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Tell us about bike co-ops

Old 09-24-21, 05:17 PM
  #26  
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I sometimes support bike co-ops, and sometimes not. I think their primary purpose is the obvious; providing bikes, bike parts, tools for use, promotion of bike use. That's fine and good. Yet, secondarily, one that is not so obvious unless paid attention to.

The vast majority of bike co-ops here have a certain distinct flavour to them with a significant form of proselyization which takes place. I don't like that second aspect a bit.

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Old 09-24-21, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by prairiepedaler View Post
I sometimes support bike co-ops, and sometimes not. I think their primary purpose is the obvious; providing bikes, bike parts, tools for use, promotion of bike use. That's fine and good. Yet, secondarily, one that is not so obvious unless paid attention to.

The vast majority of bike co-ops here have a certain distinct flavour to them with a significant form of proselyization which takes place. I don't like that second aspect a bit.
Iíve never been to one. Wanted to check one out.

Proselytizing to what? From what?

I have to get better at being a chameleon or a gray man.
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Old 09-24-21, 11:27 PM
  #28  
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I occasionally go to the co-ops around here (San Jose, CA). As far as I could tell they are just bike stores. I have never seen them give away any bikes. Do you have to know a secret handshake to get a free bike from them?
Anyways I think what is really needed in the bike ecosystem, is a bicycle junk yard. The co-opís tend to focus on selling whole bikes.
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Old 09-24-21, 11:29 PM
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I volunteer at my local co-op. (The Bike Kitchen in Eureka, CA.) I worked in a national chain bike shop (Performance) when I was in college in the Naughties.

I see no conflict whatsoever.

What we do at the Kitchen is:

Fix bikes for people with not much money. Cheap used parts, free labor and knowledge, and even new parts are sold at basically no margin. We're all volunteers, doing it because we like bikes, we like working on bikes, and we like people.

Recondition and sell (for not much money) decent-to-good-quality bikes that get donated to us, and which would otherwise end up at the dump. Because we're all bike geeks, we do good work and build good bikes, because that's fun. Sending somebody out on a solid bike that I rebuilt, for the same or less money than they'd have paid for an unsafe garbage bike-shaped-object at Walmart or wherever makes me happy.

Sometimes, we'll gift a bike to someone who's down on their luck and needs transportation so they can get a job, go shopping, be mobile. I've fixed up and then given away basic bikes to homeless folks whose bikes got ripped off... made their day and mine.

Pre- and post-COVID, we've got six repair stands, workbenches, and toolkits, plus experienced wrenches on hand to help people work on their own bikes. Plus bins full of every part you might need to fix your broken bike. All for 10 bucks an hour plus parts.

None of this has any negative impact on any of our local bike shops. We do the stuff that they don't do, because they can't make any money on it, and they're a business and we're not, so we can do it and they can't, but it needs to get done anyway. Different incentives, therefore different results. In fact, some of our biggest donors are the local bike shops. They wouldn't give us money if they thought we were cutting their ankles off, because they're not morons.

--Shannon
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Old 09-27-21, 02:53 PM
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Bike co-op is a pretty broad term that covers a wide range of business models and areas of focus. Almost all share:

Bicycle related
Non-profit (some legally 501c3, some under an umbrella 501c3, some just some folks doing stuff out of a garage)
Accept donations of bikes and bike parts
Provide bikes and/or bike parts
Most use volunteer staffing.

From there, there's more variation. Focus might be on serving youth (Indy Cog), serving the low-income community (Columbus Bike Co-op), operating much like a bike shop (Reno Bike Project), redirecting waste from hitting the landfill (various). Some sell memberships with various perks, such as access to shop tools or first access to parts.

