But, as our bike-crazy brothers and sisters in Northern Europe demonstrate winter after winter, transport cycling is not a seasonal sport. Even when the natural world provides less-than-frolicsome conditions, you can still make that average 3-4 kilometre commute on two wheels.
Well, in Budapest, if you do so, you do it with little company. Today, I ruefully noted this city's other telltale sign of fall: the closure of the bicycle shops.
After work, I went down to Bikebase on Podmaninszky út in search of a used bike. Walking down the street and keeping an eye out for the shop's orange and brown sign, I arrived at the körút having apparently walked right by it. I turned around for another pass wondering how I could have missed it. In a minute, I came to the sought-for address -- but the bikes were gone and in their place -- snowboards. Apparently, Bikebase converts to winter sporting gear every year from November 1 to the end of March.
This is such a common set-up in Budapest, it's a cliché. With few exceptions, bike shops in Budapest follow an identical business model of selling bike stuff in summer, skis and snowboards in winter. In most stores, there isn't even a reduced, basic stock of bike stuff to tie "off-season" through cyclists to spring. Even in large sporting goods shops like Hervis, the bicycles disappear entirely, with nothing more than a rack of bike gloves and other other carelessly selected items for the winter cyclist.
I can't begrudge business owners for wanting to make a year-round living. On the other hand, there are more and more transport cyclists in Budapest every year, and transport cycling doesn't stop for for winter. It'd be nice to have more shops that would stick by us through the cold season to provide servicing and parts and maybe some rain gear, mudguards and other winter-time accoutrements. And how about some bikes for us Christmas shoppers willing to spring for more than a stocking stuffer?
One shop that does go year round is the Pajtás Biciklibolt at Király utca 83. Being a spin-off of the Hajtas Pajtas courier service, these guys survive the winter on the custom of bike couriers. I asked about it one time, and the attendant told me couriers were 90% of their winter custom, although non-courier customers were growing in number. Pajtás is fairly unusual in Budapest as a shop that caters mainly to utility cyclists. Another shop that plies the bike business during winter is Nella; it's more a sports cycling store, but they carry city bikes as well and their servicing is quite good. Right now, they're advertising a fall sale on merchandise, which is a time-honoured (and very customer friendly) way of carrying on business in the slow months.
At any rate, it's nice to have bike shops that are open during winter, keeping regular hours and ample stock. If readers know of other all-season shops (particular ones in vicinity of the Buda foot of Margit bridge), I'd welcome the info.