Just in time for the truly warmer weather, bike repair businesses in Hay River have sprung up to fill a need that seems to only be growing.
“I think biking is gaining momentum,” said Ecology North’s Kim Rapati. “I think there are a few people in town who are really dedicated, but it looks like it’s growing slowly.”
The several people offering bike repairs can mainly be found on Facebook, but Brian Burke, one new entrant into the market, said word of mouth is really the key in Hay River.
“I started a few months ago when I fixed my roommate’s bike,” he told The Hub, going on to explain how he had asked what the bike repair shop in Yellowknife was charging and came to the conclusion that he could do it for less money and in much less time. “A week later a guy at work said he had heard I fixed bikes, and I hadn’t even told anybody yet.”
Burke works as a pilot and splits time – and now his repair business – between Yellowknife and Hay River. Although he is in Hay River six evenings a week, Burke has so far been kept pretty busy fixing bicycles. In the two weeks since he started promoting his hobby-turned-business venture, he has done about a dozen repairs.
“I enjoy fixing bikes,” he said. “It’s good to see people out riding them, especially when the weather is nice. But sometimes people buy them, then some little thing goes wrong and they don’t know what to do with it, so the bike gets tucked away in the garage.”
Rapati also thinks the seemingly daunting task of relatively simple repairs can dissuade many potential cyclists.
Earlier in the spring, Ecology North held a workshop that aimed to teach people the very basics, but she agreed there is definitely a market for more complicated repairs, as well as maintenance.
“Having bike repair services right in town and easily accessible might make it easier for those who are hesitating or who have a bike they don’t use,” Rapati said.
Apart from being small enough to easily navigate from between the handlebars, Rapati credits Hay River with being the sort of place where start-up businesses can really find a foothold. She said she herself saw a need in the community, created a job for herself at Ecology North last year, and has been working with the town and various community groups ever since.
“That’s something really great about Hay River,” she said. “It’s great to see small businesses taking initiative. They saw a gap in the market and are filling it.”
— Sarah Ladik