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Anyone ever volunteered at their LBS?

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Anyone ever volunteered at their LBS?

Old 07-27-17, 09:18 AM
  #1  
raria
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Anyone ever volunteered at their LBS?

Hi,

I like working on my bikes and often find I'm pulling them apart and playing without any need.

So I was thinking ... do LBS want people who can volunteer time to work on bikes? I'm not in it for the money rather the experience though a good discount would come in handy!


Thanks.
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Old 07-27-17, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by raria View Post
Hi,

I like working on my bikes and often find I'm pulling them apart and playing without any need.

So I was thinking ... do LBS want people who can volunteer time to work on bikes? I'm not in it for the money rather the experience though a good discount would come in handy!


Thanks.
Why not volunteer at a coop ? Same experience, better discounts and you work will go much further in helping a non profit organization.
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Old 07-27-17, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by coney462 View Post
Why not volunteer at a coop ? Same experience, better discounts and you work will go much further in helping a non profit organization.

I do this most every sunday. build stuff, get extra learning and advice from lbs pros/volunteers, and my bike tastes are just off enough that when some parts come in (cruiser/casual riding type things compared to the occasional really nice racer or mountain bike, or expensive part that comes through) the discount to buy is pretty good.
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Old 07-27-17, 09:35 AM
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I think most shops would say no do to the legal risks of you messing up something or coming back later demanding to be paid, being injured, etc. etc. Not accusing the OP of potentially doing any of those things but shops do have to be careful. The co-op idea is much better.
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Old 07-27-17, 09:59 AM
  #5  
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I'd think that most shops wouldn't allow volunteer help, in large part because there are some legalities they'd have to consider.

Would you legally be able to work without compensation, or for compensation below minimum wage, in your state? I don't know where you're at, but in New York State, if you're performing duties that are regularly performed by paid employees, the business would be required by the state's Minimum Wage Act to pay you at least minimum wage. This opinion from the state's labor department, although not about a bike shop, gives more information on some of the applicable laws.

Also, the shop would be liable for the safety of repairs you performed on their behalf. Would their liability insurance or errors & omissions insurance cover work that's not performed by an employee? If you failed to tighten a customer's stem properly, for example, and that caused the customer to have an accident, the shop could be liable to pay compensation for injuries and other damages. If the shop's insurance doesn't cover it, the shop would be responsible to do so. It wouldn't be worth the risk.

...and that's just the legal side of things. On the practical side, can you demonstrate that you'd benefit the shop? Perform good, timely work while not impeding other staff?

Like coney462 suggested, volunteering at a co-op might be more practical. Non-profit organizations aren't held to the exact same set of labor laws as for-profit businesses, easing some of the legal restrictions. And by nature, they're more accommodating to volunteerism.
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Old 07-27-17, 10:22 AM
  #6  
raria
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Originally Posted by coney462 View Post
Why not volunteer at a coop ? Same experience, better discounts and you work will go much further in helping a non profit organization.
I've done that for the past year, but I find I'm not learning much now, just putting in grunt work.

Also at the co-op most of the people who volunteer are newbies or the same level as me.
Most of the bikes are lower end quality.

An LBS will have high quality bikes to service and mechanics (I assume).

Last edited by raria; 07-27-17 at 10:27 AM.
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Old 07-27-17, 10:34 AM
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raria, the only way to find out is to go and ask some shops if they'll let you work there. All the responses are telling you the odds are not good but you still may find a place that will say yes. Not much more that will help you can be learned here. Best advice is to go visit every shop you want to work at and try to make a good impression. You could also volunteer as a mechanic at some of the big organized ride events, lots of high end bikes there although some events require you to be a pro mechanic.

Last edited by Crankycrank; 07-27-17 at 11:02 AM.
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Old 07-27-17, 10:41 AM
  #8  
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Originally Posted by coney462 View Post
Why not volunteer at a coop ? Same experience, better discounts and you work will go much further in helping a non profit organization.
Maybe people don't have access to a bike co-op. The closest one to me is in the DC area, a 2-hour drive away. I live in the country and the bike community is apparently not large enough to support a dedicated co-op in my area.

I tend to volunteer my time in other ways -- like finding a broken bike, fixing it, and then donating it to the local Goodwill or shelter. True, I never get to work on "nice" stuff that way. It does feed my desire to work on bikes, though (because I can mess with my own only so much!). I do suspect that most shops would not allow volunteers due to insurance and/or warranty reasons.

