'Sorry, they all do be gone by lunchtime."
Last weekend, I walked into a bicycle shop in Dublin's Phibsborough district to enquire about acquiring two-wheeled transportation. I may as well have been looking for a Tesco home-delivery slot.
With our 5km limit on the verge of being extended to 20km, and back-to-work plans being circulated among many companies in Ireland, bicycles are a hot commodity in Ireland at the moment. They're sold out everywhere.
Could electric bikes or rental options such as Bleeperbikes be a viable alternative?
Most ebikes start at around €1,000 new, but can be included in the cycle-to-work taxback scheme. Powered by rechargeable batteries, they have a range starting at around 30km, with higher-power models making it more than 70km.
"Ebikes as a category was already growing quite quickly," says Olivier Vander Elst, co-founder and owner of Greenaer, one of the country's biggest electric bike shops.
"But Covid has probably fast forwarded everything by a factor of five years or so. People may not want to get back into public transport too quickly."
The stereotype of Irish cyclists needing to be hardy on haphazard Irish roads and fearless with safety-ambivalent motorists is still a factor, he says. "But what we're seeing now is people rebuilding their confidence on bikes and ebikes while the traffic is still lower than it was."
One entrepreneur who believes he has cut down the odds on road conditions creating slips and accidents is Ian Switzer, who owns Dublin-based DME Bikes.
His electric bikes, imported from Italy and starting at around €1,200 in price, have 'fat' wheels that are less prone to getting stuck in road cracks or tarmac splits.
"They're ultra safe," he says. "One of the big problems we still have on Irish roads is potholes and uneven surfaces. These bikes handle them, no problem."
Switzer claims he can "get from Howth to Dún Laoghaire and back" on a single charge. He also points out electric bikes don't fall foul of the law in the same way as electric scooters, which currently require tax, insurance and a motorbike licence. They can't be propelled from a standing start by themselves, instead requiring some pedalling.
Despite the interest in ebikes, some of the larger Irish bike rental services aren't yet ready to introduce them into their urban fleets.
"The management of the battery is the biggest logistical challenge," says Hugh Cooney, who runs Bleeperbikes, Dublin's largest commercial street bike rental service with 700 bikes around the city.
"If you go to any cities with electric scooters, you'll see that those companies are reality grappling with this. It's a major logistical challenge, as well as expensive, to keep the vehicles fully charged. But I'm watching it closely."
Usage of Bleeperbikes has tripled around Dublin in some areas over the last three months, he says. He had hoped to introduce electric bikes this summer, but the bikes themselves aren't yet up to what would stand the test of time.
"I've had a few prototypes from manufacturers, who say that they're perfect, but they're not," he says. "I'm testing them and they're not. So I just haven't yet found a product that will properly work outdoors, 365 days a year."
Battery innovation also needs to get better before it will become a viable prospect for Bleeperbikes, he says.
"Any operator would struggle to cover the logistical challenge of keeping fully charged scooters on the streets. It's expensive, with staff and other costs. I think the industry is still struggling to get the unit economics right."
As for general take up, Greenaer's Olivier Vander Elst is optimistic.
"Things are definitely improving in Dublin," he says. "There's a good chance we'll see an ebike subsidy at some point soon. And some temporary measures, like bloopers separating the road, will make a big difference if they become permanent.
"In countries like Belgium, 51pc of all bike sales now are electric, partly because they have the right incentives in place there."