Brian Miller, store manager of Freewheel Bike in Woodbury, said business has been "very, very busy" recently.

"We're experiencing double the sales that we're used to," Miller said.

Deemed essential by Gov. Tim Walz's March 25 executive order, bike shops have stayed open during the COVID-19 pandemic because they help with transportation.

Miller said the shop is usually busy this time of year, but because of the pandemic and resulting closures of gyms, people are looking to biking as a way to exercise. Both sales and service are up, he said, as people dig their old bicycles out of the garage and bring them for repairs.

In neighboring Oakdale, an employee who answered the phone at Gateway Cycle said he wouldn't have time to answer questions because he was "about 20 customers deep."

The recent opening of off-road cycling trails, like at Carver Lake Park and Battle Creek Regional Park, has also likely encouraged both new and experienced riders to get outside, Miller said.

A recent shutdown of bicycle manufacturers in Asia motivated bike shops like Freewheel to buy up "pretty much anything under $1,000" to make sure they wouldn't run out of stock, Miller said. What he and many other bike shops in the metro didn't anticipate was that sales would increase dramatically, too.

Freewheel has taken several precautions while serving customers in an adjusted noon to 6 p.m. daily schedule. Miller said they encourage people to do "pre-shopping" online before they come to the store to cut down on browsing time, as well as limiting the amount of people in the store, establishing a line outside if needed and "cleaning constantly." Freewheel is also offering curbside pickup of web orders and offering the ability to chat live with employees through their website from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.

"We're constantly adapting to make it as smooth as possible," Miller said.

A growing cycling community

The city of Woodbury had planned to designate May as "bike month" to correspond with National Bike Month, which the League of American Bicyclists has promoted since 1956. But because of the pandemic, the league and the city will likely postpone the designation, along with events like "Bike to Work Day," until September.

Construction of a bike park at Carver Lake has also been delayed, recreation manager Reed Smidt said. Planned for spring, June 1 is now the goal for opening the area.

In 2019, Woodbury was named a Bicycle Friendly Community, a national award from the League of American Bicyclists that recognizes a combination of infrastructure, education and safety related to cycling in a community.

"Arterial roads are punctuated by large roundabouts, which can be smartly circumnavigated by bicyclists and pedestrians via underpasses, overpasses, and luxuriously protected refuge islands," reads the city's write up on the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota's website. "The City is also investing in recreational facilities, including the six popular miles of mountain bike trails at Carver Lake Park. "

It was the first east metro suburb to earn the title, which is held by 31 other communities in Minnesota and 488 across the United States.

Woodbury's Carver Lake trail also hosts the annual Cold Catfish Cup Winter Bike Race and a local chapter of the Little Bellas, a mountain biking and mentoring organization for girls and young women.