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Tell us about bike co-ops

Old 06-30-21, 03:04 PM
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alo
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Tell us about bike co-ops

Various people have mentioned bike co-ops. These may only exist in America. I have not seen one where I have been. How do they work? What are the benefits of bike co-ops? Do they make it more difficult for bike shops to compete in the same area? Would it be a good idea to start one in another part of the world?
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Old 06-30-21, 03:27 PM
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It's like a bicycle recycler shop. Mostly repurposing old beat up bicycles to make less beat up ones ridable. We don't have them very local around here.
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Old 06-30-21, 03:34 PM
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We have a bike co-op in my locale. They provide repairs, free parts, but perhaps more importantly, training on basic bike maintenance and space for people to do their own maintenance with varying amounts of help and advice. I've gotten parts there, for which I donate an amount of money equal to what I'd have paid for the part on eBay.

There is also a charitable outfit that runs a storefront bike shop, with used bikes for sale, parts, and repairs. They receive donations of money and bikes, and employ teenagers from the surrounding low-income neighborhood, who they train.

Meanwhile, there are also several mainstream bike shops that are all thriving. So I'd say it doesn't make it hard for the shops to compete. The co-op is doing stuff for people who can't afford much, and that the shops can't make money on anyway.

Every country and locale is unique in terms of its economics. I imagine that in many lower income countries, it's more likely that there are individual people doing low cost repairs out of their homes, or using space with very low rent.
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Old 06-30-21, 04:42 PM
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A co-op will normally need at least one person with some level of mechanical competence....
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Old 06-30-21, 06:12 PM
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I got my Soma from one. People donate their bikes and the mechanics fix em up and sell them to raise money. The nonprofit aspect is like people are describing, donating bikes to kids on the condition that the kid actually helps fix it up (pretty cool idea), allowing people to use the workshop and get advice for a small fee, selling used parts for next to nothing. And my Soma is a pretty nice bike I got for a very fair price when the stores had pretty much no bikes.

There really aren't any used bike stores around here, and I don't think the LBS see the coop as competition. As a matter of fact, one of them donates to the coop. I think the real competition is with Walmart. The coop is giving away nicer bikes to kids than Walmart sells.
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Old 06-30-21, 06:18 PM
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I wonder why it is that there is a need for bike co-ops. A bike is not an expensive, hard-to-find, difficult-to-repair machine. Bike mechanics are not highly skilled relative to other specialists, and, as a result, are not highly paid, and most bicycle repairs are not too expensive for even starving students to afford, unless they are spending all their money on a new smart phone every year, or eating out at fast food restaurants regularly. As a former bike mechanic myself, I know that some 90% of bike repairs are simple and routine. Tires/tubes, lubrication, brake and derailleur adjustment, occasionally cable or chain replacement, and that's the most of it.

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.
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Old 06-30-21, 06:25 PM
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Jeez, the way all my neighbors come to me for repairs and advice, I must be the local coop. I sure fit the description of bike mechanics are not highly skilled (?) Who would say that? I know just enough to get into trouble and then need a REAL bike mechanic to fix it right.
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Old 06-30-21, 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by 50PlusCycling View Post
I wonder why it is that there is a need for bike co-ops. A bike is not an expensive, hard-to-find, difficult-to-repair machine. Bike mechanics are not highly skilled relative to other specialists, and, as a result, are not highly paid, and most bicycle repairs are not too expensive for even starving students to afford, unless they are spending all their money on a new smart phone every year, or eating out at fast food restaurants regularly. As a former bike mechanic myself, I know that some 90% of bike repairs are simple and routine. Tires/tubes, lubrication, brake and derailleur adjustment, occasionally cable or chain replacement, and that's the most of it.

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.
it's to instill a skillset, provoke a talent, or to focus time away from being a public nuisance.
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Old 06-30-21, 07:13 PM
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Old 06-30-21, 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by 50PlusCycling View Post
I wonder why it is that there is a need for bike co-ops. A bike is not an expensive, hard-to-find, difficult-to-repair machine. Bike mechanics are not highly skilled relative to other specialists, and, as a result, are not highly paid, and most bicycle repairs are not too expensive for even starving students to afford, unless they are spending all their money on a new smart phone every year, or eating out at fast food restaurants regularly. As a former bike mechanic myself, I know that some 90% of bike repairs are simple and routine. Tires/tubes, lubrication, brake and derailleur adjustment, occasionally cable or chain replacement, and that's the most of it.

