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Bike shops play key role in second COVID-19 lockdown

Unlike the two-month lockdown in Paris this past spring, the second lockdown this autumn is somewhat less restrictive.

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As much of Europe hunkers down as it struggles with a hard-hitting second wave of the coronavirus, in cities like Paris, bike shops are a playing key role in keeping the metropolis alive and moving.

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Unlike the two-month lockdown this past spring, the second lockdown this autumn is somewhat less restrictive. Schools are open and certain businesses remain open, too. And for those that cannot work from home, cycling is proving to be a preferred method of transportation.

“This confinement is a bit more relaxed,” says Jean-Michel Moyen, the owner of Alesia Cycles a small bike shop in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. “You see people outside, and people are riding bikes to work. And this time around, we are allowed to stay open, as bike shops are considered an essential service.”

Moyen opened his shop less than two years ago and he has witnessed the growth of cycling as people in the city have taken to their bikes to battle transportation strikes or the current health crisis. “Already with the transportation strikes in January, there was a huge increase in cycling. And now with the coronavirus, more and more people prefer to ride their bike rather than take public transport.”

Moyer said that, with the pandemic, more people are turning to bikes for commuting instead of utilizing public transportation. Photo: James Startt

Alesia Cycles quickly became a fixture in this quiet neighborhood on the Left Bank of the city as the Moyen’s shop focuses on personalized service. Situated on Rue d’Alesia, Moyen’s shop is just around the corner from where Salvador Dali once had a studio and where Henry Miller wrote the opening pages of Tropic of Cancer.

“We work with smaller bike brands like Salsa, Ritchey, and Brother Cycles, and for most of our clients we build the frames up according to their needs and budget. But we also work on bikes that people bring in to us that need repairs. Some shops only work on bikes they sell, but that is not my approach. I am part of the community here and people see that I am invested.”

While Moyen has seen a steady increase in cycling as a means of transportation, the road has been littered with obstacles. “First we were closed for two months during the lockdown this spring,” he said. “And then when people finally got back outside, the demand was simply too high. We couldn’t keep bikes in stock and we couldn’t keep up with all the repairs.”

Moyen insists that bikes are still in short supply, “Our next shipment is not due until January 2021.” But repairs remain an integral part of his work. “We are definitely doing less repairs than usual since a lot of people are working from home. But there is still a steady demand.”

Unlike some shops that resist working on older bikes, Moyen takes pride in keeping vintage bikes on the road. “That is what I am here for. To keep people’s bikes running properly. And I really take pride in working on these old bikes.”

Alesia works on smaller brands like Salsa, Ritchey, and Brother Cycles. Photo: James Startt

Moyen said that when it comes to bike maintenance, there is even an element of national pride. “I just love working on old French bikes. They are solid bikes and the mechanics are pretty simple,” he says while taking a break from working on an old Motobecane ladies cruiser. “Look at this bike. It is what, 40 or 50 years old? And it is still running well. Really for me, these bikes are part of France’s patrimony.”