With NU volunteers, shop spins bikes new life

Nathalie Tadena

Nathalie Tadena/The Daily Northwestern

A newly relocated Rogers Park bike shop strives to make biking a more affordable community-wide option by restoring donated and discarded bicycles.

The Recyclery Collective opened its new home at 7628 N. Paulina St. in Chicago in June. Previously, the Recyclery was located at 713 Seward Ave. in Evanston.

The 4-year-old bike collectivewas founded by members of the Reba Place Church, 620 Madison Ave.

“We wanted to do something at the time that we felt good about and not just get an ordinary job,” said Jeffe Miller, one of the Recyclery’s founders. “We wanted to promote a message of ecological sustainability and also a way to get involved with our neighbors in the area.”

Miller and other Reba members decided to open a used bike shop to connect with lower-income residents in the area. They took classes from other bike shops in the area and collected old bikes through donations.

“I never really wanted to own a car,” Miller said. “I thought bikes were a more affordable way to get around and as I learned more, I got interested in the mechanics and how it works. It’s a skill that takes a lot of practice and you can always learn more.”

Now, most bikes are donated from local individuals, though the Evanston Police Department also donates as well.

Recyclery member Evan Spencer bikes about three miles from NU’s campus to the storefront, where he volunteers four days a week.

“Right now bikes are kind of one or the other – they’re either not very good or they’re really high end,” said the McCormick junior. “There’s not much of a middle ground. We want to bulk up that middle ground with good bikes that are still solid but not necessarily so expensive.”

While the Recyclery does not have a business license to sell bikes out of their shop, it holds monthly adult bike sales at Whole Foods Market, 1111 Chicago Ave., in Evanston. Bikes usually sell for $70 to $130.

“There’s always a lot more people than bikes,” Spencer said of the sales, adding that about 60 people showed up to the last sale where only 30 bikes were available.

The shop thrives on a symbiotic relationship with community members, Spencer said. During “open shop” hours held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons as well as Tuesday evenings, members offer to help fix bikes brought in by local patrons for a suggested donation of $10. Similarly, residents can also come in for “volunteer hours” on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to help restore some of the donated bikes the Recyclery has acquired. There are about six members who handle the day-to-day business of the shop, but community volunteers do most of its work.

On the first and third Thursday evening of every month, the shop hosts a “Women and Trans Night,” an open shop just for women and transgender patrons who want to work on their bikes.

“There are a lot of ideas that men are better at mechanics, that men are better bikers,” said Andrea Craft, a volunteer who co-hosts the event.

Craft said she learned about bike mechanics through similar workshops at other Chicago bike shops. She said she wanted to encourage women, transgender and non-gender conforming individuals to get involved in the biking community.

“This is a really cool, very comfortable environment for them,” she said. “At our regular open shops it’s very manly and macho – some people feel intimidated and would never show up to them.”

Spencer said there is “a pretty good mix” of patrons, including NU and Loyola University Chicago students. With the Recyclery’s new storefront location, Spencer said the shop has a more visible presence in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

The shopalso runs a FreeCyclery program with local social service organizations that provides free bikes to lower-income individuals and others in need.

Community members can also participate in an eight-week “Build-a-Bike” class at the shop.

“We’re very multi-faceted in the work we do,” Craft said.

Though the shop is not participating in Evanston’s Bike the Ridge event on Sunday, the Recyclery will conduct a kids’ bike sale at the West End Market at Church and Dodge this weekend.

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