super nice guy Hill Abell was quoted in an article in the Austin American-Statesman about how hard it was to find bicycle mechanics.
“This is the tightest labor market that I have seen since 1999,” during the height of the dot-com boom, said Bicycle Sport Shop owner Hill Abell, who noted that turnaround times for bike repairs at one of his five locations ballooned to as many as 10 days for a short time recently because of high demand and a dearth of bike mechanics. “It has reached a crisis level (and) it’s really having a negative impact on our business.”-Hill Abell
Bike shops will continue to live on. You’ll never be able to buy a bike online and have the same experience, expertise, and camaraderie that comes from the human touch of a bike shop. Go support yours and buy a bike today! (Or send me the money and I’ll get a new one for me!)
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