Fixing bikes, enhancing community

PHOTO BY LIBBY JAMES. Volunteers Tim Blythe, Don Picard, manager Justin Mohar, Tim Anderson and Jeff Sweet with the Fort Collins Bicycle Co-Op.

If you live in Fort Collins and want or need a bike, you are in luck. Even if you don’t have two pennies to rub together, you can have a bicycle built especially for you, as long as you are willing to put in a few hours of labor for a local non-profit organization.

That’s because a dedicated manager, several part-time employees and a corps of loyal volunteers at the Fort Collins Bike Co-op will make it possible. “We couldn’t do this if Fort Collins weren’t the bike friendly community that it is”, said general manager Justin Mohar.

The Co-op got its start in 2003 when Rafael Cletero began repairing bikes in his garage. A few friends and neighbors got curious and asked him for help. Before he knew it, his garage was overflowing with bikes and parts, and he had to put a sign on his door in order to limit his working hours. Soon he moved to larger quarters and named his enterprise the Bike Against Collective. Soon the city began to wonder whether or not he was an official business and solved that problem by becoming involved and encouraging his work by suggesting he become a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

The Collective became the Fort Collins Bicycle Co-op. It was located at 331 N. College Avenue until they acquired the property at 1501 N. College, formerly a recycling operation. With two buildings covering 4,000 square feet and a large outdoor area, the Co-op has plenty of room for bike and parts storage, a spacious and well-lighted work area, and an inviting retail space at the front of the shop.

PHOTO BY LIBBY JAMES. A bike mounted on the outside wall of the Fort Collins Bicycle Co-Op.

Between 80 and 120 volunteers give their time in the course of a year, according to Mohar. They range from newbies who have no knowledge of bike mechanics to “bike geeks” who spend time at the shop three or four days every week. Most are retired and have loved bikes all their lives. Several were bike racers. On one visit, a retired software engineer was working away in the back room, and a couple of dentists were still enjoying precise tinkering, just not in people’s mouths. They were obviously enjoying the camaraderie as they worked to make a contribution to the welfare of the biking community.

Mohar, who has ridden a bike since college days at the University of Wisconsin, admits that if he had to give up either riding or working on bikes, he’d quit riding. He began as a volunteer at the Bike Co-op in 2007 and has been managing the place for the last six years.

He calls the shop’s Earn-a-Bike option its flagship program. A person in need of a bike can earn one by devoting between 10 and 20 hours of labor to a local non-profit. An alternative “midway” program makes it possible for someone to receive an “as is” bike and then tune it up by paying an hourly fee and working with a volunteer mechanic to do the necessary repairs on their bike. Other customers choose to acquire a bike and pay it off by doing chores at the shop.

A “mechanic service” offers anyone in the community a course in bicycle repairs as they work on their own bikes supervised by a mechanic. Fee for this service is $12 an hour.

The retail arm of the business supports these programs. Used bicycles are repaired, refurbished, tuned up and offered for sale. All bikes in the shop have been donated by members of the community. The shop never buys a bike or even makes a trade; they only take donations. The retail portion of the business also carries a complete line of bicycle parts and accessories, shoes and clothing.

“Because we have a different clientele and business model, we are no threat to the traditional bike shops in the community,” Mohar explained. “Sometimes they send us customers, and we send customers to them. Some of our employees and volunteers have worked in local bike shops, so we have friendly relations with them.”

About four years ago, a “Women’s Wrenching Night” was instituted at the shop. It is a class in bicycle repair and maintenance conducted by women and only open to women and the LGBTQ community. “It’s a chance for people to learn about bike mechanics in a safe and comfortable environment,” Mohar said. “It has been very popular”.

Recycling is an important aspect of the business. They break down hundreds of bikes every year, salvaging the useable parts and sending damaged wheels and frames to a metal recycling business conveniently located next door to them on College Avenue. They take donations of any bikes and parts and do their best to reuse and/or recycle them.