It may also be that "more help" isn't "help". The shop may find that it takes as much of their labor to coach and QA a volunteer as it does to just DO the work.
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Old 07-27-17, 10:55 AM
  #9  
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I work with a volunteer organization that fixes and refurbs bikes for kids in low-income neighborhoods. The guy who runs the operation has a trailer packed with work stands, tools, and lots of parts, mostly pulled from other bikes. He has about a thousand bikes in the shop, and more parts. We get to see, and work on, nearly every kind of bike that's out there. When they advertise that they'll be in an area, there is usually a crowd waiting, when we arrive. Mostly, it's younger kids with all kinds of really sorry-looking bikes, often with missing saddles, pedals, handlebars, or wheels. I have had the opportunity to tune up a few modern road bikes, but it's mostly cups-and-cones, square tapers, and threaded steerers. It's fun to figure out everything that needs to be done, and then do it, while the kids are watching, or, if they can, helping. I'm not sure if that's the sort of experience you're trying to garner, but I find it exhilarating. Ask around at local churches. That's our operational network.
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Old 07-27-17, 10:55 AM
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There are much better places to volunteer than a for-profit retail bicycle store.

There are hospices for terminal cancer patients, orphanages, hospitals and even dog shelters or community garden who need people more than a bike shop.

If one wants to learn bike mechanics then Barnett, Park and United Bicycle Institute are options.


-Tim-
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Old 07-27-17, 12:12 PM
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Where are you located? Folks might be able to give you more specific places; if they know where you are.

I volunteer for a lot of charity rides in my area. Some of my responsibilities as a safety marshal; include
helping out riders with mechanical breakdowns. You don't know if it will be US$50 Craigslist special; or a
US$5,000 carbon wonder bike. So far over the years; I've been able to get both kinds back on the road.
You don't have to be a master tech(I'm not); sometimes just having a pump and/or mulitool will be a big
help. You can learn from the more experienced marshals; and/or the rider themselves. Rider might know
how to repair her broken chain; just doesn't have a chain tool. You can also hang out/help out by the mechanic
station(s) by the rest stop(s).
Random Parts & Tools by 1nterceptor, on Flickr
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Old 07-27-17, 01:17 PM
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At minimum they would violate minimum wage laws and also would need to cover workers comp insurance etc. Otherwise they would be open to be sued by you, especially if you have an accident while there. And what if you ruin that customer's expensive $10k bike?

For an LBS either you are good enough that they would hire you and pay you, or you are not good enough and would just be in their way. If you are good enough and work for free, the other mechanics will see their job in jeopardy.

If you don't have a co-op nearby, you could do your own by buying old or free CL bikes and refurbing them and selling
or donating them. Basically project bikes and you (hopefully) cover your cost of tools and material and you gain experience with each and can work yourself up to more sophisticated things (besides internal gear hub overhaul and frame repair nothing really is complicated on bikes).
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Old 07-27-17, 02:25 PM
  #13  
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Yes I did--40-some years ago for work experience for high school.
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Old 07-27-17, 02:32 PM
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When a LBS finally opened up in my suburb, I went in and 'volunteered' to help with their christmas assembly rush, for $9/hr, payable in store credit. They never got back to me.
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Old 07-27-17, 03:12 PM
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raria
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Originally Posted by Crankycrank View Post
raria, the only way to find out is to go and ask some shops if they'll let you work there. All the responses are telling you the odds are not good but you still may find a place that will say yes. Not much more that will help you can be learned here. Best advice is to go visit every shop you want to work at and try to make a good impression. You could also volunteer as a mechanic at some of the big organized ride events, lots of high end bikes there although some events require you to be a pro mechanic.
Sure, but I was first looking for tips on how to approach it. So I did call a few places and two said "yes" but under the proviso that I sign a waiver regarding accidents and that I would have to work upto wrenching the nice bikes. So it looks like I'll be changing tires, lubing and wrapping bars for a few months.

Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
There are much better places to volunteer than a for-profit retail bicycle store.
There are hospices for terminal cancer patients, orphanages, hospitals and even dog shelters or community garden who need people more than a bike shop.
-Tim-
You know I tried some of that as well. Lets just say the orphans are nothing like the orphans in musicals! I have a profound respect for people who work with people in real need but it is extremely demanding and I already have a demanding life. I like the peace working on a bike gives me.
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Old 07-27-17, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by coney462 View Post
Why not volunteer at a coop ? Same experience, better discounts and you work will go much further in helping a non profit organization.
+1

There are very specific regulations regarding interning for a business, you can learn but you can't do "work."
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Old 07-27-17, 08:45 PM
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raria
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Originally Posted by velocentrik View Post
+1

There are very specific regulations regarding interning for a business, you can learn but you can't do "work."
Thanks. I've taken the co op route before and I learnt but I'm beyond that now.

The LBS and I agree this is an educational opportunity. So no rules are broken https://www.forbes.com/sites/richard...s-is-it-legal/

I start tomorrow!

