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The bike business was bolstered by about $135 million in (mostly forgivable) loans this year.

Revolution Bicycle Repair, the smallest shop in this Boston neighborhood, received one of the smallest Paycheck Protection Program loans made to a bike company this year: just $1,700.

Owner James Norton applied for the loan in March, when his shop was emerging from a long New England winter only to face an impending COVID-19 lockdown. The check arrived in May, when sales and service, unexpectedly, had already taken off.

"It helped, but if we were under any major financial strain it wouldn't have done much," said Norton, a former bike courier whose shop serves urban bike commuters. He added the payment wouldn't have covered half his monthly rent.

Under court order following requests from news organizations, the Small Business Administration this week released details of PPP loans, including the identity of recipients of loans of less than $150,000, which hadn't been public previously. BRAIN identified more than 1,900 bike-related businesses — retailers, distributors, manufacturers, non-profits, tour and race companies and more — that received loans totaling $134.7 million. The loans, which are forgiven if spent primarily on payroll, were intended to protect more than 17,000 jobs at the companies.

The average loan to bike organizations was $67,200 and the median amount was $26,000. The list is dominated by hundreds of four- and five-digit loans to small operations like Norton's.

BRAIN spoke with many recipients this week. All were grateful for the peace of mind the program fostered in the early weeks of the pandemic lockdowns, when many feared for the future of their businesses. However, given the much-publicized bike boom that followed, many were left feeling a bit confused.

Chad Jensen, the owner of Jensen Oil & The Bicycle Station in Clinton, Iowa, received a $7,900 loan that he expects to be forgiven. Jensen's grandfather founded the business as an auto repair shop in 1948. Jensen added bikes in 2004 and now bike sales and service provide most of the revenue, although he still does a few auto repairs, especially in the winter.

"When the PPP loans were announced, both our accountant and our banker told us we should apply," Jensen said. "At that point we didn't know what was going to happen. Almost immediately after that, the business went nuts."

Jensen went back to his financial advisors and asked if he should send the money back. "They said that if we used the money the way it was intended, we should keep it," he said. "It gave us a bit of confidence back when we had the least amount of confidence. It allowed us to keep our employees on the payroll even during that two or three-week period when there was no business at all."


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