The business is responsible to an active and supportive board of directors. The shop does not advertise but welcomes customers and volunteers even if they have no experience with bicycle repair. Their new quarters will allow them to expand this summer in order to provide more mechanic services. Sometimes, in the busy summer months, there is a waiting line for help.

The Bike Co-op has an important and expanding role in contributing to Fort Collins’s reputation as a bike friendly community.

Source: North Forty News

The Fort Collins Bike Co-Op offers a accumulation of programs

By A&E Writer Caitlyn Berman

The Fort Collins Bike Co-Op, initially started in a neighborhood garage, has blossomed into a community-centered, non-profit organization tailoring their actions to the well-being of the community.

In addition to their regularly-scheduled open shop bicycle repair hours, during which time volunteer mechanics teach customers how to fix their own bikes for $10 an hour, the Co-Op hosts Women’s Wrenching Nights, mechanics classes and the ‘Earn-a-Bike’ program.

Photo credit: Caitlyn Berman

The ‘Earn-a-Bike’ program offers those who are in need of a bicycle the chance to obtain one by volunteering 20 hours of work at another local non-profit organization.

“‘Earn-a-Bike’ is our longest-running program, and is typically targeted at people who otherwise can’t afford a bike,” said Justin Mohar, Fort Collins Bike Co-Op manager and Colorado State masters graduate. “Anyone can participate, but our goal is to help people who really need it.”

The Bike Co-Op provides 15 applications per month for this program, and works with applicants to facilitate the process.

“If we get a reference letter from some sort of social service agency explaining someone’s circumstances, we can cut the number of required volunteer hours down to 10 instead of 20,” Mohar said. “We like to work with people.”

Other community inspired functions held at the Bike Co-Op are Women’s Wrenching Nights, which are bike workshops lead by skilled women volunteers.

“Women’s Wrenching Nights usually start with lecture based on some kind of system like bike fit or brakes, and then we break off into smaller groups and go over the specifics of each person’s bike,” said Dondi Barrowclough, Fort Collins Bike Co-Op representative.

Following the lecture, participants have time to work shop.

“We’ll then usually end with an open shop component where women can work on their own bikes,” Barrowclough said. “We like to encourage all women and LGBTQ members to join in for a fun, free night.”

This 2-year-old program was “designed specifically to get more women interested in their bikes in a comfortable environment with other women,” Mohar said.

There is no set date as to when the next wrenching night will be, as the Bike Co-Op will be moving from its current location at 331 N College Ave. to its newly purchased building located at 1501 N College Ave. around spring of 2015.

Another class offered at the Bike Co-Op similar in structure to Women’s Wrenching Nights is the mechanic class series, starting Feb. 19.

“The mechanics classes are beginner classes open to anyone who wants to learn more about their bike,” Mohar said.

For a $50 donation, participants get six classes, one per week over the span of six consecutive weeks. The goal of these workshops is to equip each participant with the basic ability to identify issues with their bikes and the knowledge to provide solutions, according to Mohar.

“I’ve taken the workshop and it’s really awesome,” Barrowclough said. “You learn different types of braking systems, how to work on wheels … it’s really great.”

Overall, the Fort Collins Bike Co-Op is an organization focused on the engagement and education of community members through bikes.

“I think our mission statement sums it up best,” Barrowclough said. “We’re “building community through bicycles,” so anyone who comes in and needs help leaves having received what they needed.”

Collegian AE Writer Caitlyn Berman can be reached at or on Twitter @CaitlynBerman

Fan Mail!!

We love getting fan mail at the Fort Collins Bike Co-op!! This letter arrived recently from one of our fans at a local junior high school. We hope its author continues to be inspired by bikes and bicycling in her community.
Thank you letter

Building our community, one bike at a time…

At the Fort Collins Bike Co-op, we work on building community through bicycling. As we continue to fulfill our mission, we often meet opportunities to work on special and important projects.
Meet Olivia. This pint-sized dynamo came into the co-op to request our assistance with a school project: to learn how to build a bicycle.


We paired her up with veteran velonteer and mechanic extraordinaire Dr. Tim Anderson and over the course of several weeks, Olivia built a bike with us.