Most of the time, bike co-ops are staffed by bike enthusiasts who want to help people.
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Old 09-28-21, 10:48 AM
  #31  
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^finally, someone who cuts to the essence of the bike cooperative. What makes the entire concept work is the non-profit aspect. Depending on the the OP's tax laws (Australia, unfortunately), setting up one requires some planning, filling out of application forms (501 (c)(3) in the , U.S.), and of course, the requisite board of directors and financial accountability.

The benefit to users is accessibility of bicycles, parts and tools at nominal charge. The benefit to communities is the greater bond between local businesses, neighborhoods and residents. From what I've read, success is based on the to-the-death commitment of the board and volunteers to keep the doors open. For donors (like those on this forum), this is THE place to send unwanted bicycles, unused or like-new parts, and the like, to obtain the value as a tax deduction. I'm always culling through my inventory of items for what can be donated.

Co-ops rarely compete with bicycle shops because the potential clientele is stratified. Bike shops want people who are flush with money. Co-ops understand that they are serving those who are not. Each can serve those in between.
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Old 09-28-21, 12:04 PM
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I used to volunteer at a Co-op in Ottawa Canada. They accept donations of bikes and parts, sort them and remove anything that is not serviceable and send it to metal recycling, then we volunteers fix up the remainder of the bikes to sell as a revenue stream. They also allow members to use the shop on their own bikes for a small fee or in trade for hours spent on Co-op bikes. I believe they also allowed accumulation of volunteer hours in trade for the bikes and parts
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Old 09-28-21, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
Co-ops rarely compete with bicycle shops because the potential clientele is stratified. Bike shops want people who are flush with money. Co-ops understand that they are serving those who are not. Each can serve those in between.
When I was volunteering at a co-op, my full-time job was at a bike store that sold its own brand of carbon and titanium bikes. Management of the store had no issue with my involvement in the co-op as they were not competing for the same clients. In fact, even purchasers of the least expensive bikes sold by the co-op would likely become customers of the store for parts and accessories over time - the co-op had limited hours during the week and parts availability was always limited to what had been donated, so ongoing maintenance would almost always involve for-profit bike stores.
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Old 09-28-21, 07:43 PM
  #34  
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I'm a member of a bike coop and have experienced interactions with almost every bike coop in town. The coop I'm a part of charges a fee for memberships in order to keep the doors open. I've helped others fix their bikes and made suggestions to streamline the operation. I have also donated bikes and parts. I have received very little out of being a member, let's say a 25:1 value ratio in their favour by my involvement. Bike coops, and volunteer coops in general, suffer from the tragedy of the commons phenomenon.

I have also noticed, as previously mentioned upthread, a thick ideological "residue" present in most of these bike coops which has nothing to do with bikes or the environment.
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Old 09-29-21, 07:08 AM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by alo View Post
Would it be a good idea to start one in another part of the world?
I wonder if, after reading the above, if you'd be willing to share what you've learned from this discussion thread (i.e., your "takeaways"). This way, we'll be able to judge whether or not you've listened.
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Old 09-29-21, 08:25 AM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by prairiepedaler View Post
I'm a member of a bike coop and have experienced interactions with almost every bike coop in town. The coop I'm a part of charges a fee for memberships in order to keep the doors open. I've helped others fix their bikes and made suggestions to streamline the operation. I have also donated bikes and parts. I have received very little out of being a member, let's say a 25:1 value ratio in their favour by my involvement. Bike coops, and volunteer coops in general, suffer from the tragedy of the commons phenomenon.
If you are upset by such a lopsided “value ratio”, what are you looking to gain from your involvement? Maybe you should go work at a retail shop where your value ratio would be more equitable.

As for myself, I get far more out of the co-op than I put into it. Not monetarily since I, too, have donated bicycles, parts, money (quite a lot), and thousands of hours of time (10 years of 5 hour shifts plus hundreds more teaching classes). The co-op has made me a better mechanic. It has made me a better teacher of how to work on a bike. It’s made me feel better about myself by giving something back to the community. I won’t put a monetary value on that but it is of value to me.

