Fitness in the time of COVID
E-Cycliste: changing the world one bike at a time
A bike shop that recently opened in the heart of Aylmer has continued to serve the local cycling community during the COVID-19 pandemic, while keeping a healthy social distance. Located on rue Principale, E-Cycliste is a one-stop shop offering a number of services such as tune-up, fixing and bike-fitting, and a wide range of high-quality products manufactured in Canada, from motorized and classic bikes from Canadian brands to high performance accessories.
Officially opened on March 6, the business was forced to deal with the fall-out from the pandemic only days after its opening, according to its owners Éric Thibault and Natasha Zanolin. Because of the lockdown, Thibault said the cycling industry has exploded, noting that it has become harder than ever to land certain products.
It has also meant an increased demand for bicycle repair services. To continue offering repair services to its customers, while ensuring a safe environment for its staff and customers, E-Cycliste has made significant changes to its service model to respect social distancing requirements.
Its repair shop can only take in 10 bikes per day because safety precautions limit it to two mechanics working at a time instead of four. With a full staff, Thibault said they could easily take in twice as many bikes for servicing, noting that two mechanics would often work after hours as well. Functioning on an appointment-based protocol, Thibault explained that he takes in bikes between 9:30 and 10:30, then inspects them individually before emailing estimates to clients.
The store has limited its client capacity to one person at a time and has also conducted a lot of business activities outside the store or online when possible. “It’s easier this way,” Thibault said. “We can manage two, three, four people at the same time as long as they keep their distance.” In addition, all payment and almost all communication with clients has been conducted online. “We had to adjust accordingly,” Thibault said. “Production is cut by 50 per cent. It’s okay. We’re still doing well.”
While it can take up to three weeks to get a bike service appointment because of the pandemic, Thibault and Zanolin pride themselves in completing service repairs within a 48-hour window – barring missing parts.
Operating from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, people can book appointments for tune-ups or other services via E-Cycliste’s website - https://ecycliste.ca/rendez-vous-1. Noting that May is typically the busiest month of the year – around 50 per cent of annual revenue – for bike shops, Zanolin said that this April was considerably busier than in past years with people stuck at home. As big believers in community, Zanolin and Thibault said one of their purposes is to make the world of cycling as inclusive as possible, by offering a wide variety of products that can suit cyclists of all levels.
When life gets back to normal, the owners said they intend on making the shop more than just a service counter, by implementing a café-style set-up where clients could ideally stop in for coffee and chat with their mechanic. “Our vision is that we want to have a separate space where we would have homemade desserts and have a place where people can come and be together,” Zanolin said.
But until then, Zanolin said they will be very careful with how they operate, noting that the safety of customers and employees is their top priority. While Thibault and Zanolin aren’t strangers to work in the bike industry, the new store is their first go at running a brick and mortar shop.