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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 08-17-09, 11:10 PM   #51
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We're trying to get a co-op off the ground. Habitat for Humanity has donated us a space. We have applied for grants for tools, equipment, spare parts, etc. We have a bunch of donated bikes.

What we don't have is volunteers with the requisite technical expertise. Most of the donated bikes, I think are scrapworthy, but there are more than a few that are doubtful. We just don't have anyone who knows enough to properly evaluate them.
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Old 08-18-09, 02:39 AM   #52
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I wonder if any LBS would be willing to help you guys get started-do some repair classes or whatever to get a few people knowledgeable.

Another idea might be looking for a co-op in the surrounding area that would be willing to do the same.
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Old 08-18-09, 05:01 AM   #53
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I wonder if any LBS would be willing to help you guys get started-do some repair classes or whatever to get a few people knowledgeable.

Another idea might be looking for a co-op in the surrounding area that would be willing to do the same.
Like "cloning" a sourdough starter
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Old 08-18-09, 11:27 AM   #54
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I wonder if any LBS would be willing to help you guys get started-do some repair classes or whatever to get a few people knowledgeable.

Another idea might be looking for a co-op in the surrounding area that would be willing to do the same.
Once we got the tools and equipment, the LBS is willing to do some training. They are not willing to send someone to do triage.

And there IS no co-op in the surrounding area; we are pioneers here. It takes a lot of talking to get people to understand what a co-op is.
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Old 08-18-09, 05:12 PM   #55
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Once we got the tools and equipment, the LBS is willing to do some training. They are not willing to send someone to do triage.

And there IS no co-op in the surrounding area; we are pioneers here. It takes a lot of talking to get people to understand what a co-op is.
Our co-op uses a system where we have one paid manager who is an expert wrench. He works with relatively unskilled volunteers, overseeing them, to complete repairs. Very quickly, volunteers are able to complete rudimentary tasks like cable replacement or mounting tires. Eventually they graduate up the technical skill chain.

The key to get this working is to recruit some volunteers who will stick around. Our co-op offered a bike to volunteers after 10 hours and they got quite a few showing up. On top of that there were volunteers who just seemed to like wrenching. I'm one of these, but there are others. One guy has over 160 hours this year. I have about 60. And there are a number of young guys who like to pop in over lunch and fix bikes...

If you are unable to get a paid manager, don't despair. There are undoubtedly a lot of resources that would help out. The key is to finding one or more skilled people who are willing to work with newbies.
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Old 08-18-09, 06:41 PM   #56
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We're trying to get a co-op off the ground. Habitat for Humanity has donated us a space. We have applied for grants for tools, equipment, spare parts, etc. We have a bunch of donated bikes.

What we don't have is volunteers with the requisite technical expertise. Most of the donated bikes, I think are scrapworthy, but there are more than a few that are doubtful. We just don't have anyone who knows enough to properly evaluate them.
We had a co-op start at Tulane University this year. They started out with someones personal repair stand and a set of tools set up in the park on Sundays near the bike path. Knowledgeable people would stop to use the parts for free and some would stay to help the volunteers with others who were less skilled. It grew from there as their Sunday afternoon repair parties touched more and more people. Eventually they had enough interested volunteers that they got a space on campus and started collecting spare parts, and replacement tubes/tires/cables/brakepads/chains/etc to broaden their ability to assist and teach others.

Make it fun like they did and the skills and volunteers you need will come. Don't try to offer too many services right away as the inevitable poor quality of your service will hamper growth. There is always more that could be done but focus on what you can offer right now.
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Old 08-18-09, 06:53 PM   #57
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Our co-op uses a system where we have one paid manager who is an expert wrench. He works with relatively unskilled volunteers, overseeing them, to complete repairs. Very quickly, volunteers are able to complete rudimentary tasks like cable replacement or mounting tires. Eventually they graduate up the technical skill chain.

The key to get this working is to recruit some volunteers who will stick around. Our co-op offered a bike to volunteers after 10 hours and they got quite a few showing up. On top of that there were volunteers who just seemed to like wrenching. I'm one of these, but there are others. One guy has over 160 hours this year. I have about 60. And there are a number of young guys who like to pop in over lunch and fix bikes...

