One Sunday afternoon, Rufus Godbey watched intently as a mechanic made adjustments to his bike, the whole time explaining what he was doing and why. After the job was done, Rufus took it out for a ride and said the bike rode much better. And the 14-year-old said he learned something – “a little, I’m trying” – about bicycle mechanics.
For the lesson and the work, Rufus’ mother, Jennifer Connor Godbey, paid $4, the hourly cost to rent a fully equipped workstation at Spoke broken community bike shop where experienced volunteer mechanics are on hand to help and teach you.
A nonprofit, Broke Spoke’s mission is pretty simple: to help people “have better access to better bikes.”
That means making it affordable to buy and repair and empowering people to keep their bikes in shape themselves, said Brad Flowers, one of the organization’s founders and current chairman of the board.
Like many community bike shops across the country, Broke Spoke relies on people donating bikes, bike parts and accessories. Volunteer mechanics donate their time to rehabilitate the bikes, selling many for something in the $100 range. People who can’t even afford that price can pay it in “sweat equity,” by volunteering at the store, Flowers said.
Everyone is welcome at Broke Spoke, but many of its customers are people often referred to as “quiet riders”, not kids having fun or recreational riders in clubs, but people who need reliable bikes. to get to work or school and who cannot afford a car. Some are from the Men’s Hope Center just down the Legacy Trail, some are students and some are immigrants.
Broke Spoke’s origins, Flowers said, can be traced back to a program founded in 2005 that aimed to provide bikes to refugees in Lexington. By 2010 the effort had evolved into what is now Broke Spoke in a small building on Limestone near Al’s Bar. About ten years ago, the organization moved to larger premises in the building that houses West Sixth Brewing, with a door opening onto the Legacy Trail.
The founders wanted to build a good relationship with the city’s for-profit bike shops, and initially met with them all to address any concerns they might have about a “low-priced” non-profit competitor. cost”.
“They’re really essential to us,” Flowers said, often donating parts or excess stock. And Broke Spoke provides an affordable entry point for recreational riders who sometimes head to bike shops when they want to upgrade.
Learn bike repairs
Like everything else, Broke Spoke has taken a hit during the pandemic and is currently only open to the public on Sunday afternoons. But Flowers said the organization is taking steps to grow.
One is a program to train people in the basics of bicycle maintenance in order to develop more skilled volunteer mechanics. The other is hiring a store manager, the organization’s first full-time employee, to help extend hours and reach.
“We’re getting to the point where there’s really more demand than our volunteers can meet,” Flowers said.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, the demand was evident as the store buzzed with people working on bikes and looking for something to buy.
Luke Box managed traffic, hooked people up and checked them in and made sure everyone got the mechanic or bike they needed.
“We live nearby and it’s such a great resource,” Jennifer Connor Godbey said. She bought herself a bike that day, for $100, and Rufus had come from Broke Spoke a few months earlier. Younger sister Maris had an apartment repaired that afternoon and quickly got back on the Legacy Trail.
“A flat tire is the number one reason people stop cycling,” Flowers said. It’s Broke Spoke’s mission to fix those apartments and get people back on those bikes.
How to donate a bike
Coming out of the pandemic, Broke Spoke is trying to grow to connect more people who need affordable, reliable transportation with bikes that work. To do this, he needs two things: more donated bikes and more money.
“We want to connect these bikes in garages and backyards with the people who need them,” said board chairman Brad Flowers. For the store manager they will be hiring soon, “we will need long-lasting donors”, and will apply for grants and do more fundraising.
Broke Spoke’s business model for the first decade-plus of its existence was largely self-sufficient, as volunteer mechanics refurbished donated bikes which were then sold, with the money earned being invested in rent and other expenses.
With overtime, they will need more skilled volunteers to help fix the bikes. Broke Spoke therefore organized a series of month-long repair courses to train those interested in learning more about bikes and helping the organization. The June session still had a few openings.
As for people wanting to donate bikes, Flowers pointed out that higher quality bikes, what they call “bike shop bikes”, even if they are old, are “much easier to maintain in the long run. than bikes from big box stores.
As a non-profit organization, donations of bikes and money to Broke Spoke are tax deductible.
Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop
Where: 501 W. Sixth St. Suite 130
Hours: 1-5 p.m. Sunday
Contact: Email [email protected]