Bikes are in vogue during pandemic

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Standing on rice street is “eco e-bike Kaua‘i” business owner Jim Benkert with one of his electric bike.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Romie Mabyni is enjoying his daily ride around Lihue town.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Another version of an e-bike can be found at “eco e-bikes Kaua‘i” on rice street waiting to be rented out.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Jim Benkert stands infront of his Lihue bike shop off of rice street with one of his electric bikes.

LIHU‘E – These days Lihu‘e resident Romie Mabyni can be found pedaling around town, biking around his home near Wilcox Elementary School or over to the 7-11 store for a cold drink.

It’s a fairly new habit, one he picked up during the pandemic to pass the time and get some exercise.

“Since the pandemic started, I ride my bike two-five times a week to keep my heart healthy,” said Mabyni on a recent afternoon, taking a break from his trip to the convenience store. He said he always wears his white helmet and yellow vest, tools to make him more visible when he crosses the road.

Mabyni isn’t the only person picking up cycling during the pandemic. All across the nation business at bicycle-related establishments has picked up, and those on Kauai say they’ve also seen a boost in sales.

Jim Benkert, owner of eco e-bikes Kaua‘i said his bike sales are up by 200 percent since the pandemic started and since he opened his bike business in November of 2019.

“I initially started with eight rental bikes, when this pandemic hit, there were fewer people to rent them and people started calling me wanting to purchase them, “ said Benkert. “So I started selling my rental bikes. I only have two rental bikes left. I sold a dozen non-rental bikes plus.”

Benkert said Kaua‘i locals purchasing bikes for different reasons.

“People are doing all kinds of things with them. I have customers using them for work. I have a customer that rides them from Lihu‘e to the nursery every day, “said Benkert.

Benkert said his original goal is to get more people on electric bikes because they are fun and easy to use, and they’re a more earth-friendly way to travel.

“We want people to use them as the normal way of transportation around the island,” said Benkert. “I have been fixing donated used bikes for about a year in a half. I fix them up and give them away. So people can give me bikes they are not using cause there is a whole bunch of people who could use them.”

Benkert has fixed and given away about 150 bikes since he has opened his business.

Aside from selling or renting bikes, Benkert also started a community slow-roll bike event called “Bikes on Rice.” Which is every second Tuesday of every month that starts at 4:30 p.m. at the Lihue Civic Center.

Benkert’s e-bikes rentals for Kama‘aina start at $40 a day and $200 for a week. His prices for tourists start at $89 per day and $339 for a week.

On the Northshore, John Sargent, owner of Bike Doktor in Hanalei has been busy repairing bikes and selling refurbish bikes since Mayor Derek Kawakami considered bike shops an essential business.

“There are no bikes in the nation, every shop is sold out. No tubes, no tires, nothing left expect if you want to buy a $4000 bike online,” said Sargent. “Everybody is riding their bikes it’s a great thing, but since their bikes have been in storage for too long, most require maintenance.”

Sargent said nationwide everyone is fixing their old bikes and bike owners in Hawaii are the last ones to get bike parts.

“Since Mayor Kawakami said we are essential, I have been busy repairing bikes every day. People are bringing their bikes to me, and shipping them to me,” said Sargent.

Sargent said he encourages people to get their old unwanted bikes fixed.

“Bring them down, we hate to throw that stuff in our landfills. Our landfills cannot handle that stuff.”

Sargent has been fixing and donating bikes to those in need and also selling refurbish bikes for a little over $200.

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Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

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