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Rows of bicycles at Talbot's Cyclery in San Mateo,Calif., Tuesday, May 13, 2008. . Local bicycle retailers say sales are brisk, as more consumers are using bikes to run errands and to save money on gas. JOHN GREEN/SAN MATEO COUNTY TIMES

Rising gas prices aren't usually a hot topic at bike shops — until gas prices hit $4 a gallon.

Now it's all the buzz, as more people dust off their old bikes for some alternative transportation. A tune-up, new tires and some oil on that rust usually gets them back on the road.

Some people are commuting to work with their two-wheelers, and others are adding baskets, racks or saddlebags so they can go to the store for groceries without driving.

"This is about utility use, not recreation," said Gary Moore, owner of Talbot's Cyclery in San Mateo. "People are looking at the pump and trying to find some other way."

Moore said the bike business is up 10 percent, including new bike sales.

There also has been a re-emergence of bikes that have not seen pavement in years. They are being dragged out of the garage and put back together. Most are still in good shape after a tune-up, Moore said.

"Some of them are coated in dust and rolling in with flat tires," said Geoff Linenberger, mechanic at Summit Bicycles in Burlingame. "We add a fender or a tire and some lights, and they're fine."

Linenberger has seen an increase in high-end commuter bike sales as well as grocery racks for the older rigs.

"People are talking about how disgusted they are about filling up their tanks," he said of his customers. "Some are riding their bikes to the train station to commute."


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Troy Schreier, owner of California Sports & Cyclery in Belmont, said people used to have "more aggressive" bikes when recreation was driving the market.

But now they are looking more for comfort: softer seats; higher handlebars, so they don't have to bend over while riding; and easier-to-use gears, he said.

"No doubt, some of these bikes haven't been out of the garage in 10 years," he said.

New bike sales are healthy, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association. About 18 million bikes were sold last year in the $6 billion U.S. industry, and this year looks stronger, said Fred Clements, executive director of group.

"Bike shops are reporting more utility use of the bicycles they're selling today," he said.

"It's interesting that people are finally figuring out that there's more than fun and recreation to bikes," said Moore, who commutes more than nine miles each way to work every day on his bike.

Bob Weger, owner of Go Ride Bicycles in Redwood City, said he, too, is seeing bikes being used for more practical purposes.

"There's a lot more commuting," he said. "People are looking for an alternative way to get around."

Reach Tim Simmers at 650-348-4361.

or tsimmers@bayareanewsgroup.com.