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  1. #1
    gwd
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    Bike Co-op Thread

    OK, Roody said it needed its own thread. Since I've never seen a bike co-op maybe someone with experience can do a "Bike co-op for dummies" post. How do they work? How does the money flow? Basics like that. We had a place that taught kids to fix up bikes but it closed a couple years ago.

  2. #2
    Peace, Love, Bikes
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    Depends. Ours has 2 open shop nights a week. Anyone can stop in, sign up and get stand time as it becomes available. There are experienced volunteers to help with what you need and tools are available. Members of the co-op get priority for stand time. The only thing one pays for is any parts you get from the co-op.

    They also have I think one night a week for co-op projects only, basically wrenching bikes for sale. These go on the floor and get sold to the public. Members can apply volunteer credits towards bikes or parts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwd View Post
    OK, Roody said it needed its own thread. Since I've never seen a bike co-op maybe someone with experience can do a "Bike co-op for dummies" post. How do they work? How does the money flow? Basics like that. We had a place that taught kids to fix up bikes but it closed a couple years ago.
    Why do you tempt me so? There is so much to write... Maybe I'll just answer questions and then later I can gather all the info into a stickiable post? That way I'm not talking about the importance of having lots of hand cleaner when you really want to know a co-op interfaces with the other types of cycling groups in an area. I'm sure there are other co-op members around the forums that'll chime in when I mis-represent something.

    Check out my co-ops' homepage for answers to questions on how our particular shop works. http://www.bikeproject.org/ Or you can check out UrbanVelo's great article on Bike!Bike! the national conference for bike co-ops, for the bigger picture. http://urbanvelo.org/bike-bike-2008-recap/ http://www.bikebike.org/ I attended Bike!Bike! and can answer questions about that too. It was sorta like church camp for bikes (without the hypocracy!); I came back and wanted to tell the world the good news of bicycling.

    If your question isn't answered at any of those sites or you want my opinion, post it and I'll see if I know an answer.

  4. #4
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    I've visited a local co-operative and noticed that it would serve two purposes
    1. get folks on the road for roughly $60 on bicycles that would probably last a month or two if you didn't use them too much. You might find the occasional good buy, but you'd need to be an expert to spot it.

    2. allow individuals to get some hands-on in bike repair.

    and maybe,
    3. keep some reasonable bikes out of the landfill.

    Occasionally, large co-ops organize drives where they send a bunch of bikes to a destination where bikes are not readily available and desperately needed for transportation.

    I think the whole movement would benefit if all the great bikes that are hanging --unused -- in people's garages could be donated so that the co-ops could have a useful inventory.

  5. #5
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I volunteer and sit on the board of what may be the oldest bike co-op in North America.

    The Edmonton Bicycle Commuter's Society was founded in 1980 and has been operating continuously for nearly 29 years.

    Our mission is to promote cycling as a viable transportation alternative and we also operate a fully equipped community bike shop called "Bikeworks" where people can come in and work on their bikes for nominal amounts and purchase decent bikes for very little money.

    We receive hundreds upon hundreds of bikes every year... these are everything from dept store models to one of a kind hand built models to vintage collectibles.

    Sometime folks buy bikes that need some work and sometimes they buy bikes that our crew of volunteer mechanics have serviced... the cumulative knowledge of our volunteers is immense.

    We teach people how to repair and service their own bikes, do many workshops on specific topics (like winter cycling), and do community outreach in the summer time when we have several full time paid mechanics and a volunteer coordinator to organize our participation in many summer events and festivals.

    If there are bike racks on our buses it is because we have been a strong advocate or a royal pain in the ass for city council... it depends who you ask.

    Our shop also serves as a social hub where cyclists form all walks can meet and commune and plan the occasional midnight ride...or two.

  6. #6
    gwd
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    I clicked around and got the idea that people set up a non-profit organization that:

    Teaches bike repair,

    Fixes dumpster or donated bikes and sells them

    Has a tool library or rental for people who don't see a need to buy the
    special tools.

    May have a bike library where people can check out bikes:

    http://cbs4denver.com/green/Bike.Lib....2.889163.html

    But, how does the rent get paid and the original tools get purchased, is it all
    through donations? Some of them when I google bike co-op are hosted by other organizations like universities so the co-op has a natural sugar daddy. I didn't see where they have user fees or memberships but that might be another source of funding.