If you are unable to get a paid manager, don't despair. There are undoubtedly a lot of resources that would help out. The key is to finding one or more skilled people who are willing to work with newbies.
Plan B in NOLA is run as an anarchist cooperative so the idea of a manager with power over others would never fly. We do have a core group of dedicated volunteers who have meetings but anyone can join provided they've shown they care.

Shortly after starting I remember having a person ask me how to fix something on their bike. I admitted I didn't know but I pulled out a repair manual and asked if we could learn together. It doesn't always have to be a teacher/student dynamic. Figuring it out together was a great experience.

Aside from offering material compensation (Plan B gave volunteers ~$5/hr in in-shop credit), I've found the best way to keep volunteers is to ensure the environment stays fun and rewarding for the volunteers. Few people will stick around if they feel underqualified, unappreciated, frustrated, or confused. How you run your shop affects all of this.
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Old 08-18-09, 08:08 PM   #58
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There is also the legal aspect. If you send someone out on the street on a machine that isn't safe, and he gets hurt, then you can be sued. We need to be sure that no bike leaves the shop unless we have done everything to assure that it is streetworthy.
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Old 08-18-09, 08:56 PM   #59
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Shortly after starting I remember having a person ask me how to fix something on their bike. I admitted I didn't know but I pulled out a repair manual and asked if we could learn together. It doesn't always have to be a teacher/student dynamic. Figuring it out together was a great experience.
I guess you don't need to have a teacher/student relation, but it sure is nice to have some experience around the shop. The first time you replace a ball bearing ring in a older bottom bracket, there is a 50% chance that you will put the bearings in backward. And not notice it until a customer complains. (Don't ask me how I know this... ) With experience, there is a 0% chance.
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Old 08-19-09, 10:06 AM   #60
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I've only visited 3 co-ops so far, but there were several differences. One is open a few times a week when volunteers were there, one is open 24hrs a day with coded entry and no volunteers necessarily present, and the other has paid staff and volunteers who kept regular business hours during the week. One co-op's volunteers only teach and assist others in building and repairing bikes, another holds repair classes but has no special guidelines for the role of volunteers, and the other's volunteers are primarily involved in repairing and building bikes for customers. (who have to fall into a low income bracket) One co-op is supported only by the sale of donated bikes and parts, one charges membership fees and has the patronage of a local business owner, one is supported by sales of donated bikes and parts as well as the local cycling advocacy organization. One co-op is even currently embroiled in a power struggle between snooty fixed-gear riders and those who wanted to allow everyone to use the facility.(I know the fixed gear riders sound like they're in the wrong, but the situation is more complicated than can be summed up in a sentence) The primary mission of one co-op is to provide transportation for a large refugee population that has immigrated into town.

Thanks for the info!

I'm thinking it would be a good idea to start a sticky thread for this forum with a list of bike co-ops, kitchens and repair projects.
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Old 08-19-09, 10:10 AM   #61
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We're trying to get a co-op off the ground. Habitat for Humanity has donated us a space. We have applied for grants for tools, equipment, spare parts, etc. We have a bunch of donated bikes.

What we don't have is volunteers with the requisite technical expertise. Most of the donated bikes, I think are scrapworthy, but there are more than a few that are doubtful. We just don't have anyone who knows enough to properly evaluate them
.
If you're looking for knowledgable volunteers, Bikeforums.net should be a good resource. You might try starting a thread in the regional subforum for your area. The bike mehanics subforum might be good for cross-posting also. There are many experts on these forums who might enjoy helping you out.
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Old 08-19-09, 06:16 PM   #62
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... I've found the best way to keep volunteers is to ensure the environment stays fun and rewarding for the volunteers. Few people will stick around if they feel underqualified, unappreciated, frustrated, or confused. How you run your shop affects all of this.
+1. It's great to get your feedback and ideas.


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Thanks for the info!

I'm thinking it would be a good idea to start a sticky thread for this forum with a list of bike co-ops, kitchens and repair projects.
+1, Excellent idea.
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Old 08-20-09, 11:03 AM   #63
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Thanks for the info!

