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December 17th, 2008 Mariah Summers | News Stories
 

Business Cycle

Is the recession pushing Portland’s bike business uphill or downhill?

     
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IMAGE: waltonportfolio.com

In a city where 8 percent of commuters list biking as their primary means of transportation to and from work, one might think the cycling industry would prove recession-proof.

Jonathan Maus, founder of BikePortland.org, says it’s too early to tell how hard the recession will hit the bike industry because its high selling season won’t start for a couple of months. But some signs have surfaced already about who will struggle and who won’t among the 73 bike businesses listed in the Portland Yellow Pages.

“Those that focus on commuting and functional bikes will be doing better than others who specialize in more high-end, lightweight racing bikes,” Maus says.

Meanwhile, WW hit a few Portland bike shops to find out how things look just before Christmas.

The Shop Fallout From The Recession
The Bike Gallery
Six locations in Portland, Beaverton and Lake Oswego.
Matt Glynn, assistant manager of the Bike Gallery’s Woodstock location, says customers are hauling dusty bikes from their garages for tune-ups and repairs but forgoing new purchases. “Our salespeople are bored and our mechanics are busy,” says Glynn.
Coventry Cycle Works
2025 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
This small shop in Southeast specializes mainly in recumbent commuter bikes that sell for between $1,000 and $2,000. And owner Sherman Coventry says business has remained good over the past few months. “People want comfortable bikes, and recumbent bikes are a good long-term investment,” Coventry says. “My business is actually growing. I’ve had the best November in the past two years.”
Fat Tire Farm
2714 NW Thurman St.
Tom Wilder, manager of this Northwest shop specializing in high-end performance mountain bikes priced from $2,000 to $5,000, says business has been down about 3 percent since summer’s end. And he doesn’t see it rebounding soon. “We’ve definitely seen an impact,” Wilder says. “Things are a little bit quieter, and we aren’t seeing the growth we usually see.”
River City Bicycles
706 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Owner David Guettler says his 25 years in the bike biz has taught him the industry seems relatively safe in hard times because of bikes’ gas savings and health benefits. “I’ve seen a lot of economic cycles,” Guettler says. “And the bike industry is pretty insulated. Business has been phenomenal this year and is holding steady.” Guettler’s shop in Southeast specializes in commuter bikes ranging in price from $400 to $2,000.
The Recyclery
730 SW 11th Ave.; 1417 SE 9th Ave.
The Recyclery, which opened its westside location in June, focuses on repairing old bikes and using secondhand parts to build new ones. The promise of saving customers money if they don’t mind a recycled bike seems to be working. “People like us because we’re friendly, and if you have a crappy bike, we won’t turn you away,” says manager Ian Medley. “Our average price also runs around $375 to $500, which is less expensive than most bike shops because we do as much recycling as possible.”
 
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