Amid high gas prices, some Windsorites turn to bikes — if they can find one

With gas prices rising, and the weather warming, in Windsor-Essex, residents are turning to bikes to save some money and get around the area.

Demand for bikes is rising, but stock in area bike shops is low

Demand for bicycles in Windsor-Essex is rising due to high gas prices and warm weather, but supply in area bike shops is low. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

With gas prices rising, and the weather warming, in Windsor-Essex, residents are turning to bikes to save some money and get around the area.

If they can find one, that is.

"There's a bike shortage still," said Mark Long, co-owner of Infinity Cycle in Windsor. "COVID created this shortage, and COVID is the reason why we're still having the shortage. Manufacturers are having trouble getting product out onto the showroom floor."

During a recent interview with CBC News, Infinity Cycle had just a handful of bikes in stock. Usually, the floor is filled with "nice, shiny" new bikes," Long said.

But despite the low stock, interest is high, he said.

"A lot of people are looking for a bike to commute," Long said. "They figure if they can even cut their commute by half, so two to three days a week, maybe they ride your bike to work. That makes a lot of sense for for most people."

The shop is busy with repair work, however — with new bike inventory so low, some people are fixing up their older bikes — and parts are available for now, although he expects that may change, as well.

But it's not for a lack of trying, Long said.

"Normally, we deal with just a couple bike companies and a couple parts suppliers," he said. "But in our attempt to to get more product in now, we're at about six by companies and in probably the same number of parts suppliers, as well."

"Just, you know, trying to find things."

Mark Long, co-owner of Infinity Cycle in Windsor, said the bike shortage began during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Interest at Bike Windsor Essex is also high, said executive director Laurie Newton.

"We're definitely having a lot of people come in who are becoming more serious about their cycling," she said. "They want to replace some of their car driving with riding a bike, so they're contacting us to figure out routes."

More-modern bikes suitable for commuting are also in high demand, Newton said.

"A lot of people are on very old, very heavy mountain bikes," she said. "They're coming in here and they're looking at our gravel bikes that are a little bit faster, a little bit lighter and a more-comfortable ride."

Another option are battery-assisted cargo bikes. Some people, Newton said, are even considering replacing their less-used second-vehicle with one.

And while Bike Windsor Essex currently has stock, she said it likely won't last, and encouraged people who are interested in a bike to get one soon.

"Bike riding is fun," she said. "And while at first it can feel a little bit intimidating, I've actually offered to take people in the community out for their first commute bike ride just to get them comfortable with where they're going and how they can get there."

Laurie Newton, executive director of Bike Windsor Essex, said it's important people take time to plan their route if they're going to begin commuting to work on a bike. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"We're not a very bike friendly city, so routing is challenging," she said. "People want to find a safe way to get to where they're working and not have to deal with places that feel unsafe, so planning your route is really, really important. And when it's your first time going to your workplace, it's something that you want to spend some time on.

Other things to keep in mind is the need for a good lock. She also encouraged businesses to provide visible bike parking, and even showers, in an effort to get more employees on two wheels.

"It means maybe incentivising your staff to come by bike," she said. "They're going to be better prepared for work."

"We know kids who walk or ride to school, they are better prepared to learn. So anything we can do to get people healthier and outside, it's a really great thing."

Long said he's confident the bike supply will increase, although it may take some time.

"We have quite a few bikes on order with with promise that they will be delivered from our manufacturers," he said. "But it's just a matter of them, kind of trickling in."


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