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  1. #1
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Bike co-op volunteers: your story.

    I've been a Saturday volunteer at the local bicycle co-op for the last 5 years.

    I think I'm hitting around 1000 hours. In that time, I've worked on quite a few Huffy's and other low-end bikes. Of course, I also get to work on some nice vintage steel.

    Favorite activity: refurbishing Japanese road bikes from the 80s. They are mostly self-repairing.

    Least favorite: if I never saw another grip shifter in my life, I would die happy.

    Why do I do it: I'm kind of puzzled about this. Not really sure. Guess I like it.

    What about you?
    How long have you been volunteering?
    What's you worst repair story?
    And lastly... why do you do it?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Vlaam4ever's Avatar
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    I've been to pull aparts some old bike for parts and help kids put on brakes, cranks etc a few tuesdays. However Tuesday turned into a travel day for work. Now I dont go anymore.


    worst storry, saw a short girl stripped the paint, and old crank of gorgous Pugeot frame. Frame was ~ 60cm and here energy was so high nobody could tell her it was not going to fit her. she killed the frame, crank and painted it pink.
    Last edited by Vlaam4ever; 04-04-13 at 11:04 PM.
    20?? Motobecane Fantom Cross UNO, 2008 Giant TCR Advanced, 2000 Trek 2300, 1995 Giant ATX 760

  3. #3
    Can'tre Member 3alarmer's Avatar
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    Favorite repair story so far (I'm only a few years into it).

    Kid shows up with a frame and fork that he's just had powdercoated, and he wants
    me to show him how to chase the fork threads. The fork is bent back about an inch and a half
    in the classic S shape they get when somebody probably busted a clavicle going over the bars
    because they hit something so hard. It's very nicely powdercoated, as is the frame.

    I tell him it's bent, and unless someone can straighten it, it's a waste of time.

    He looks at me, holds the fork up and looks at it very professionally, then
    looks back at me and says, "No, it's not bent. Look at the legs, they are perfectly
    symmetrical.......I want to thread the fork." So I told him to go to a shop a few
    blocks away, because we don't do that. He did, paid them to do the work, and
    presumably put the thing together and rode it, at least once, over to the Rubicon.

    Two weeks later, the flyer he put up on our bulletin board for his stolen fixie had a beautiful
    photo of the fully assembled bike, complete with the S shaped fork, and a long lament about
    how brief was his ownership of his prized machine.

    If there is a moral here, I don't know what the hell it is...........

  4. #4
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I have been volunteering at our co-op for 8 or 9 years... I have lost track of the time and my key to the south shop has almost worn out while our new north shop has a keyless entry.

    I could only guess that I have put in well over 6000 hours as a shop volunteer and more hours as a board member and for a season I worked as the shop facilitator.

    There are so many stories to tell but the best ones are when people have come in and you get to send them out on the bike of their dreams... a bike that fits well, that has been expertly tuned up, and a bike they can count on.

    I used to open the shop on Friday nights during a period when I was probably there for nearly 20 hours a week and we would build singlespeed and fixed gear bikes... for a time it seemed that if I saw a fg or ss parked somewhere I had a hand in building it up.

    A few people have joked that "We know Jesus saves, but that guy (me) is the one that can fix your bicycle.

    It has been nice to see our volunteers gain knowledge and experience as there was a time I could not walk into the shop without being overwhelmed by questions and requests to look at this or that.

    People ask me why, when I am a professional mechanic that I come to the co-op and work for free... and I answer that it is because I am an amateur... and an amateur is someone who does what they do because of the love they have for the work.

  5. #5
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    I like the people that I meet. I also like the experience that I gain. I like being able to get "first dibs" on some nice stuff. I like being respected by the younger hipster crowd (i'm a fat mid 40s guy). I like teaching people how to fix their bike.

