Where in NYC to volunteer fixing bikes this summer?
March 8, 2011 9:32 AM   Subscribe

New Yorkers, please suggest a bike shop in the city where I could volunteer after business hours or on the weekends this summer. I have maybe two summers' experience wrenching on older bikes in Chicago (think, friction shifting, quill stems, and steel frames) and am looking for a friendly place that lets me trade work for additional training and a place to fix my own bike if necessary. Bonus points if this shop attracts a sociable sort of crowd that invites strangers on its short/medium distance rides.

Opinions of Recycle-A-Bicycle and Times-Up! are especially appreciated. In particular, Times-Up! seems to have a strongly environment-friendly mission---would they be okay with someone for whom bicycles are just a hobby rather than some sort of morally-motivated lifestyle choice?

I would be open to leading youth rides or helping teach classes if that's all I could get, but ideally I'd like to work on bicycles.
posted by d. z. wang to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's a pretty cool bike store on union street in park slope and one on hudson (?) street in the w.vill/greenwich. That's all I know without googling around for the names.
posted by bquarters at 10:18 AM on March 8, 2011

Times-Up! and Recycle-A-Bicycle are both pretty awesome. They're highest of the list of places you should check out.
posted by entropone at 10:30 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Brooklyn Bike and Board might be a good place to start asking.... they seem really cool and do a lot of work on older steel frame bikes.
posted by brand-gnu at 10:30 AM on March 8, 2011

Seconding Times-up! Recycle-a-Bicycle is pretty great as well, but AFAIK they don't have group rides.

You could also check out 718 Cyclery, which just opened in Park Slope on 7th Ave. and 16th Street. The owner Joe is an awesomely generous guy.
posted by tip120 at 10:50 AM on March 8, 2011

What neighborhood/area are you looking for?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:05 AM on March 8, 2011

Response by poster: I don't know much about the city, but I'll be staying in Fort Lee (New Jersey around 178th St). On week nights, I could go directly from work, which is in downtown Manhattan. Generally, I'd be open to anything accessible via public transportation or bicycle, and not actually dangerous to walk around. Does that help at all?
posted by d. z. wang at 11:13 AM on March 8, 2011

The one that bquarters is talking about on Union St in Park Slope is called Dixon's.

If you are in downtown Manhattan, I've heard good things about Bicycle Habitat in Soho
posted by rmless at 11:16 AM on March 8, 2011

At Bike Forth here in Davis, CA, we tend toward being environmentally friendly. We even have a compost bucket with hooks so that it can get thrown on a bike rack and hauled off easily. We have plenty of people who are just in it for the wrenching. So from my experience on the West Coast, I'd say that's not something you'd have to worry about.

Recycle-A-Bicycle and Time's-up! are indeed the only two community bike shops in NYC that I see listed on the community bike shop wiki page.
posted by aniola at 11:18 AM on March 8, 2011

I would look into Times Up! and Recycle-A-Bicycle before you start calling up for-profit businesses and offering to do someone else's job for free.

Bicycle Habitat and that one bquarters is thinking of on Hudson Street are hugely upscale enterprises. They can afford to hire bike mechanics. I would not approach them for any sort of feelgood pro bono bike volunteering.

You should also check out Transportation Alternatives, which is an activist group which does a lot of organizing around the issue of livable streets and support for cyclists and pedestrians around the city.

Which leads me to a subject that you should probably be apprised of before you start getting involved in the NYC bicycle scene. Things are really politicized right now with regards to the city, bike lanes, various neighborhoods/political constituencies, the cops, etc. It's a great time to be a cyclist in the city, but you can't really just be an apolitical bicycle enthusiast here right now the way you can in other cities.

It's not so much about eco-friendly issues or the sort of general crunchy granola Burning Man concerns of some cycling communities. It's huge. Last week a prominent local congressman who is likely to be the next mayor of NYC officially came out against bike lanes (like, in general). And this is a liberal Democrat who represents a very progressive district. So, yeah. Things are complicated. Which shouldn't at all dissuade you from getting involved - but if you're decidedly apolitical with no interest in advocacy at all, you're going to be way out of your element. Especially in Brooklyn.

Local shops in Fort Lee or other New Jersey towns might be better if what you want is a shop to kibbitz and do a bit of mechanic work.
posted by Sara C. at 12:14 PM on March 8, 2011

The bike shop I worked at hired people at night to assemble new bikes and wrench on used bikes. My gut feeling is that volunteering for a for-profit business is would be weird, both for you and for them. Maybe bike shops at in NYC are super elite but it wasn't very difficult to get a job wrenching even with little experience in the bike friendly city I lived in, especially in the Spring.
posted by ChrisHartley at 3:15 PM on March 8, 2011

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