Shifting gears: Bike Cave offers an affordable set of wheelsThe Bike Cave Collective is a bike shop, run by the Loaves and Fishes community, that provides the community with a safe place and tools necessary for anyone to build or repair a bicycle without needing money.
By: Teri Cadeau, For the Budgeteer News
The Bike Cave Collective is a bike shop, run by the Loaves and Fishes community, that provides the community with a safe place and tools necessary for anyone to build or repair a bicycle without needing money.
However, even though you don’t need money, the bicycles aren’t simply given away.
“Hello! Welcome to the Bike Cave,” greets Chelsea Froemke with a smile, when a new person makes their way to the back of the Dorothy Day House on Jefferson Street.
Froemke is one of the members of the community who spends her Saturday afternoon and/or Thursday evening helping build or repair bicycles at the eclectic bicycle shop known as “The Bike Cave Collective.”
“We try to empower people and give them the tools and guidance to build their own bikes,” says Froemke. “We don’t just give away bikes; we have a kind of barter system.”
If you need a bicycle, you can get one by providing either “sweat
equity” or “learning hours.” Sweat equity means that you “pay” for your bicycle that you build by putting into the bike shop what you take out. This can be done in multiple ways, whether it be by helping out around the shop, donating bike parts, or even baking or cooking something.
If you don’t know how to build a bicycle, you can take the learning hours option. You can learn about bicycle mechanics and receive hands-on guidance as you build your own bicycle. The shop has quite a few volunteers with a lot of experience with bicycle building.
One such volunteer is Kelly Wallin of Duluth who has been volunteering at the shop for about five months. Wallin said he has always enjoyed working on bicycles. He had heard about a bike collective in Milwaukee and wanted to start one here in Duluth. Then he found the Bike Cave Collective and decided to join them “rather than reinvent the wheel.”
“I think what I enjoy best [about volunteering at the collective] is seeing all the smiling faces when people get their bikes,” said Wallin as he worked on repacking a rear bike hub. “It’s also better than a paid gig because there’s none of the drama. And I like giving back to the community.”
“We know that a lot of people can’t afford cars or bicycles because they’re so expensive,” said Froemke. “So we try to provide a way for people to get a bicycle without having to pay so much.”
This is very true for newcomer Mary Gonzalez, who went to the Bike Cave for the first time last Saturday.
“I just moved here to go to Fresh Start. Seems like everyone there has a bike,” said Gonzalez. “I think it’s a great resource. I wouldn’t be able to afford a bike otherwise.” Her 15-speed mountain bike will provide her with a way to get around on Duluth’s steep hills when it’s finished.
The Bike Cave started in the basement of the Loaves and Fishes Dorothy Day House about 7 years ago. It started with a couple of guys who liked to work on bicycles and had only a 10-feet by 10-feet space in which to work. About two years ago, they decided to open it up to benefit the entire community and expanded to the entire basement and part of the backyard. It is completely community-run and depends entirely on donations. They are always looking for volunteers to help run the shop, build bicycles, or help out in any way.
“We can always use more kid-size bicycles!” Froemke said. “Those seem to go the quickest, which is great!”
“More volunteers means we can provide longer and more hours,” said Wallin. “I hope we can start a trend and start seeing bike shops like this in other neighborhoods as well.”
If you would like to make a donation or find out more information about the Bike Cave you can go to their website at http://bikecavecollective.blogspot.com or call them at 218-724-2054. It is located at 1712 Jefferson Street, and hours are Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.