I do get a monetary value out of the place as well. I have access to lots and lots and lots of parts. Since I work there so much, I get the cream of the crop. But that is only secondary to the real value of the co-op.
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Old 09-29-21, 09:21 AM
  #37  
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^ I've never had the spare time to volunteer at our co-op, but I do frequently make non-cash donations. The value to the community is inestimable, though. I see many customers there. On occasion, I've been able to find a handy part, like bottom bracket spindle nuts, or the random seatpost, for which I'm grateful.

With retirement now looming, I've begun to research the co-ops in San Antonio, where we plan to re-locate soon. My intention is to volunteer one day per week there, God willing.
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Old 09-29-21, 09:34 AM
  #38  
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I am a Shop Coordinator at a co-op. It seems I am also the lead mechanic. I am also employed as a mechanic at a for profit shop down the street. To the concerns of competition between shops: There is none. Different markets, different clientele. If anything the relationships are symbiotic. The bike shops have a place to direct people who were never going to be their customers anyway, & the co-op has a place to direct those who were seeking more modern, shiny bikes. Every professional bike mechanic I either work with currently or work at other shops have done volunteer work, donated time, skills, materials, or expertise to the co-op I run.

It truly is a whole second layer of your community that if you alo were merely a top level consumer you likely wouldn't know exists.

As far as being Shop coordinator: It's not the easiest knife edge to balance on. The downward bias of good parts being used on saleable bikes while retaining parts near the end of their useable lives to be kept for an even lower class of beater or free bike is quite a challenge. The in flow of donations & limited space to put them. The labor involved in salvage & recovery. The staging of bikes to be worked by volunteers. The quality of work done by volunteers that must checked & be re-done. The lack of space for sale-able bikes. The immediate needs of customers. On the spot fixes to get them on their way. Finding a task for an unmonied person to do to effect some form of fair trade....Ack! It can be a very busy place. (Did I mention, we're hiring qualified resourceful mechanics? IOW: HELP! )

This job has given me a new perspective of all the different directions a bikeshop owner gets pulled & all the various irons in the fire on a day to day basis. It's no wonder they are content to leave the foundation work of cycling to people like myself & dabble where they can to keep places like co-ops running. It's as good for them as it is the community.
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Old 09-29-21, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by prairiepedaler View Post
I sometimes support bike co-ops, and sometimes not. I think their primary purpose is the obvious; providing bikes, bike parts, tools for use, promotion of bike use. That's fine and good. Yet, secondarily, one that is not so obvious unless paid attention to.

The vast majority of bike co-ops here have a certain distinct flavour to them with a significant form of proselyization which takes place. I don't like that second aspect a bit.
Maybe if you took out a piece of paper & used a pencil to spell out the word: "Community. Then right below it on the next line spelled out the word: "Commune" & observed the arrangement & placement of the letters you might gain some insight into the nature of caring human beings operating towards any comm-(oops, there it is again!) common purpose.

Hunting community.
Fishing community.
Church community.
Farm or rural community.

I mean when it comes to the bicycle group, Co-op is literally in the name.

Cooperative - Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org õ wiki õ CooperativeA cooperative (also known as co-operative, co-op, or coop) is "an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned enterprise".

I suppose the bigger question that lends itself is why would such a concept would make you uncomfortable?

I don't intend to be inflamitory. It's just an apprehension I don't understand.
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Old 09-29-21, 10:16 AM
  #40  
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
I don't intend to be inflamitory. It's just an apprehension I don't understand.
If I understood him correctly, his apprehension stems from some users (members?) of the co-op acting selfishly, to the detriment of the community. I guess that this wouldn't surprise me in the least. But I grew up on the east coast...
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Old 09-29-21, 10:42 AM
  #41  
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
If I understood him correctly, his apprehension stems from some users (members?) of the co-op acting selfishly, to the detriment of the community. I guess that this wouldn't surprise me in the least. But I grew up on the east coast...
I suppose it could be read that way too.
We too had to let a paid employee go for such behavior. But it's not something I have observed a great deal of in my co-op. Maybe I did misinterpret his meaning.
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Old 09-29-21, 03:32 PM
  #42  
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Originally Posted by base2 View Post
Maybe if you took out a piece of paper & used a pencil to spell out the word: "Community. Then right below it on the next line spelled out the word: "Commune" & observed the arrangement & placement of the letters you might gain some insight into the nature of caring human beings operating towards any comm-(oops, there it is again!) common purpose.