I'm thinking it would be a good idea to start a sticky thread for this forum with a list of bike co-ops, kitchens and repair projects.
Ask and ye shall receive:
http://www.bikecollectives.org/wiki/...Bicycle_Groups
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Old 08-20-09, 11:08 AM   #64
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That link isn't working. The site might have been hacked? Here's another list I found with a similar url:
http://www.bikecollectives.org/wiki/..._Organizations
The list doesn't look to be very complete at this time. The Bike Collectives wiki looks like it's potentially a good resource. It still needs a lot of work. It has several volunteer manuals from bike co-ops, and the beginnings of a shop manual/tutorial on bike repair.
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Old 08-20-09, 11:25 AM   #65
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I guess you don't need to have a teacher/student relation, but it sure is nice to have some experience around the shop. The first time you replace a ball bearing ring in a older bottom bracket, there is a 50% chance that you will put the bearings in backward. And not notice it until a customer complains. (Don't ask me how I know this... ) With experience, there is a 0% chance.
If one doesn't have experience I've found that a suitable substitute is being honest about your experience and taking the time to learn first before guessing. Clears up all those "guessing" issues. Sometimes it is tough to admit when we don't know something (especially in a knowledge-based field like bike repair), but if you keep the focus of your co-op environment on openness and learning, this becomes much easier. If you don't know something, it isn't an admission of failure, but an opportunity to gain experience.

The most mistakes I see made in the co-op are done by folks who have some experience (and the hubris that can come along) and don't want to admit that their experience has limits. I had folks tell me that I was the best mechanic at Plan B, but I still made mistakes, learned something new, or had someone with "zero" experience correct me every shift. There are many other ways to learn besides from an other mechanic; manuals, internet(Sheldon Brown, Parktool, BF), examples around the shop, and good ol' non-destructive experimentation are all options.
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Old 08-20-09, 11:36 AM   #66
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There is also the legal aspect. If you send someone out on the street on a machine that isn't safe, and he gets hurt, then you can be sued. We need to be sure that no bike leaves the shop unless we have done everything to assure that it is streetworthy.
Plan B had a sign posted saying something about how we provide the space, tools and repair knowledge, we don't promise you won't get hurt, that is your responsibility. We also had a rule for bikes built at the shop "Your bike needs two ways to stop and feet may only count as one."

The shop up here in VT has a checklist for each bike build and each bike gets looked over by the lead mechanics before becoming available for sale. I think this shop also has insurance, something that Plan B has gotten around for a decade. I personally think this is because of the different cultures of the cities.
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Old 08-20-09, 11:38 AM   #67
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Roody, I fixed the link. That Wiki is primarily a list of the co-ops around world, not so much a site for repair help.
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Old 08-20-09, 11:42 AM   #68
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Roody, I fixed the link. That Wiki is primarily a list of the co-ops around world, not so much a site for repair help.
No, there's a lot more to it. Check out the main page.
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Old 08-20-09, 12:03 PM   #69
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No, there's a lot more to it. Check out the main page.
Ya got me. I swear all that has been added since I last checked.
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Old 08-20-09, 05:55 PM   #70
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Ya got me. I swear all that has been added since I last checked.
There is a tremendous amount of information on this wiki. One unfortunate side effect for me is that a wiki allows me to correct spelling... Perhaps that's why I have just spent the last hour browsing the site.... It certainly covers a lot of topics and there more than ample opportunity to add you own ideas.
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Old 08-20-09, 06:03 PM   #71
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The most mistakes I see made in the co-op are done by folks who have some experience (and the hubris that can come along) and don't want to admit that their experience has limits. I had folks tell me that I was the best mechanic at Plan B, but I still made mistakes, learned something new, or had someone with "zero" experience correct me every shift. There are many other ways to learn besides from an other mechanic; manuals, internet(Sheldon Brown, Parktool, BF), examples around the shop, and good ol' non-destructive experimentation are all options.
I'd have to admit to falling into the hubris trap... and more than once. It's of course not always possible to have an experienced wrench available, so you have to draw on some of these other sources. This is especially the case if you can start something, leave it a few days and then come back after doing some research.

Another learning technique is from the world of programming (I'm a programmer...). We often use the technique called "pair programming" when writing code. This is definitely useful in the world of bicycling wrenching, too. Even if you are both relatively inexperienced, the ability to knock ideas around is helpful. Plus, someone else's experience may work to complement mine. And, of course, having a second pair of eyes is useful in keeping the repair quality up. In fact, despite the fact that I often make repairs by myself, I usually ask some other volunteer to have a look at the bike I just worked on, to see if he/she can spot something.
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Old 08-22-09, 03:06 PM   #72
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We now have a sticky thread for bike collectives and co-ops. I hope people will add to that, especially their personal experiences with various co-ops.
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