A series of interviews with bike related businesses are being conducted by GCAT board member, Jordan Richard. Here is the next one in the series. Please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of a bike friendly business that you want highlighted!
Paramount Skis-Bikes-Boards is one of our fantastic local bike shops in Guelph. They are located at 30 Arrow Road. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolved it was clear that bike shops would be impacted by a sudden surge in demand, but also supply shortages. This has undoubtedly had a big impact on their operations. Thanks to co-owner Lee Ferneyhough for taking the time to do this!
Don’t forget, current GCAT members receive a 10% discount* on parts and accessories at Paramount and most other Guelph bike shops!
GCAT: First of all, can you give us a summary of what your business is all about?
Paramount: We started in 1993 specializing in Skis and Sports. Over the years we streamlined and focused on 3 main sports; Skiing and Snowboarding in the winter months, and Cycling in the summer. We all love what we sell and it keeps things interesting switching the store every 6 months or so.
GCAT: What logistical and staffing changes have you been forced to make so far due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Paramount: Lots! First of all we have a couple staff members that are in the age bracket that is more at risk. They have either stopped working for the time being or have a reduced role that has their time here not overlapping with other coworkers.
We were thankfully considered “essential” for bicycle repair. This allowed us to keep the doors open to take in and drop off repair work. Thankfully we were also able to switch to online only sales to keep people on bikes. We switched to curbside only for both pickups and drop offs of online sales and service work. This remained that way until mid May when the restrictions were reduced. Since then we have a small sectioned off area at the front of the store that allows us to do the same as we were with curbside drop offs and pickups, but under the shelter of our own roof. This also allows us to know which items that people are looking at and interacting with, and allows us to know exactly which items we need to clean before returning to our shelves. We have been steaming all clothing, shoes, helmets and gloves before returning to our shelves, as well as using disinfecting wipes on all bikes that were touched by non staff members.
Finally we have reduced hours. Some of our staff members have young children, so we made the decision to switch to 11-5 Wednesday to Saturday to allow each family to coordinate childcare. Thankfully we have been able to keep our staff’s salaries to pre-covid numbers, regardless of the hours we have been opening.
GCAT: We’re hearing a lot about shortages of bikes and parts due to supply chain disruptions and a surge in demand. Is this affecting you?
Paramount: Absolutely!!!! We have never had this low of inventory. We are lucky enough to deal with two large cycling companies (Giant & Norco). Both of whom are known to have inventory throughout the season. Giant (the largest manufacturer of bicycles on the planet) sold out of kids bikes in March. Norco was not long after that. We have watched our inventory dwindle and dwindle all spring. So much so, that at the official start of summer, we had less bikes in the store than we would typically finish the season off with.
We have seen a pattern in what has sold out. It started with kids bikes, then moved on to entry level mountain and recreational hybrids. It then moved on to enthusiast bikes in the mid priced level and since has moved on to higher end models. Realistically, we really only have Gravel/Road and E-Bikes left in any sizable selection.
After bikes, we started to see shortages in Car Racks. So much so that all of our suppliers are backordered until later in the summer. After car racks we saw certain bike accessories start to run out. Our helmets and other items similar are drastically reduced.
Finally, since we, as well as most others in the cycling industry, do not have bikes to sell; our service work is incredibly backed up. To make matters worse, our suppliers are either incredibly backed up to get us product, or in some cases completely sold out of certain parts. So some bikes with typically easy repairs are not able to be finished as a certain part is backordered till the fall.
GCAT: Anecdotally, we know a lot more people are buying bikes and a lot more people are riding bikes at the moment. This is both for recreational purposes and for transportation purposes. What do you think the impact of this trend will be in the long-term?
Paramount: It can’t hurt. I’ve never witnessed more people on the local roads and trails (I’ve been riding for over 20 years). It’s great to see all the families and new cyclists see the joy first hand of riding on two wheels.
Typically when a motion for better cycling infrastructure or a new trail, or a bike park, etc, goes up for discussion there are a lot of people that don’t see it as money well spent. With more people on bikes, hopefully that number is reduced and the number of people advocating for it grows.
Our local cycling groups should see increased membership. This also allows them to broaden their scope of what is achievable with their resources. New trails, more rides, more events, more smiles!
More people on bikes is never a bad thing. This year we have definitely witnessed a growth of new cyclists as well as people that are remembering just how fun and healthy riding your bike can be. I don’t think that could be viewed as a negative thing.
GCAT: What needs to happen for our community to sustain this increase in cycling, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us?
Paramount: I think the obvious things. More trails. Better trails. Better infrastructure throughout the city, (bike lanes, bike paths, etc). I think a bike park would be great. I think our local cycling community is in good hands with our local cycling groups (obviously GCAT included) With greater memberships, it would be nice to see more of a voice at city hall and beyond. We have a very healthy cycling scene in Guelph. We have great mountain biking in the city limits, and many trails within a short drive. We are close to the countryside, with roads with less traffic. We have some great local events that already happen. We could do more though. Tour de Guelph could be a weekend event instead of just a day (I know this has been talked about, but it would be nice to see). We could have races, and bike rodeos, freestyle competitions, mountain bike rides. With our local trail network and our thriving craft beer and restaurant scene, it would be awesome to see an event that shows how easy it is to go grab a drink or a bite all by bike. Call it the “Ale Trail” or something along those lines. Events that cater to the young riders and families are also needed in greater numbers. Ice cream rides, and story times in a park are all things that have been done, but typically once a summer. These could happen more often. All these things have been discussed in some light, some are already in motion. We just need to inspire the new cyclists (both young and old) to keep going. We all know how much fun it is to ride a bike, we now just need to make an inclusive environment that inspires people to want to jump on their bike.
Our local bike shops, us included, love to be involved in these events. However it’s tough with a small staff and having to plan events during our busiest times. It would be nice to see, with greater participation numbers, that our community takes the reigns at these new initiatives.
GCAT: What advice do you have for someone looking to buy a bike right now, if they want to use their bike for transportation in Guelph?
Paramount: Well if they can find one in their size and budget, they are already ahead of the curve. After that I would set aside a significant portion of the purchase price for accessories. A helmet is always strongly recommended. After that a bell and lights will help. I personally use lights(especially rear) even in the daytime. Some riding attire only helps at keeping you comfortable on the bike. Fenders, racks, a lock, kickstands, pannier bags, etc. The accessories add up, so I would budget for it. On a commuter bike I would go as far as saying 50% of the purchase price of the bike. I think having the bike fit properly and in good working order goes without saying, but I will say it anyways. After that I would probably pre-ride your commute, to make sure you allot enough time to get to work on time (without rushing so you can enjoy your ride). I would look at the trail networks to make your commute a little less stressful and a lot more scenic. Finally I would say enjoy it, commuting by bike can be a great alternative.
*There are currently exceptions to the discount offer in place due to COVID. Not all discounts are available at the moment as bike shops adapt to the situation.