Hunting community.
Fishing community.
Church community.
Farm or rural community.

I mean when it comes to the bicycle group, Co-op is literally in the name.

Cooperative - Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › CooperativeA cooperative (also known as co-operative, co-op, or coop) is "an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned enterprise".

I suppose the bigger question that lends itself is why would such a concept would make you uncomfortable?

I don't intend to be inflamitory. It's just an apprehension I don't understand.
Thank you very much for the unrequested ingrish resson. Next time you throw a potluck, I won't bring anything except tupperware to take home all the leftovers. The word "community" does contain the U-locks' key.

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Old 09-29-21, 06:05 PM
  #43  
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
^ I've never had the spare time to volunteer at our co-op, but I do frequently make non-cash donations. The value to the community is inestimable, though. I see many customers there. On occasion, I've been able to find a handy part, like bottom bracket spindle nuts, or the random seatpost, for which I'm grateful.

With retirement now looming, I've begun to research the co-ops in San Antonio, where we plan to re-locate soon. My intention is to volunteer one day per week there, God willing.
I think thatís good. I think a lot of retirees get programmed watching to much faux or constant negative news and rust from the mind out.
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Old 09-30-21, 09:54 PM
  #44  
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I'm really missing volunteering at a co-op. As opposed to my profession of dealing with engineers, projects, executives, and software, the bike co-op is a place of sanity and simplicity. Down to earth people, clear goals, and fixable problems.
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Old 09-30-21, 10:37 PM
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Originally Posted by downtube42 View Post
I'm really missing volunteering at a co-op. As opposed to my profession of dealing with engineers, projects, executives, and software, the bike co-op is a place of sanity and simplicity. Down to earth people, clear goals, and fixable problems.
Clear goals like, "put gears on this Diamond Back MTB, which currently has no derailleurs and a BMX chain wrapped around the middle cog."

Fixable problems like, "Oh, wait... it has the brazed-on tubular cable guide for a Suntour Superbe Tech rear derailleur instead of a cable stop for the housing loop that it didn't use."

Simple and sane? Not when the answer involves Suntour PowerRatchet thumbshifters, a Shimano STX rear derailleur, cutting down ferrules into adapters, using brake housing for the loop because shift housing ferrules are too big for the little tube, feeding the cable into the rear derailleur with a V-brake noodle, and zip-tying the resulting kludge to the chainstay so that the housing won't just go sideways when you downshift.

It shifted pretty darned well, and the customer was stoked, and I had a lot of fun hacking it together... And that's what I love about wrenching at the co-op.

--Shannon
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Old 10-01-21, 09:25 AM
  #46  
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Originally Posted by prairiepedaler View Post
Thank you very much for the unrequested ingrish resson. Next time you throw a potluck, I won't bring anything except tupperware to take home all the leftovers. The word "community" does contain the U-locks' key.
What, uhhhh, does "ingrish resson" mean?
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Old 10-01-21, 10:33 AM
  #47  
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa View Post
Because people like to work on their bikes without buying $200 in tools?
I fit that description.

I can remember twice "big" incidents:

1) I banged up the derailleur hanger in a minor crash (actually a major crash, was in the ER and only 3 months later that I looked at the bike and noticed the bent hanger). A derailleur hanger puller would cost something like $50+. As I (hope) don't crash frequently, I don't see using that tool again much, if at all! By going to the co-op (and dropping a donation of $10), I got the hanger fixed in 10 minutes. Bike shops, on the other hand, wouldn't even give me a quote! Plus I had to drop the bike off and pick it up another time. Just the travel time to the shop (even though it's closer) plus the wait time were annoying enough that I would have prefer to fix it myself.