    I effing hate twist grip shifters with a passion. I hate how the same people keep buying walmart junk and bringing it in and wanting us to help them fix it. We are now at the point where we are designing a pamphlet that specifically talks about brands and types of bikes to avoid. Its really sad when some guy/girl brings in their crappy full suspension Magna that they bought off of CL for 90 dollars that needs all sorts of work.
    "When dealing with stuff like this consider that this is a bicycle, not a spaceship." -- FBinNY

  6. #6
    Senior Member Nick Bain's Avatar
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    I've helped the neighbor hood kids with their bikes because they keep pestering me relentlesly everytime I go out to my garage, only to NOT have them thank me and destroy the bike soon after by gost riding it into a curb. I feel bad though becuase their parents from what I've heard and seen, truly suck at life and don't know how to teach their kids anything and can't afford to buy their kid a 5 dollar inner tube.

    That being said I think I would get better vibes from volunteering at a co-op.

    Oh and I almost forgot at least I was able to fix this kids gripshift. It was all spread apart and the ratchet was not catching, luckily the ratchet was still in there.
    Last edited by Nick Bain; 04-05-13 at 03:58 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by toddles View Post
    Nick, I don't necessarily like agreeing with you -- but your spot on.

  7. #7
    a77impala a77impala's Avatar
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    I volunteer at local Yellow Bike, I think it's rewarding just to see a youngster pick out a bike and ride it around. Most of our clients would not be able to afford to buy a bike.
    Treks, 85-420, 87-560, 90-930,92-970, 95-930, LeMonds, 2000 Zurich, 04 Tourmalet, 05 Etape, 06-Versailles

  8. #8
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    I haven't been as active at the bike co-op as I would like during the past year. There are plenty of rebuild horror stories and cool vintage bike stories, but there is one incident that stands out in my mind.

    We had a boy about 10 years old who came to the shop regularly with a "big brother" type whom I think must have been a family friend. This kid did a good job cleaning the shop, sorting parts, and generally helping wherever he could. After putting in the required hours for the earn-a-bike program I took him and his big brother to the bike storage area to pick something out. There were lots of BMX, MTBs, and the like that would have fit him, but he walked right past them to the adult commuter/fitness bike section and picked out a Schwinn women's cruiser that he could fix up as a birthday present for his mother.

    That is why I support the local bike co-op.
    Lead, follow or get out of the way

  9. #9
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    ...There are plenty of rebuild horror stories
    There have *got* to be lots of these - let's have some, please!

    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    cool vintage bike stories
    And some of these would be nice, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    We had a boy about 10 years old who came to the shop...and picked out a Schwinn women's cruiser that he could fix up as a birthday present for his mother.
    Aww - that's really sweet.

  10. #10
    You Know!? For Kids! jsharr's Avatar
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    I work with a few guys at my church repairing bicycles for our Single Parent Family Ministry. It is not so much a co-op as it is just a chance for us to use our gifts to serve others in need. Several times a year we will host an event where single parents can come to our church and get school supplies, hair cuts, clothes, car washes and we recently added bicycle repair. We supply tires, tubes, cables, pedals, etc. We also collect and refurbish bikes to give away if a kids bike is too far gone to fix.

    I do it because I have been so blessed and I want to share that blessing with others. I get to share my faith and I get to see the pure joy of child getting to ride a bike.

    I have had tears in my eyes more than a few times seeing a mother who is struggling to make ends meet cry in happiness watching their boy or girl ride a bike that we were able to fix. I have helped kids learn to ride without training wheels and even had one kid stick around and learn / help as we repacked every bearing on his bike.
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorider View Post
    Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.

  11. #11
    Can'tre Member 3alarmer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Continuity View Post
    And some of these would be nice, too.

    A couple of months ago, some guy walked in with a Colnago Super (70's)
    in a box, that had experienced total disassembly.....every nut and bolt
    was parted and tossed into the box. He donated it (apparently he'd figured
    out he couldn't get it back together some years back).

    A friend of mine who it happened to fit was there at the time, bought it from
    us, and was looking for Campy Record parts to make up what was missing
    when, two weeks later we get a donation of a gaspipe Italvega with a full
    Campy group that someone had put on it.