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    I'm in the process of organizing one here. We have some seed money from some local churches and the bike club, and we are going to incorporate as a nonprofit and apply for grants.

    As many of the people that will be using us are clients at the soup kitchen, we will not be charging for membership, although we will gladly accept donations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gwd View Post
    I clicked around and got the idea that people set up a non-profit organization that:

    Teaches bike repair,

    Fixes dumpster or donated bikes and sells them

    Has a tool library or rental for people who don't see a need to buy the
    special tools.

    May have a bike library where people can check out bikes:

    http://cbs4denver.com/green/Bike.Lib....2.889163.html

    But, how does the rent get paid and the original tools get purchased, is it all
    through donations? Some of them when I google bike co-op are hosted by other organizations like universities so the co-op has a natural sugar daddy. I didn't see where they have user fees or memberships but that might be another source of funding.
    Those are the most common programs at bicycle co-ops, but there is lots of room for even crazier ideas. Plan B used to run a taxi service for people that needed to get to the bus or train station but didn't have a ride. We had a tandem with baskets and a volunteer would go pick the person up and drop them off at the station. All they had to do was help pedal!

    I wasn't around for the founding of Plan B (about 1999) but I know how our financials work now. We receive no financial aid of any kind nor do we charge for shop use. All bikes are donated by the community. Plan B did get in a couple shipments of bikes from Working Bikes in Chicago after Katrina, but we've finally finished with the last of them. We earn money from selling used/new parts (Ex:3 bucks for a new tube or 10 bucks for a used wheel.) and bikes that people have built up. Most bikes are sold for 25 dollars so long as the purchaser put in a decent amount of "sweat equity." Nicer bikes requiring little repair, say less than 10 years old and from a manufacturer like Trek/Specialized/Giant etc., might go for up to 100. We also have a bit of a sliding scale depending on the perceived financial resources of the customer.

    We are a 501c3 but don't have insurance or any paid staff. Money is spent on rent and supplies only. We are kinda proud that we have been able to keep prices low and most services free while staying financially solvent through low overhead and a focus on our core mission. We're trying to stress quality over quantity.
    Last edited by Enthusiast; 12-19-08 at 11:36 AM.

  9. #9
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Another type of bike project is the Kid's Repair Project here in Lansing. Kids get a free bike. but they have to earn it by first fixing the bike to high standards. Adult volunteers help the kids. Most volunteers were laid-off auto workers on the Job Banks program. I think some of the volunteers are homeless people or disabled people, who also get to keep the bike that they fix while they're helping the kids.

    Once a year (today, in fact) the KRP sells already repaired bikes for about $25. Parents buy the bikes for Christmas gifts, and the revenues help to finance KRP.

    (This is kind of off-topic, but it would be a great project for a bike co-op)


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  10. #10
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    we run a co-op of sorts here, bikes are dropped off at my house or collected by friends and then stored until someone chooses to build up the bike, we won't build up the bike for you but provide you with all the knowledge and tools to do whatever you want to do to the bike, whether it be mutant it up, or build it up fast and nice, the co-op is run out of my house and garage and makes no money whatsoever and it's just the core group of us in the city that help out others. no money exchanged whatsoever, only rules are you can't throw the bike away, if you choose to get rid of the bike you must either give it to someone else or give it back to the co-op. been doin this since about 2006
    Drink Fast, Pedal Slow
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  11. #11
    Hooligan Abneycat's Avatar
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    There are a few different models for bike co-ops i've seen around. Some are open once or twice a week, some are open quite regularly. Others charge fees for shop use, some for workshops only, and some are free.

    I believe the Good Life (of Calgary, AB) is the first one I have known about which is both open on a regular basis (7 days a week, min. of 6hrs per day - typically 8), and has no membership/workshop fees. The only costs are in materials which the member may need. There could be some other shops out there I haven't heard of, but this is a pretty sweet situation and it would be neat to see more.

    We provide regular workshops, which are sometimes hosted by our greasers but which are now designed to be focused around our community, where someone who has a particular area of expertise may run a night around something neat and specialized - wheel building, fix/single conversions, unique repair solutions, etc. We provide a schedule of these well ahead of time.