2) Headset installation. Decided to keep my 20 year old mountain bike going. But the front shock was totally gone. I've already upgraded my "real" mountain bike's front shock. So I have a leftover that was still functional. Only need to move the headset over. Don't expect to do it again for a very long time. Got it done in the Co-op.

Also used it earlier when I was just starting out. Wasn't sure what tool I would need to buy. Used the Co-op to do various minor repairs (and learn to do them with others there). Eventually, I bought some of the tools I found I need frequently.

Originally Posted by 50PlusCycling View Post
What is the effect of bike co-ops on the cycling economy? First, they drive down the wages of bike mechanics who are already earning barely more than minimum wage, and they put pressure on bike shops, which, in most times, earn barely enough to pay their overhead. You will never get rich as a bike shop owner even under the best of circumstances.

Here in Japan every household has a bike. Far more Japanese commute by bicycle than Americans. Japanese people are practical and economical, they don't spend money unnecessarily, yet I have never seen a bicycle co-op in Japan. In Japan, if you want a bike, you buy one. If you need to get your bike repaired, you take it to a bike mechanic. Bike mechanics in Japan are as poorly paid as American bike mechanics, and repairs cost about the same.
Aren't those two statements contradiction? If bike mechanics in Japan, which doesn't have bike co-ops, are equally poorly paid as their American counterparts, that would seem to prove the existence of bike co-ops doesn't drive down the pay of bike mechanics.

The only way bike co-op hurt bike shop business is people would buy more new bike if the co-op doesn't exist to help them repair their old bikes!

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Old 10-01-21, 03:15 PM
  #48  
downtube42
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Originally Posted by ShannonM View Post
Clear goals like, "put gears on this Diamond Back MTB, which currently has no derailleurs and a BMX chain wrapped around the middle cog."

Fixable problems like, "Oh, wait... it has the brazed-on tubular cable guide for a Suntour Superbe Tech rear derailleur instead of a cable stop for the housing loop that it didn't use."

Simple and sane? Not when the answer involves Suntour PowerRatchet thumbshifters, a Shimano STX rear derailleur, cutting down ferrules into adapters, using brake housing for the loop because shift housing ferrules are too big for the little tube, feeding the cable into the rear derailleur with a V-brake noodle, and zip-tying the resulting kludge to the chainstay so that the housing won't just go sideways when you downshift.

It shifted pretty darned well, and the customer was stoked, and I had a lot of fun hacking it together... And that's what I love about wrenching at the co-op.

--Shannon
That's the stuff. While at the same time listening to a dude one stand over regaling you with stories his life on the road the last 18 months, as he rebuilds the BB on his crusty old Raleigh.
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Old 10-01-21, 03:34 PM
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Here in Bloomington, IN the "Bike Project" is the co-op. I went in a few times to volunteer and was asked to sit in on the meetings of the management group, I made a few suggestions and was asked to work there as a manager for a while. They were as Phil mentions, an under-section of a 501C-3 and had to report to the manager of the 501. After a year of volunteer work there I left after a bit of a spat with the 501 manager. The co-op serves our under-employed and low income residents, and our rather high homeless population. Sales of bikes and some parts help keep the doors open but they cannot survive without volunteer help for every time the doors are open. I still go in, but help out only at my own pleasure and not from the need to be there working. They still have all of the struggles of a small entity trying too work in a very low compensation area.
The political issues here are still at work behind the scenes and as a few here have noted there is a mindset that they work under. Not particularly mine, but I can tolerate it enough to go in and do some work hours there. It does serve a need that the LBS's can't fill. Just my experiences, Smiles, MH
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