Five years ago, Lexington cyclists Brad Flowers, Shane Tedder and Tim Buckingham wanted to open a different kind of bicycle shop.
Lexington was well-served by commercial shops that sold new bikes and accessories and had mechanics on staff to make repairs. But they wanted to organize volunteers to refurbish old bikes — like the ones gathering dust in your garage — and get them to people who need them for affordable transportation.
Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop has accomplished many of those goals. And, thanks to community support and a dedicated group of volunteers, the mission keeps growing.
“It has exceeded our expectations,” Buckingham said. “There has always been a consistent stream of folks dropping in to help out. And the really committed volunteers are what keeps the shop going.”
Broke Spoke now has dozens of volunteers, who celebrated the shop’s fifth anniversary last week with a bike progressive dinner.
You can celebrate, too, at Broke Spoke’s annual Savory Cycle fundraiser Sept. 27.
Participants ride routes of 25, 50 or 65 miles and enjoy food and beverages from Chef Ouita Michel’s restaurants, West Sixth Brewing and Magic Beans Coffee Roasters. The rides begin and end at Holly Hill Inn in Midway, and non-riding tickets are available for those who just want to eat. Space is limited.
Broke Spoke opened in November 2010 in a small room behind Al’s Sidecar bar at North Limestone and West Sixth streets. It quickly outgrew the space.
When the four partners who own West Sixth Brewery began renovating the Breadbox building at West Sixth and Jefferson streets in 2012, Broke Spoke became one of their first tenants. The shop’s current space is five-times larger than the original one, and it now has eight work stations instead of two.
Broke Spoke volunteers refurbish and sell about 30 donated bikes a month for between $50 and $300. The average bike sells for a little more than $100. Customers who can’t afford that can earn “sweat equity” for up to $75 by volunteering at the shop at a credit rate of $8 an hour.
Buckingham said Broke Spoke’s customers range from college students and young professionals to people from the nearby Hope Center and other shelters.
The shop is open to customers 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Volunteers also work on bikes in the shop 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays.
Jessica Breen started a women-only volunteer night the fourth Monday of each month to help them become more comfortable with repairing bicycles.
The shop accepts donated bikes when it is open. Donors also can drop off bikes and parts at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, 451 Southland Dr., and Pedal Power Bike Shop, 401 S. Upper Street.
“Some of our biggest supporters are the local bike shops,” Buckingham said. That support includes donated parts and referrals of customers who bring in old bikes that aren’t economical for the commercial shops to fix.
“I think it has been a good thing,” Pedal Power owner Billy Yates said of Broke Spoke. “The more people there are out there riding, the more visibility cyclists have and the safer it is to ride.”
Broke Spoke doesn’t sell any new merchandise, so it isn’t competing with commercial shops, volunteer Eileen Burk noted. By creating new cyclists, it can create future business for commercial shops.
A new section of the Legacy Trail recently opened beside Broke Spoke, so the shop will soon be sprucing up its entrance. A water fountain will be added, Buckingham said, as well as a bike repair station donated by the Bluegrass Cycling Club.
Broke Spoke’s operating expenses are now covered by bicycle sales. But the cycling club and the Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeways Commission have made donations for several special projects. Individuals have given more than $12,000 to Broke Spoke through the annual Good Giving Guide.
Pop cellist and singer Ben Sollee, who often travels to concerts by bicycle, has played several Broke Spoke benefits. “He’s probably helped us raise more than $10,000,” Buckingham said.
Future plans include more formal training in bike maintenance and repair for volunteers and customers.
Broke Spoke also wants to attract more volunteers so the shop can open more days each week, said Allen Kirkwood, a steering committee member. A special need is bilingual volunteers to improve outreach to Latinos and other immigrants.
“We have plenty of ideas for additional programming,” said volunteer Andy Shooner. “But it really takes having volunteers who get familiar with the shop and say, ‘Yeah, I want to make that happen.'”
If you go
When: Sept. 27
What: Fundraiser for Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop
Rides: Choice of three routes — 25, 50 or 65 miles — with food and beverages.
Where: Holly Hill Inn, Midway.
Tickets and more info: Savorycycle.org