    On this topic, the Good Life encourages all sort of community involvement and members are welcome to host workshops and other bike related events at the shop.

    The shop also hosts spiffy events, like the bike 'n' beers, where the place just turns into well.. You know, the name explains itself. There's bikes, and beer.

    Shop direction is also community oriented. While we have paid positions, the Good Life is guided by the community just as it is the staff, with monthly direction meetings (box socials), there are also snacks. Cookies, and stuff.

    There are 3-4 paid "greasers", who run the shop and perform / assist with repairs on a regular basis. This leads to higher upkeep, but is a necessity of our location, and also allows for anyone to come in any time of day and receive good help and information on repairs or other cycling topics.

    Funding is brought in by donation / overhauled bike sales, grants, member donations, bike 'n' beers and other social events / fundraisers, and tap dancin' outside the shop with meh hat on the ground!

    This model has been a bit of an experiment for us. I believe that its so far been successful, we've got a huge amount of positive press and are located in a centralized location very near the heart of cycling in the city, so things are well - but this kind of model could also be unstable if conditions weren't so optimal, as there's a good amount of running expense involved.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Hasek's Avatar
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    Our bike co-op in Cleveland, Oh runs this way:

    - One of the biggest priorities is bicycle education; maintenance and rider safety.

    To become a member, one needs to complete the 4 maintenance classes. Each class costs $20. If you buy a bike from the co-op, the first class is included (very basic bike maintenace). The other three classes are geared toward overhauling a bike.

    Members can use the stands and tools (no charge) on the 4 days we are open. This may change in 2009 where to use the stands/tools you'll need to use your credits. Credits are earned by volunteering. We also have a stand near the front door which has a 5 gallon bucket with basic tools secured ot the bucket. This stand anyone can use, member or not.

    When one volunteers, they may be working on bikes, cleaning dishes...whatever needs done. The credit is $5 per hour. These credits can be used to purchase a bike, used parts, to re-up their membership, or to pay for classes.

    Wednesday's are Apprentice Wednesdays. This is where people can come in and we mostly work on the Earn A Bike bikes. The Earn A Bike program is where kids do a 10 hour program of basic maintenance, rider saftey, and on the road riding. When they are done, they get a X-mart bike, a helmet, and a lock. This is a large portion of our co-op's work. These apprentice nights are also great for the people in the four classes; it let's them really work on bikes, much more so than the limited hands on during the classes.

    We get bikes and a lot of accessories mostly from individual donations which we offer donation forms so folks can put that toward an IRS credit. We also get a good chunk of bikes from police departments.

    Depending on the bike, it may get stripped for parts, used in the Earn A Bike Program, put on the floor for sale, or if it is something we don't have, it'll be used in the rental/loaner fleet.

    The co-op gets funded by grants, the sale of bikes, and a little bit by the donation jug.


    About OCBC
    Written by Administrator
    Thursday, 24 January 2008 15:53
    The OCBC is a non-profit, volunteer-driven, cooperative bicycle education center. Our Earn A Bike program accepts donations of used bikes, which kids can earn by learning about bike repair and safe cycling. Surplus bikes are fully refurbished for sale or rent to support the organization. We also offer bike maintenance classes, shop-use membership, shop credit for volunteering, and the League of American Bicyclists' Bike Driver's Ed course. We are not a bike shop, and do not take drop-off bike repairs. (We do, however, offer a 15 minute, while you watch bike check-over). We also do not sell new bikes, clothes, shoes, or non-essential accessories. We encourage you come to the co-op to learn, and go to your local bike shop to buy!

    See below for more on our origins and purpose, and a printable outline of what we offer, hours, location, etc., is here.

    Mission and purpose
    The Ohio City Bicycle Co-op was founded with bicycle education as its primary activity, with the purpose of increasing bicycle use, as reflected in its incorporation filing:

    "The mission of the Ohio City Bicycle Co-op (OCBC) is to promote the use of bicycles in greater Cleveland and engage area youth and adults in cycling activities that foster independence, resourcefulness, and good health. The OCBC works to accomplish this by offering safe cycling and bike repair education, Earn A Bike programs, and a consumer's cooperative bike shop; by providing dependable used bikes and accessories; and by producing cycling events and tours that impart skills while encouraging riding for fun, fitness and practical transportation."

