Shop owner says bicycle parts are the ‘toilet paper of five months ago’
VANCOUVER — Edward Eley was outside of his storefront the other day, like every other day, working on a bicycle.
A sign placed in front of more than a dozen bicycles reads: Sorry. We are full.
Right then, a customer shows up to pick up his ride.
“I can effectively bring in one more bike now,” Eley says with a smile.
One bike gets picked up, another takes its place.
Rollin Right Bike Repair and Services is a booming business. More people are riding their bikes. Plus, there is an international bike shortage. If it’s tough to buy a new bike, one must get the old bike repaired.
That has its challenges, as well, though.
“Bicycles and bicycle parts are the toilet paper of five months ago,” Eley said. “Remember the toilet paper? Safeway’s out. All the major stores are out. What about AM-PM or 7-11? Or the obscure corner market in the neighborhood? They were out, too.
“That’s where bicycle parts are right now.”
So Rollin Right and other bike shops are making due with what they have, working incredible hours.
“My 10-hour days are my easy days,” Eley said. “I’m doing 14 and 16. At 16 hours, my wife (Stephanie) physically closes my store. ‘You’re done. You’re done.’”
Like so many business owners, Eley was worried when the government’s reaction to COVID-19 was to shut down much of the economy. In fact, he closed his shop for a week.
“We didn’t know what businesses were essential or what was going on with this pandemic,” Eley said.
But in the middle of that concern, the experts advised folks to do something that would change Eley’s business.
“Due to COVID, millions of Americans were told to stay at home, but if they needed to exercise, go on a walk or go on a bike ride,” Eley said.
He reopened his business and …
“Out of control,” he said.
“No business school could have taught businesses to watch out for something like this,” he said. “Clorox, a massive company, is having trouble keeping up with customer demand. No one thought that rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, and bicycles would be the hottest things in our country.”
But of course manufacturers overseas also were hit with COVID. Demand was on the rise, but production was not. It takes a while to start up again after a shutdown.
“I’ve waited months for 26-inch size inner tubes, which is a staple,” Eley said. “Water bottle cages. Saddles. Pedals. The seats I have are $150 seats because that’s what’s left.”
Still, he is plenty busy with the repair jobs that he can do without any new parts. Eley specializes in whatever bicycle is brought to his shop. He will work his skills on a bike worth thousands of dollars as well as the most inexpensive bike one can find.
“Just go ride, ride, ride and be happy,” he said.
He has another request. When he is finished, please pick up the bike in a timely manner. He has more bikes than space.
“When I bring all these in at the end of night, I have to strategically do it so I can get out,” he said. “I’ve got bicycles in my office, in my bathroom, in my storage room. People have got to pick their stuff up.”
Of course, having so much business is a good problem to have.
Eley said he is not about the bottom line, though. On several occasions, he has given a repaired bike back to a customer at no charge. Pay it forward, he asks. And keep riding.
Eley grew up in Oakland, Calif., but moved to the Northwest about 20 years ago because he wanted to live in a place that was friendly. He brought his love for bicycles with him.
He said he loves the simplicity of the bicycle, how it can get you anywhere in the world.
“It’s pretty much the most efficient mechanical machine that we’ve created,” Eley said. “All you have to do is keep turning pedals.”
Now, he shares that love with others.
“I see what happens when you make a person happy, when you make them smile, when you take something that was an issue for them, and you make it better,” Eley said.
“That’s what I do.”
Rollin Rock Bike Repair and Services is located at 11015 NE Burton Road in Vancouver. The phone number is: (360) 719-0515