Nfld. & Labrador

Fine tuning: Teens build bike repair shop in their St. John's garage

In the midst of a global pandemic, which fell on the heels of Snowmageddon, there has been a resurgence of cycling on the island.

Thomas and James Drover saw demand for cycle tuneups

Brothers Thomas, left, and James Drover have turned their garage into a bike repair shop. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

In the midst of a global pandemic, which rode in on the heels of Snowmageddon, there's a resurgence of bicycling in Newfoundland. 

Cycle shops in St. John's and Corner Brook have seen a rise in sales and an uptick in people looking to get bikes turned up and road ready.

Brothers Thomas and James Drover saw a businesses opportunity and took advantage by opening their own repair shop — FlatOut Bicycle Service and Repair.

"I think this is possible because of the pandemic," Thomas Drover, 18, told CBC News.

"So many people are looking to get outside and ride their bikes with all this free time that they have. It's an activity that you can do while you are social distancing."

As the elder Drover, and the only one with a driver's licence, Thomas manages the small business and picks up bikes from people looking for tuneups. 

FlatOut Bicycle Service and Repair has been up and running only since last week. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

He drops them off at the garage in their family home in St. John's, and James Drover, 16, gets to work. 

"I've been working 10 hours a day," James said.

"We've had an overwhelming number of requests but we are keeping up."

James, an avid cyclist himself, picked up his bike repair skill set from his dad, Bruce. 

"He couldn't do it for me all the time. I figured it was time for me to start learning my own stuff," he said.

Now dear old Dad has no room for woodworking in the garage, as it's filled with bikes, tires and tools. 

James works on the bikes while Thomas tries to keep up with the barrage of emails from potential customers. 

Thomas does pickup and delivery and James does the tinkering — 10 hours a day. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Normally, Thomas would be gearing up to work in a summer camp; however, that didn't seem like a good job prospect given the COVID-19 global pandemic.

"It actually provided us with an opportunity where, normally, an opportunity would be harder to come by," the older Drover brother said.

"I was thinking maybe I won't have a job this summer but I was able to make one."

While James would much rather be riding his bike, he's happy to see more people turning to cycling. 

"It's a great opportunity now because of COVID to get out and bike around," he said.

"It's a safe way to get out of the house and keep your mind busy."

The brothers aren't alone in what they are seeing. 

The sport of cycling, whether on- or off-road, has been climbing.

Cycle Solutions owner, Peter Ollerhead — seen here in 2015 — says lots of people are looking for bikes in 2020. (CBC)

In Corner Brook, Cycle Solutions has seen an increase in demand for pedal power.

"Over the last four or five weeks we've gotten extremely busy," owner Peter Ollerhead said. "It's a bit of a silver lining for us during the pandemic."

The need for bike repairs has nearly doubled since last year, he said.

"There are people coming in that we haven't seen at all before. They are looking for bikes or bringing in any type of bike to get fixed up."

Chris Jerrett has been running Freeride Mountain Sports since 1997. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

At Freeride Mountain Sports in downtown St. John's, bikes have been practically pedalling themselves out the door. 

"We've been on a pretty good trajectory but this year just ramped up significantly. I think it has a lot to do with people just wanting to be outside," owner Chris Jerrett said.

Due to lobbying by cycling groups in North America, bike shops were deemed essential, as it's the main form of transportation for many.

Thanks to COVID-19, Jerrett had to get a little creative to sell bikes: if someone was interested in a bike on his website, he would drop it off and let them try it out for the day.

"If you wanted it you'd just pay for it, if you didn't, no big deal," he said. "It was pretty good, but we ran out of kids' bikes."

The Outfitters owner Jon Earle says it's been busy in the bike repair shop on Topsail Road. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The Outfitters has not only seen a rise in bike sales but an increased demand in bike tuneups.

Its shop on Topsail Road is filled with dozens of two-wheelers looking to get road-ready. 

"We are managing to keep up with the demand," said the Outfitters' Jonathan Earle. "People are starting to get out on their bikes and bringing in all shapes and styles for work and maintenance."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Jeremy Eaton is a reporter and videojournalist with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.

With files from Troy Turner


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