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.
You need to spend some time in the US urban inner city to see the everyday poverty some people live in.
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Old 06-30-21, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by dedhed View Post
You need to spend some time in the US urban inner city to see the everyday poverty some people live in.
Indeed, and also I've noticed that the poorest of poor, and homeless, who depend on a bike also can't drop it off and wait for a repair. A relatively un-busy co-op with available tools and parts can be a blessing. Sometimes their appearance and demeanor also attracts less than the best possible treatment in commercial establishments. I've had friends who were homeless, poor, or both.
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Old 06-30-21, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by 50PlusCycling View Post
I wonder why it is that there is a need for bike co-ops. A bike is not an expensive, hard-to-find, difficult-to-repair machine. Bike mechanics are not highly skilled relative to other specialists, and, as a result, are not highly paid, and most bicycle repairs are not too expensive for even starving students to afford, unless they are spending all their money on a new smart phone every year, or eating out at fast food restaurants regularly. As a former bike mechanic myself, I know that some 90% of bike repairs are simple and routine. Tires/tubes, lubrication, brake and derailleur adjustment, occasionally cable or chain replacement, and that's the most of it.

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.
Well, for one thing, I’ve learned that most of us here don’t think bikes are that complex to fix, but most people (in countries other than yours) do and are not able to reliably repair/replace parts themselves.

Secondly, this opinion: “they drive down the wages of bike mechanics who are already earning barely more than minimum wage, and they put pressure on bike shops...” is a curious one- do you have evidence of this? From what I observe, the people who patronize our local bike shops are NOT the people who rely on our local bike co-op.

(To put a fine point on it based on a recent in-person observation by me, people in a co-op round here would not be A. walking into a local chain bike shop saying “I need a bike for my husband” and then B. shortly thereafter deciding on a $2,500 USD Giant from the showroom floor.)
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Old 07-01-21, 03:07 AM
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Originally Posted by 50PlusCycling View Post
I wonder why it is that there is a need for bike co-ops.
Because people like to work on their bikes without buying $200 in tools?

Because people like to take classes to find out how to repair their bikes?

​​​​​​Because knowledgeable people like to volunteer and help others that are financially disadvantaged?

Because people like me like to go to a central place to find great deals on vintage frames and components?

Because getting more kids on used bikes is, like, good for a community?
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Old 07-01-21, 03:54 AM
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The one here is open a few days a week, has work space where typically the full timers will show you how to fix your bike, before doing it for you. There are parts that'll be free or cheap, or possibly tradable(my idea).

Compared to a bike shop; they're reasonable, especially if you're poor.
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Old 07-01-21, 05:57 AM
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Originally Posted by alo View Post
Various people have mentioned bike co-ops. These may only exist in America. I have not seen one where I have been. How do they work? What are the benefits of bike co-ops? Do they make it more difficult for bike shops to compete in the same area? Would it be a good idea to start one in another part of the world?
I wonder if they hire pensioners?
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Old 07-01-21, 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by 50PlusCycling View Post
I wonder why it is that there is a need for bike co-ops. A bike is not an expensive, hard-to-find, difficult-to-repair machine. Bike mechanics are not highly skilled relative to other specialists, and, as a result, are not highly paid, and most bicycle repairs are not too expensive for even starving students to afford, unless they are spending all their money on a new smart phone every year, or eating out at fast food restaurants regularly. As a former bike mechanic myself, I know that some 90% of bike repairs are simple and routine. Tires/tubes, lubrication, brake and derailleur adjustment, occasionally cable or chain replacement, and that's the most of it.

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.
Bike co-ops teach people the skills that you consider simple and take for granted.
Bike co-ops offer an access point for older bikes to continue to be used since there is a large stash of components at decent pricing.
Bike co-ops give away tons of bikes, locks, and helmets to kids who otherwise wouldnt have those things. And they hold bike rodeos where kids learn basic riding skills.
Bike co-ops give away bikes and help maintain bikes for adults with needs but not funds- homeless, disabled, immigrant, etc for transportation. Someone that hangs at the side of an off-ramp doesnt have the money to have their wheel trued at a shop.