    In 2006, to reflect a more direct focus gained with experience, the board approved this "working mission statement":

    "Help people use bicycles as much as they can."
    http://www.ohiocitycycles.org/index....d=25&Itemid=30
    Last edited by Hasek; 12-25-08 at 09:47 AM.

  13. #13
    gwd
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    Thanks for the replies. This thread has been very informative.

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    BEHOLD! THE MANTICORE! rotharpunc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hasek View Post

    To become a member, one needs to complete the 4 maintenance classes. Each class costs $20. If you buy a bike from the co-op, the first class is included (very basic bike maintenace). The other three classes are geared toward overhauling a bike.

    http://www.ohiocitycycles.org/index....d=25&Itemid=30
    just curious, but what do you do if someone is already experienced with bike repair and just wants to help out or needs a place to work on their ride?

  15. #15
    Senior Member Hasek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rotharpunc View Post
    just curious, but what do you do if someone is already experienced with bike repair and just wants to help out or needs a place to work on their ride?
    People experienced with bike repair can test out. They are given a bike and if it gets fixed properly, they don't need to take the classes.

    If someone just wishes to help out, that's not a problem and they do not need to be a member.

    To use shop tools and stands, they need to be a member. If they test out of the classes, although not 100%, I do believe they still need to kick down the $80/year. The $80/year is another issue that is possibly going to be revamped for 2009.... the lowering of the $80 I do believe.

    Again, we do have a "free" stand at the front door. The 5 gallon bucket has a Crescent wrench, a decent multi-tool, tire iron, 3rd hand, and other tools I don't recall. Haa haa, I put the bucket/tools together but I don't use it so my memory fails me as to what's on it.

  16. #16
    aspiring Old Wart Sluggo's Avatar
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    Most of the shops in previous posts focus on education, shop space access, and re-using bikes and parts. They seem to run mostly on volunteer energy, which is admirable but not necessarily sustainable in the long run.

    Does anyone know of any shops that follow a more mainstream co-op business model:
    * not necessarily nonprofit (any profits go to member-owners or are reinvested in the business);
    *incorporated as co-op;
    *follow and promote International Co-operative Alliance Principles

    Such a shop would probably have regular hours; a paid staff (that may get paid partially in shares if a worker co-op); maybe (or maybe not) carry conventional bike shop lines of new parts and bikes; and a board of directors and probably a general manager.

    Of those posted, it sounds like Good Life comes closest in that it has staff. Any others?
    Last edited by Sluggo; 01-03-09 at 09:12 AM.

  17. #17
    aspiring Old Wart Sluggo's Avatar
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    I might note that REI is a co-op in the ICA sense, but I was looking for something more bike-specific and locally oriented.

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    Here is Fort Collins we have a bike co-op that functions as such:
    It is volunteer run, open three days a week to the public, with other days for volunteers only.
    The main goals are to get good working bikes out on the streets to anyone that may need them, to keep bikes out of landfills, and to encourage safety as well as biking in general. No bikes are sold, and through an earn a bike program anyone can come in and volunteer there time in exchange for a bike. Along with this special benefits are provided to those in need to get them on bikes faster. We have a full running shop, and on days to the public anyone can come in and fix their bike or have one of our volunteer wrenches teach them how to fix there bike, either in exchange for a cash donation or some time towards the shop. Along with this we work in conjunction with the Fort Collins Bike Library, a non-profit program that loans out bikes to anyone for a week, to keep their fleet running smoothly.
    The co-op also offers maintinance classes, wheel building classes and such.
    Bike Co-ops are pretty much the best and every town should have one.

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    Box Dog Bikes in San Fransisco fits most of your criteria. It was started by volunteers from the Bike Kitchen co-op.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sluggo View Post
    Most of the shops in previous posts focus on education, shop space access, and re-using bikes and parts. They seem to run mostly on volunteer energy, which is admirable but not necessarily sustainable in the long run.

    Does anyone know of any shops that follow a more mainstream co-op business model:
    * not necessarily nonprofit (any profits go to member-owners or are reinvested in the business);
    *incorporated as co-op;
    *follow and promote International Co-operative Alliance Principles

    Such a shop would probably have regular hours; a paid staff (that may get paid partially in shares if a worker co-op); maybe (or maybe not) carry conventional bike shop lines of new parts and bikes; and a board of directors and probably a general manager.