Working on wheels under Tim’s helpful tutelage.


Making adjustments at the trueing stand.


Tim helps Olivia make the necessary adjustments.

Getting greasy! And repacking this wheel’s hub.

Olivia Rick
Olivia discusses bike safety with Rick after finishing her bike build.

Done!! Tim and Olivia show off the finished bicycle.

Olivia_Time family
Olivia with her family, her new bike and Tim at the co-op.

The All About Brakes Mechanics' Class

This past Thursday we learned all about brakes in mechanics’ class! After Ben led a stellar lecture we got a detailed analysis of sidepull brakes with Dave, cantilever brakes with Justin, v-brakes with Matt and disc brakes with Ben. Then we all got to hone our skills working on shop bikes.

Ben starts off class with a great lecture on brake systems.

Types of cable housing.

Dave going over sidepull brakes.

…more on sidepull brakes…

Sidepull brakes on different cycles…

Justin and Jack get into cantilever brakes.

Ian works on a set of cantilever brakes with Justin.

Ben…hydraulic disc brakes!

Explaining disc brakes for myself, Ian & Jack.

Close up on Ben’s disc brakes.

Matt hones in on v-brakes.

Matt and Ian talk v-brakes.

At the end of class we get a chance to work on bikes. Here Derek and Ian explore brakes further.

Molly repacks a hub.


Justin addresses the class.


Winter Mechanics' Class!

We’re about halfway through winter mechanics’ class at the co-op and having a blast! Check it out:

The class on wheels commences!


Hub explanations to an attentive class

Justin & Kalie work through how to check tubes.

Wheel sizing with Dave & students.

Ben talks wheels!

How to true with Matt.

Trueing away!

Students working away at the trueing stand.



The Fort Collins Bike Co-op will now be open on Mondays beginning January 20, 2014 from 2:00pm to 5:00pm and we are having a sale to celebrate! Save 15% off of all retail bikes on January 20, 2014.
Mechanic services will also be discounted by 50%: instead of $10 per hour to work with one of our experts you’ll pay just $5 an hour this Monday, January 20th!
We are thrilled to be expanding our service times and availability for our customers. Come on in and celebrate Monday Open Shop hours with us!!

Biking through the winter

Cycling through the winter can seem daunting! Northern Colorado brings more than its fair share of  icy roads, blizzards, blowing snow, freezing rain and more. Add to this that the sun goes down by 5pm every day and it’s easy to see how a lot of cyclists find it simpler to garage their bikes than brave the winter riding.
Riding in winter can be so much fun, though, and in Fort Collins I’ve found that often the bike paths are plowed before the roads are! Cycling in Northern Colorado can also be perfectly safe . . . as long as the proper precautions are taken.
Cycling safety in the winter is fairly common-sense: use front and rear lights (at least!) to ensure maximum visibility. Wear light colored and/or reflective clothing. Keep a sharp eye out for traffic and try to use bike paths as much as possible.
Running your tires at lower pressure can increase traction (but don’t go below the recommended minimum)! Maintain your bike after every ride to keep brake and shifting systems functioning smoothly, and make sure to dry and lube your chain after wet rides.
Safety is only part of the equation: staying warm and comfortable is important too, especially in maintaining safety. Our friends over at REI, who kindly helped sponsor our 10th Anniversary Party with a generous donation of cycling accessories, have a vast offering of comfortable, warming underclothes, pants, fleeces, sweaters, jackets, hats, gloves and specialty items, like balaclavas and scarves and neck gaiters, to help keep your ride as comfortable as possible.
Cycling throughout the winter can be fun and adventurous. As long as the proper precautions are taken, you can cycle all year round.

Thanks Simon and Justin for an ingenious idea for recycling old tubes!

Check out our new bungee cords! Made of recycled innertubes and spokes volunteer Simon and shop manager Justin were hard at work crafting these awesome creations on Friday during Open Shop. Only $1 apiece, entirely recycled materials, and highly functional (all of us who are using them now think so). The author of this post likes them a lot better than commercially packaged products.
bungee cords