    Boy, was he ever happy...................

    I think he put up a picture of it over in C+V when he had it up and running.

  12. #12
    Senior Member
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    Wow - a genuine 'cool story, bro' for that one!

  13. #13
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    We do not handle that many children's bikes... we partner with another local charity that takes the ones that are donated and gives us vintage bicycles that they do not need for a child oriented program that donates 1000's of bicycles to needy children along with other sporting gear.

    I used to volunteer for this other charity as well and the best part of the day was when you could roll out a bicycle for a child, or children who not otherwise afford one... seeing the joy in their eyes is like nothing else and many have been brought to tears, along with their parents.

    Sometimes we have wee little bairns in our shop and it is really enjoyable to work with them as because we are a teaching shop, they get to get their hands dirty and learn all about their bicycles.

    We also run a program for inner city you that are at risk, it has been very successful and the kids in the program get to keep the bikes they build which teaches skills, puts more value into the bike they have, and develops community between them and the volunteers that help.

    I think that more than just being about bicycles, it is about that community and building a stronger one.

  14. #14
    Spoked to Death phidauex's Avatar
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    It's not quite the same thing, but I help run a bike repair volunteer camp at Burning Man every year. I've fixed hundreds of bikes, with all manner of odd problems. The interesting thing about Burning Man bikes is that they are always some combination of Cheap, Heavily Modified, Gaudily Decorated, and Extremely Filthy. The event is held on a prehistoric dry lakebed, and the dust that it is made out of is alkaline, and possesses a hatred for all things lubricated. It instantly bonds with any grease or lubricant to form an abrasive paste that will hold up to all but the most rigorous cleaning.

    It is great fun because people need their bikes to get around, the city is nearly 5 miles in diameter, and the gift of bike repair can make or break someone's experience there. Plus you get to learn a lot of great "cowboy bike mechanic" techniques. I've used a sledge hammer to pound a chainring back into shape after a guy on a giant custom chopper jumped it off a ramp. I've free'd stuck freewheels by shooting WD40 down into the mechanism and then using a mini-sledge on the axle to pop the pawls loose. I've overhauled the bearings on a genuine vietnamese half-bicycle/half-noodle-cart contraption with a combination of bicycle and motorcycle parts (while the guy made noodles for all the onlookers). I helped a guy do the final assembly on a tall-tandem bike with front and rear wheel drive (it was a travesty of mechanics, but was also totally sweet). Inumerable ghetto-single-speed conversions for people who's Huffy won't shift anymore. Etc.

    It has also been a fun way to get people interested in bike repair - our camp helps people with their repairs, but also makes them participate - each repair is a little learning opportunity. People I've helped in previous years have gone home, gotten educated, and then come back and volunteered with us in later years! That makes me feel good.

    The bicycle is the machine I most associate with "freedom". You can fix every part of it with just a few hand tools, it will carry you across the country and further, and all it asks is a little muscle, and a little love. Sharing that with people is the reason I volunteer, and I think that everyone who does the same would agree.

    -Sam

  15. #15
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    Mechanicing at Burning Man? Now that's gotta be a cool experience!

  16. #16
    Senior Member ka0use's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Myosmith View Post
    I haven't been as active at the bike co-op as I would like during the past year. There are plenty of rebuild horror stories and cool vintage bike stories, but there is one incident that stands out in my mind.

    We had a boy about 10 years old who came to the shop regularly with a "big brother" type whom I think must have been a family friend. This kid did a good job cleaning the shop, sorting parts, and generally helping wherever he could. After putting in the required hours for the earn-a-bike program I took him and his big brother to the bike storage area to pick something out. There were lots of BMX, MTBs, and the like that would have fit him, but he walked right past them to the adult commuter/fitness bike section and picked out a Schwinn women's cruiser that he could fix up as a birthday present for his mother.

