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By ROBERT VILLANUEVA
HARDIN COUNTY — As gas prices continue to put the pinch on pocketbooks, people are scooting to their local motorcycle dealers and bicycle shops for transportation alternatives and snatching up fuel-efficient cars.
The result is sales increases at all those stores and dealerships.
At Outdoor Ventures Schwinn in Radcliff, the bicycle shop is even seeing more customers who want to repair their old bicycles for use.
“We’re seeing everything from the basement, garage and shed,” manager Mike Wheeler said, explaining that customers are rediscovering their old bikes and looking to tune them up or get them operational.
Bike sales also have been affected.
“In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen an increase,” Wheeler said.
People living and working at Fort Knox are using bicycles to commute the few miles to work, he said. Still others are commuting to Fort Knox from Radcliff, Vine Grove or even Rineyville.
“I’m doing it myself,” Wheeler said, explaining he commutes to the Radcliff store from Elizabethtown a couple of times a week.
Likewise, at E’town Schwinn Cyclery, more customers are finding bicycles an increasingly attractive alternative to gas-guzzling cars and trucks.
“The price of gas is hurting everybody,” said salesman Mike Yates.
Just like the Radcliff bicycle store — which has the same owner — the Elizabethtown store is seeing a rise in the number of people dusting off their old bicycles.
“We’re getting bikes drug out of the barns, basements and attics that haven’t been ridden for years,” Yates said.
Most of the new business has been in repairs, he said. But the store has also seen a “slight increase” in sales.
Still, bicycles are not the only alternative to gas-guzzling vehicles that are experiencing a spike in interest and sales. More scooters and small street motorcycles are being sold these days at Fun For All Motorsports in Elizabethtown.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in scooter sales,” said John Mitchell, parts manager.
Sales for scooters at the store have “probably doubled,” he said.
Gas mileage ranges from more than 40 miles per gallon for the larger of the small motorcycles to 90-120 miles per gallon for scooters, Mitchell said.
Steve Pawley, sales manager at Adventure Sports Honda Kawasaki, said he’s noticed a definite increase in the number of people coming into the store asking about what kind of mileage small motorbikes get.
And that has also affected sales.
“Yeah, we have seen an increase in the sales of scooters and small street bikes,” Pawley said.
While the store still has some inventory of scooters and small bikes, the sales manager said they have been “selling readily.”
“Business has been pretty good,” Pawley said.
In addition to the rise in sales of scooters, bicycles and small motorcycles, other fuel-saving alternatives are getting more attention.
A change in driving habits is another gas-saving alternative drawing more notice.
One such option is a driving technique known as hypermiling, a term coined by Wayne Gerdes, owner/administrator of CleanMPG.com.
Hypermiling relies on changing a person’s driving habits to reduce or modify acceleration and brake use, increase space between vehicles and maintain a steady driving speed, among other things. Drivers using this technique reportedly get an appreciable increase in gas mileage of up to a 35 percent, a 2006 CNNMoney.com story reported.
A recent segment on the CBS Early Show — which cited Gerdes’ world record of getting 164 miles per gallon — put the technique to the test. Using a little more than 10 gallons of gas, Gerdes drove from Chicago to New York in about 16 hours, averaging 71 miles per gallon.
But alternative forms of transportation and modified driving habits are not the only effect of high gas prices. Understandably, vehicles well-known for getting good gas mileage are also moving off local dealership lots.
The Toyota Prius is the hot commodity at Swope Toyota in Elizabethtown. The Prius is a hybrid car, which uses both gas and electricity.
“Supply is way less than demand,” Alan Krentz, sales manager, said.
A customer looking to purchase a Prius can expect a wait of about three months, he said.
But Toyota sales are brisk even outside the real of hybrids, with an overall increase of about 40 percent in the past couple of months, Krentz said. Vehicles like the Corolla, Yaris and Camry are fuel-efficient and in-demand.
The supply is another matter.
“Our issue is the availability of all our fuel-efficient models,” Krentz said.
Hardin County Hardin in Elizabethtown saw a similar trend.
“Eight out of 10 people that come on the lot want to buy a Civic, regardless of whether it’s new or used,” said Will Puckett, sales manager.
In fact, Civics have sold out at that dealership, and there’s a waiting list for both Civics and Civic hyrid cars.
The demand is so great, production can’t keep up, Puckett said. The Elizabethtown store is even looking into purchasing some Civics from West Coast dealerships.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743.