Tubes and tune-ups

Local bike shops are in overdrive, but is cycling safe during the pandemic?

Steve O’Bryan has seen a lot of dusty bikes wheeled through the front door of his downtown Chico shop, Pullins Cyclery, in recent weeks.

People are feeling stir-crazy under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place order, O’Bryan said. Customers have told him that they’re taking to the outdoors on two wheels to escape the monotony and get some physical activity.

“We’re working a lot of high-quality bikes and then we’re just rehabing bikes that have been hanging in the garage for years and they haven’t gone anywhere,” O’Bryan said. “The standard line is, ‘Replace the tubes, give it a tune up.’”

Business typically booms for Chico’s bike industry this time of year, when the weather is mild. Plus, the Wildflower Century typically is held in late April. But this past month has been exceptionally busy. Local shop owners told the CN&R they are swamped—mostly processing an overwhelming amount of repairs—and that wait times may be a little longer than usual as a result.

Tyler Schrock, owner of North Rim Adventure Sports, admitted “it’s a great problem to have.” While so many industries have had to lock up indefinitely, bike shops are considered an essential service and therefore are thriving amid the economic slowdown wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schrock said his shop is still tending to longtime customers while helping many new ones purchase a new bike or fix up an old one. The trend is clear:
Given that their typical routines have been disrupted and group activities and gatherings have been canceled, people are turning to the outdoors for recreation.

“Now we’re seeing more and more people that, because they have to stay inside, they’re deciding that they should go exercise. It’s great,” he said. “I hope that once we’re through all this that we see people still getting outside and riding bikes and being active with their kids.”

Staying safe

Butte County Public Health supports cycling and other forms of outdoor activity during the pandemic as an important way to maintain physical and mental health.

That stance is backed up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which promotes physical activity amid the pandemic as a way to sustain one’s physical and mental well-being. Visiting parks, trails and open spaces helps people relieve stress, get fresh air and vitamin D, stay active and safely connect with others, according to the federal agency.

However, there are some added safety precautions to take into account.

Public Health spokeswoman Lisa Almaguer said those exercising outdoors should be healthy and able to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet.

Crowded places are a problem. Almaguer said she’s witnessed congestion at popular destinations, like One-Mile Recreation Area in Lower Bidwell Park and Monkey Face in Upper Bidwell Park. She recommends park-goers visit such destinations at non-peak hours or go somewhere else in order to stay safe.

“It’s really simple: If they find it hard to maintain their space, they should leave that area,” she said.

Parking lots are another area that can get crowded quickly, she added, so people should try to park away from others or, if that’s unavoidable, make sure they do not exit their vehicle at the same time as others.

In addition, all group sports and activities and any public equipment should be avoided. This includes picnic tables, water fountains and playgrounds.

“We still don’t know how long the virus can live on surfaces, so until we have definitive information, all of the equipment should remain untouched,” Almaguer said.

Masks are a matter of personal preference when it comes to outdoor activity, she said. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

Both Pullins and North Rim have implemented safety measures, such as increasing sanitizing, having employees wear masks and gloves, reducing hours open to the public, and limiting the number of people allowed inside at one time.

For those who haven’t hit the trail in a while, it’s important to remember the basics of bike safety, too, O’Bryan added. Before every ride, make sure both tires are pumped up, the chain is lubricated, and a helmet is securely fashioned, he said. For those who are new to the trails or need some navigation help, free bike maps can be picked up at local shops (just mind adjusted hours) or accessed online.

“It’s a beautiful time to be in Chico and the area and be out riding,” O’Bryan said. Seeing so much interest in outdoor exercising is encouraging, “because it puts people back in touch with the outdoors.”

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