Around me, the effect of a bike co-op on the cycling economy is a significant benefit. Huge benefit. The co-op partners with a couple of shops and receives donated bikes and goods, so clearly the shops see a benefit and are not threatened. The couple of paid mechanics at the co-op arent depressing wages for mechanics at the shops- thats absurd. Most co-op employees are volunteer, which keeps costs down. Furthermore, the co-op is a strong advocate for Safe Streets and cycling as well as pedestrian infrastructure in the community. An additional nice service here- at the city's Farmer's Market each Saturday morning, the co-op has a Bike Valet service for the community so you can ride in, park your bike for free in a secure location, and enjoy the market.
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Old 07-01-21, 09:27 AM
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There is a relatively large co-op in my area that I found about recently although I've lived here for years, and it has most of the positive attributes described above. However, it may have been picked clean during the pandemic since the bikes and parts there are in pretty poor condition. However, I was able to rescue one bike that was kind of a pearl among lesser models. BTW, the bike mechanics in my area, unlike reported above, are skilled at more than changing tires and paid a fair wage including health insurance and other "normal" benefits.
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Old 07-01-21, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by 50PlusCycling View Post
I wonder why it is that there is a need for bike co-ops. A bike is not an expensive, hard-to-find, difficult-to-repair machine. Bike mechanics are not highly skilled relative to other specialists, and, as a result, are not highly paid, and most bicycle repairs are not too expensive for even starving students to afford, unless they are spending all their money on a new smart phone every year, or eating out at fast food restaurants regularly. As a former bike mechanic myself, I know that some 90% of bike repairs are simple and routine. Tires/tubes, lubrication, brake and derailleur adjustment, occasionally cable or chain replacement, and that's the most of it.

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.

The bike coop in Manchester NH actually employs several bike mechanics. And the lbs there takes many, many days to turn around repairs. When you get outside of major cities, there's a lot of places in the US that don't really have any bike shops nearby.
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Old 07-01-21, 09:09 PM
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Most co-ops are not competing with for-profit shops; they serve a different clientelle. At the same time, bike co-ops often result in more people on bikes, which leads to even more people on bikes, which is good for the bike business.

I've volunteered at a lot of bike co-ops. It's quite common for a young adult to come to the co-op for their first adult bike, then move on to a bike-shop bike when their interest in cycling grows.

Bike co-ops are a global phenomenon, certainly not limited to the US.
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Old 07-01-21, 10:45 PM
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My Experience at "The Bicycle Tree" in Santa Ana

I was wondering the same thing. I’m not mechanically inclined nor financially well off. 5 years ago made my return to cycles, at age 48. First 5 years with adult trikes, but starting my 6th year with a bicycle. I pedaled over 26,000 kilometers on the adult trikes; I was living in Long Beach and riding seemed so dangerous opposed to the California deserts I rode in as a child/young adult. That combined with my balance issues were the main factors for starting with an adult trike. I had 5 adult trikes and assembled 4, and performed maintenance/repairs on all 5. I prefer riding to wrenching but can’t have one without the other and I don’t have budget to bring my cycles to the LBS. So I found helpful tips for cycle assembly and repair in BF Bicycle Mechanics. I also heard talk about coops and wanted to explore, if possible. I then discovered The Bicycle Tree in Santa Ana, so I went there to see what all the buzz was about.



I got to work on my trike for 6 hours; most of that time was waiting, the shop was busy that day (January 10, 2020 – fortunate because they stopped services during COVID). Within that time it was the most enjoyable experience working on my trike; I got to use a rack and it was the first time I had an excellent view of the drive train + cleaning sprockets and cogs without strain on my back. I was even allowed to use premium tools compared to my budget tools. And parts, some new & some used, were inexpensive. I was grateful for the experience and hope the county allows them to start teaching people to work on their bikes again soon; I’d love to bring in my Electra Townie and work on it there. They teach awesome skills; I assembled another adult trike last March, and used many updated skills learned there.



Bicycle co-ops are wonderful resources for communities (based on what I’ve heard and experienced). This is a great thread, I enjoyed reading it!
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Old 07-01-21, 11:18 PM
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Up next for discussion: how Habitat for Humanity is driving down the wages of builders and putting construction workers out of business. After that maybe we can talk about how AutoZone and NAPA are destroying car dealerships daily.
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Old 07-02-21, 04:56 AM
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From what I have read, it seems Americans pay much more for used bicycles than people in many other countries. Americans consider their prices to be normal. Maybe a factor in this is that many people take bikes to bike co-ops, whereas in other countries they just sell them cheap.
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Old 07-02-21, 05:03 AM
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Originally Posted by alo View Post
From what I have read, it seems Americans pay much more for used bicycles than people in many other countries. Americans consider their prices to be normal. Maybe a factor in this is that many people take bikes to bike co-ops, whereas in other countries they just sell them cheap.

I think you're mixing up cause and effect. Bike coops aren't a big enough factor to affect the price of bikes in the US. I think what's primarily happening is that the coops are filling in a niche that neighborhood LBS can no longer fill profitably.
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Old 07-02-21, 05:06 AM
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America clearly doesn't suit everyone, bloom where you're planted.
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Old 07-02-21, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by alo View Post
.....many people take bikes to bike co-ops, whereas in other countries they just sell them cheap.
Isn't that exactly what you were complaining about in your earlier thread?
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