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Bike Shops Riding High in Hurricane Sandy's Wake

Fort Greene's Red Lantern Bicycles reports big increase in sales since the storm.

As commuters battle miles-long lines at the pumps and hours-long waits for the subway, many are revisiting a mode of transportation abandoned since childhood: biking.

And nowhere has the sudden spike in cycling become more evident than at the borough's bike stores.

"Normally this time of year things are slowing down a little, but because no one can take the train or get gas, everyone and their mom has been coming in and getting bikes to rent," said Chombo, a mechanic at Fort Greene's Red Lantern Bicycles.

Chombo said sales at the Myrtle Avenue shop have jumped up 150 percent in the last week.

In addition to rentals, Chombo said commuters have also been reconnecting with their own disused Treks, Peugeots and Motobecanes.

"[People] have been lugging out these bikes from their basements that they now need to depend on," he said, adding that safety accessories have also flown off the shelves since Superstorm Sandy struck last Monday.

"The biggest seller has been lights, since most people are nervous about getting back on a bike for the first time since they were children," he said.

Kat Casale, a manager at Prospect Heights' Brooklyn Bike and Board, said panicked customers wiped clean the store's light selection almost immediately following the storm.

"I put lights out and they were gone within five minutes," she said. "We probably sold 200 or 300 lights."

While accessories — including helmets and locks — have been big sellers, Casale said the store also sold around 30 bikes in just two days.

And despite the cold weather heralding the end of cycling season, more people than normal have requested tune-ups for their dusty rides, many of which Casale said clearly haven't been used in years, if not decades. 

"You can definitely tell when a bike has been sitting around for a very, very long time," she said.

Nicole Bilu, co-owner of the Windsor Terrace bike-and-beverage retailer Juice Pedaler, said she hopes commuter's enjoyment of the sport means they will incorporate it into their daily lives, even after the effects of Sandy dissipate.

"It's a rediscovery of a past thing that many people hadn’t done in so long, and it took this tragedy to reintroduce it into their lives," she said. "Maybe people will realize it's nice not being at the mercy of $5 per gallon gas."

Casale agreed, saying that already, customers have returned to the shop to share their new-found love of riding.

"People have been coming in and saying "This takes less time, and I feel good," she said. "That’s a really nice thing to hear."

eveostay November 06, 2012 at 07:20 PM
I thought Brooklyn Bike and Board was defunct, and the shop at 560 Vanderbilt is now called Brooklyn Cycle Works.
josh November 06, 2012 at 10:10 PM
It did change names a while back. I think the guy with the black shorts actually fixed my bike a few years back...

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