Last edited by raria; 07-27-17 at 09:13 PM.
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Old 07-27-17, 10:31 PM
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There are plenty of high school and younger cycling programs that would love to have people refurb or repair bikes for kids.
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Old 07-28-17, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by raria View Post
Also at the co-op most of the people who volunteer are newbies or the same level as me. Most of the bikes are lower end quality.
Having worked on everything from department store bikes to Olympic team bikes, I think you learn more about bike mechanics from working on low-end bikes than the high-quality stuff. There's nothing like a poorly-assembled, poorly maintained bike to get your creative juices running in restoring it to rideable condition. And the vast majority of bikes you encounter in a bike shop are going to be those low-end models.
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Old 07-28-17, 08:04 AM
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"I tend to volunteer my time in other ways -- like finding a broken bike, fixing it, and then donating it to the local Goodwill or shelter."

So in effect you are running your own mini co-op. Kudos for you
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Old 07-28-17, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
Having worked on everything from department store bikes to Olympic team bikes, I think you learn more about bike mechanics from working on low-end bikes than the high-quality stuff. There's nothing like a poorly-assembled, poorly maintained bike to get your creative juices running in restoring it to rideable condition. And the vast majority of bikes you encounter in a bike shop are going to be those low-end models.
One up this, the most challenges in the shop are older beat up and outdated bikes where you have to get creative on and swap parts so the customer will be able to ride away safely and the bike holds together for a longer time.

Me personally, my shop took two interns during the winter. I hated having someone over my shoulder the whole time asking "whats that" "what are doing now and why" every 15 minutes, but thats just grumpy me.

If they do take you, dont expect to due much other than tubes/tires and lubing chains. The mechanics dont want the hassle of going back and correcting someones work if its not done to their standards. I wouldnt even expect to be wrapping bars... road bikers can get picky about their bar tape and in our shop everyone has their preference and mechanic preference
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Old 07-28-17, 08:47 AM
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I was going to suggest framing it as an unpaid internship/apprenticeship, rather than volunteering. Eventually, once they trust the quality of your work, they might even pay you. And why not? They're not a charity, after all.
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Old 07-28-17, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by gsa103 View Post
There are plenty of high school and younger cycling programs that would love to have people refurb or repair bikes for kids.
Did that last summer. A lot of kids just put the bikes we restored for them on CraigsList! Very entrepreneurial thinking I grant them that.

We got clued in when the kids were asking for specific types of bikes that they possibly couldn't ride.
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Old 07-28-17, 01:11 PM
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Volunteer at an LBS? First off, it is a for-profit entity, and why should you be working there for free? Second, the paid staffers would not exactly be thrilled to have you there threatening their jobs. Finally, due to time and cost pressures, and parts availability constraints, the bulk of the work done by regular shops is repetitive and simple.

I volunteer at a Co-op 1-2 short shifts per week. We get everything from Huffy to Colnago. Mostly vintage bikes needing overhauls and new parts.

In the last couple of weeks, I've worked on the following:
  • Converting high-end full-suspension bike to a 1 x 11 drivetrain.
  • Swapping damaged Simplex downtube shifters with NOS replacements
  • Freewheel rebuilds - yes, right down to the balls and shims
  • Freehub swaps - from Uniglide to Hyperglide
  • Swapping out a mangled Suntour Honor derailleur - upgraded to a Suntour VX.
  • Many wheel repairs on 27" wheels

So none of this would be cost-effective at a regular shop. And we have an inventory of vintage parts that no shop could afford to carry. No would they want to - a shop doesn't make as much money by making repairs on older bikes, than by encouraging customers to buy new. A regular shop does NOT want to carry old 7-speed derailleurs, because then they cannot say: "We cannot get replacement parts, so you need to replace this bike".

We get many refugees from regular shops, who have been advised the hopelessness of repairing their older beloved bike.

So I encourage the Co-op route. Much more interesting work and variety of customers. No Co-op? Start one.
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Old 07-28-17, 01:33 PM
  #25  
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Giggle, for what I was paid and what I was "taught" at the bike shop I worked for, it might as well as been volunteer.

Don't take me wrong. The side benefits were amazing, but since our shop used certified mechanics (whatever school that is) they weren't really keen on teaching things they had paid to learn. So, when you say "grunt" work that's mostly what I did while being paid. Endcaps, inventory, assembly, cleaning. Tube change was almost as exciting as it got on the mechanical aspect. I got taught how to adjust a derailleur because I was the only one in shop that wanted to go to a ride we offered to have a tech tent at, lol. (that manner of thing).

Doesn't hurt to ask around. You might find a local shop needing some part time help. Even if they will let you come on as volunteer, make sure they at least offer you the discount. It's amazing.
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