    Of those posted, it sounds like Good Life comes closest in that it has staff. Any others?

  20. #20
    Hooligan Abneycat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sluggo View Post
    Most of the shops in previous posts focus on education, shop space access, and re-using bikes and parts. They seem to run mostly on volunteer energy, which is admirable but not necessarily sustainable in the long run.

    Does anyone know of any shops that follow a more mainstream co-op business model:
    * not necessarily nonprofit (any profits go to member-owners or are reinvested in the business);
    *incorporated as co-op;
    *follow and promote International Co-operative Alliance Principles

    Such a shop would probably have regular hours; a paid staff (that may get paid partially in shares if a worker co-op); maybe (or maybe not) carry conventional bike shop lines of new parts and bikes; and a board of directors and probably a general manager.

    Of those posted, it sounds like Good Life comes closest in that it has staff. Any others?
    In response, we're close to more of that criteria in one way or another. The Good Life does carry a small amount of new inventory, primarily in the form of essentials though - cables / housing, tubes / pumps / patch kits, and brake pads for instance. We are authorized as a full dealership through a Canadian parts distributor, but do not sell large goods new - there is a bike shop across the hall, and other shops in the area where one could easily find new stuff.

    Any profits taken by the Good Life over the last year have so far been used to continue shop operations over the winter, where our daily revenue is not necessarily keeping things running. This way, the benefit of the busy summer is allowing daily commuters and enthusiasts to have the shop year round. Sales / income is low at the moment, but the repair stands are still getting good traffic.
    RE: Future profit, I don't know exactly what the plan may be. Its likely that a similar stance will be taken for next winter, along with continued improvement of shop facilities.

    There is no assigned BoD or GM, although we have equivalents. Essentially, we have a monthly directional meeting, where any member of the shop who has spent some time volunteering (10hrs) is welcome to join in the decision making process directly. There are several dedicated members, and greaser staff that show up continually, so there is a measure of continuity.

    Management is handled by greaser staff at the direct shop level, and by some great individuals who handle things like finances.

  21. #21
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    How does my LBS fare when a bike coop become popular? Seems like it would be another thorn in the side... like Internet sales. Or maybe the coop's natural competitor is Walmart. ??

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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    How does my LBS fare when a bike coop become popular? Seems like it would be another thorn in the side... like Internet sales. Or maybe the coop's natural competitor is Walmart. ??
    That's our feeling. There are a lot of people riding around here on bikes that need work, some to the extent that they are not safe; but they (a) haven't either the tools or the knowledge to fix them themselves and (b) can't afford the LBS's fees. Also, the LBSs here don't sell used bikes; the only source for used bikes are the classifieds, Craigslist, or Goodwill/Salvation Army, and unless one is knowledgeable, they are chancy. When we get the co-op running, there will be a source of 'certified pre-owned' (to take the term used by the auto sales business) bicycles.

  23. #23
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elkhound View Post
    When we get the co-op running, there will be a source of 'certified pre-owned' (to take the term used by the auto sales business) bicycles.
    Bikes are a little different from cars. You can pick up a bike from the 80s and spend $100 in it and have a first-class vehicle. Cars degrade much faster. So for the LBS, the used bike market has got to be a major impediment. The only thing I can think of is if the LBS became a source of quality parts as well as new bikes. Generally I find this isn't the case. You have to look to the Internet for parts at a reasonable price.

  24. #24
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    Here there is nothing in between the bike stores, that sell high-end machines, and K-Mart & Wal-Mart that sell bicycle-shaped bits of scrap metal. The co-op, by providing good used bikes would fill a gap in the market.

    But our major service will be making it possible for those who can't afford the LBS's service prices to keep their bikes in good working order. We won't fix bikes FOR people, but we will provide shop space, tools, and instruction so that people can fix their own.

    Also, the LBSs cater to the bicycle as a piece of sports equipment, be it BMX, mountain biking, road biking, or whatever; the co-op will consider the bicycle as a means of transportation.

  25. #25
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    I recently hooked up with our local bike coop http://www.dsmbikecollective.org/

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