    That is why I support the local bike co-op.

    now, there's a pulitzer prize- level story!
    first star on the right and straight on 'til morning
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  17. #17
    Spoked to Death phidauex's Avatar
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    You might enjoy this video of me working on junk at Burning Man at our bike repair camp, Pandora's Fixit Shoppe. I gave this interview in 2009, but the video was just recently posted. I have no memory of giving the interview, but the film don't lie.



    We were also in this nice guy's article on the iFixit blog: http://www.ifixit.com/blog/2010/09/1...n-bike-repair/

    If there are any Burners here who want to wrench on bikes, PM me - we love having people come by and give a hand!

    -Sam

  18. #18
    Senior Member
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    Nice goggles!

    Any chance you can fix me up with the *cute* redhead?

  19. #19
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by a77impala View Post
    I volunteer at local Yellow Bike, I think it's rewarding just to see a youngster pick out a bike and ride it around. Most of our clients would not be able to afford to buy a bike.
    Quote Originally Posted by jsharr View Post
    I have had tears in my eyes more than a few times seeing a mother who is struggling to make ends meet cry in happiness watching their boy or girl ride a bike that we were able to fix.
    Yep, it's kind of amazing to run into people who have very, very little in their lives and then give their young children a bicycle. It is definitely one of the high points in being a volunteer.

    But beyond that we've also run an earn-a-bike program. I recall one older gentlemen -- very, very quiet man -- who had worked and got himself a really nice Schwinn utility bike. I found out after that he had spent 30-40 years in jail and had just gotten out.

    I couldn't imagine how confused and overwhelmed he must have been and the bike was one of the few items in his new life.

  20. #20
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobotech View Post
    I effing hate twist grip shifters with a passion.
    I gotta say this is one of the low points about volunteering at bike co-op. It's sad sometimes to realize that to change out a cable, you might need to replace the shifter.

    When I do replace them, I look for friction thumbies. Definitely a step up. We always seem to have a few and they work well.

  21. #21
    Can'tre Member 3alarmer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    And lastly... why do you do it?

    .............Can you say cute hipster chicks with tats and fixies ?....................Duhhh!

  22. #22
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    I gotta say this is one of the low points about volunteering at bike co-op. It's sad sometimes to realize that to change out a cable, you might need to replace the shifter.

    When I do replace them, I look for friction thumbies. Definitely a step up. We always seem to have a few and they work well.
    I do the same thing as I also hate grip shifters with a passion unless they are upper end SRAM units... the ones equipped on entry level bicycles are utter crap.

  23. #23
    Fresh Garbage hairnet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    What about you?
    How long have you been volunteering?
    What's you worst repair story?
    And lastly... why do you do it?
    It will 3 years this summer. It sure seems longer than that but I guess that happens when I have phases of going in almost every evening. I don't have a worst repair story but the worst times are when we have had to ban people from the shop and call the cops.

    At this point the membership feels like a small family at times. Just last weekend six of us participated in a 360km rando.
    Quote Originally Posted by Scrodzilla View Post
    I'd rather ride a greasy bowling ball than one of those things.
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  24. #24
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    The other night a young lady came in with her friend (who I had met before) and she had just moved here from Montreal and brought her bike that had been built up for her... and poorly built at that. Most concerning was the front hub who's larger axle did not fit the dropout... we remedied that by replacing the solid axle with a QR, got things put together right and made sure she was fitted properly.

    It is so nice to have this place bring that brings together old friends and help people make new friends and connections in our community when they arrive from other cities and countries... with a major University nearby we get a lot of people coming in and many of them keep coming back for the social benefits the shop provides.

    The young lady is a writer for a newspaper here and says she will give us some very good reviews so that is a plus... as it is French we better make sure we have some volunteers who speak the language.


  25. #25
    I let the dogs out AlphaDogg's Avatar
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    I volunteer at a co-op in Denver. It's very rewarding and I love the mechanical experience it gives me. I love working with people and hearing their stories. I can't recall a specific story that stands out in my mind... But I'm sure cyccommute can! He's a shop lead at the co-op and is a damn good one at that.
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
    Weird spell/word check. "***" is "***". I'll never understand this computer. Andy.

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