Gearing up

New Hampshire bike stores gear up for warm weather

New Hampshire Union Leader
March 30. 2014 6:42PM
Jeremy Smith puts a new part on a bike Friday morning at S&W Sports in Concord. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER)

In a typical year, bicycle stores would already be doing a brisk business in sales and service by the end of March. But our lack of a February thaw and the continued cold temperatures and frequent snowstorms have bike store personnel bracing for a surge of activity in the next few weeks as temperatures reach the 50s and even 60s.

Patrick Lessard, who operates the Bike Barn in Manchester with his brothers, said: "Weather has everything to do with it."

In a normal year, said Lessard, business at the store at 33 S. Commercial St. tends to slow down by the end of October, picks up briefly at Christmas, then slows again until mid-February. "When people have their tax return money," or know they will be getting it, they come in and put a bike on layaway, he said. But that presumes the February weather that we didn't get this year, said Lessard.

Every year can't be like last year when March and April were warm, but when we get a couple of days of 60-degree weather, "it's light a light switch," said Lessard. People want a new bike, or their old one tuned up.

Tim Farmer, owner of S&W Sports in Concord, sells and services both winter and summer sports equipment, but said "the bike part is the largest part of our business." Except in years when there are weather extremes.

While there are years when you can be riding in Feburary, he noted: "If it starts early, it peters out." This year, with its prolonged cold and snow he said: "There's definitely a pent-up demand."

That includes bike sales and tuneups and Farmer said he's instituted a 48-hour turnaround for service, which may make for some long days this spring for the technicians.

There is a large vacant paved lot across from S&W Sports, at 296 S. Main St., and Farmer said: "We do some training there." If you buy a new bike, store personnel will work with you on the etiquette of riding.

To reach the younger generation, he said: "We do rodeos at schools," teaching bike safety, which includes wearing a helmet up to age 16, front and rear lights before sunrise and after sundown, and obeying traffic laws that pertain to wheeled vehicles, which includes bicycles.

Concord Police Lt. Timothy O'Malley said this time of year is tough because there are still snowbanks and drivers need to be alert, because youngsters on bicycles can suddenly appear from behind a snowbank, or skid on a patch of ice.

The Concord Police Department will hold its annual bicycle auction Friday, April 11, at the Green Street Community Center, with viewing at 5:30 p.m. and the auction beginning at 6 p.m., said O'Malley. "We do recover some pretty nice bikes," he said. He recommends registering your bike, so it can be returned if it's stolen.

The Manchester Police Department no longer holds a bike auction. "We have all the property sold on," said Sgt. Brian O'Keefe.

Lost and stolen property that cannot be returned to the rightful owner gets auctioned online by the site used by police departments throughout the country.

O'Keefe said few people register bikes with the police department any more, "which makes it more difficult to find owners." So the Manchester Police Department ends up with hundreds of recovered, but unregistered, bikes in storage every year, he said.

Found property with a value over $250 is kept for 180 days, while anything valued at less than that is kept for 90 days.

The departments bike officer interact with kids on bikes often, said O'Keefe. He said one of the important aspects of that interaction is that the officers are role models as adult riders wearing helmets.

Lessard, at the Bike Barn, said parents should also be wearing helmets, especially when they ride with their children.

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