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Bicycles Spoken Here: RVA Bike Co-op

Published: August 22, 2011


Though still in its infancy, Richmond officially has a bike co-op. The RVA Bike Co-Op is a community run project dedicated to spreading the knowledge of bicycle maintenance, repair, and safety.

I caught up with Joe Bock to find out more about the project. Currently, the co-op is headquartered in a private garage, but is looking for a more permanent space.

Bock said that the co-op “hosts a standard array of tools to do most basic repairs and conversions like flat repair, bottom bracket maintenance, crank set removal, chain ring replacement, headset cleaning and installation, wheel truing, bearing replacements, handlebar shortening, frame painting, rust removal, derailleur adjustments, brake adjustments, and cable replacements.”

People interested in using the space for bike repair can contact Bock to confirm availability and location.

Who is behind the RVA Bike Co-op?

Ideally, the whole community is behind this, but as of now, just me. I work out of a garage that I have slowly turned into a small repair shop and it is basically a model for the co-op but nothing is very official yet. The actual name “RVA Bike Co-op” is what I am calling the project so it has some solidity to it and this name is subject to change. Simply, my garage is housing the co-op until a larger space and the money/staff to run it become available. There is a local non-profit, RideRichmond (, working on the same project (minus a space) and by next year we all hope to combine forces in a well established and organized space to better serve the community with cycling education.

The mission of the Co-op includes having smarter, safer cyclists on the road. Do you see a real need for that in Richmond? Talk about that.

In my opinion, Richmond’s cycling community has exploded in the past few years, yet the infrastructure to manage the extra bicycles on the road is not in place, or is at least not up to par with other cycling cities. I constantly see people blowing through stop lights, not using hand signals, riding the wrong way, riding broken (dangerous) bicycles, and so on. I do see a very big need for education and infrastructure advocacy in Richmond. The co-op will empower people with the skills and knowledge necessary to maintain their bicycle and operate it efficiently and safely.

Where is the space going to be?

There are a few options on the table but the main potential space will be in the basement of the up and coming Richmond International Hostel (Richmonds first Hostel!) at 7 North 2nd St. Nothing is official yet, but that would be a great space. As for now I am plugging away in my little garage near Carytown.

How much money do you need to get set up?

For the space to sustain itself regarding rent/tools and become operational there would need to be an initial start up cost in the thousands. I am just a mechanic and I have a very vague comprehension of the financial logistics so my calculations would be a little off, but the fundraising goal I have in mind is $5,000. The more the merrier.

How much will people have to pay to rent tools and work in the space?

That bridge has not been crossed yet. When people come by and work in my space I ask for whatever small donation they can spare to help me buy tubes, cables, grease, tools, and pay rent. In other established co-ops there are suggested donations of between $5-$15 for parts and anywhere between $5-$20 per hour for bench and tool rental.

Will there be sources on hand to advise people who are working on their bikes—like a monitor?

Yes. I am not as skilled as other mechanics but I can help guide people through most repairs on their bike. When the real space is established we will have a staff of volunteer mechanics on hand to walk you through whatever repair you need to do. If someone is lacking the skills or knowledge to help with specific repairs we will have plenty of literature to help facilitate the learning process. This will be an open and inclusive environment focused on helping people gain knowledge to build them up, not break them down because they are not “pro” or “scene” enough to be a cyclist.

What type of workshops do you have planned?

Nothing at the moment, just trying to get rooted into the community. The workshops we would have, however, include changing flats, adjusting derailleurs/brakes, cleaning chains/gears, safety checking and proper bolt tightening techniques, traffic and safety, sizing and proper seat adjustment, and so on.

What do you need from the community to keep building this idea?

Support, promotion, idea sharing, donations (bikes or money), a free space :), volunteers, feedback.

Where did the idea come from and how long did the idea get kicked around before putting it into play?

The idea came from a few different co-ops I visited while traveling the Southern coast from ‘08 to ‘09. I lived inTampaFlorida for the span of about ten months and watched a group of cyclists establish a pretty cool space and open it to the public.

It started out with a few mechanics showing up at a music venue and having a “bike night” to help people learn how to do basic repairs. They now have a fully functioning and self-sustaining bike shop powered by the community.

I fell in love with the idea and explored the way other cities run their operations. Gainesville has “The Kickstand”, Jacksonville has “Zombie Bikes”, Savannah has “Savannah Bike Co-op” (not sure if it is still operational), Charleston has “Holy City Bike Co-op”, and Wilmington has “Urban Bike Project”, and so on.

I rode into town November of ‘09 and set to work formulating a plan to establish the same thing for Richmond. I lazily threw ideas around for over a year until I moved into my garage last June and actually focused on the project in full. Over the past year I have invested in tools, found building materials in dumpsters/alleys, collected many donations (thanks to the community), and pieced together what some would call an organized mess. It is not perfect but I feel it is a good start.

Any benefits/fundraisers lined up in the near future?

Not at the moment but if anybody out there has the ability to set these things up they should contact me or RideRichmond. We are shooting for $5,000 to really make this a reality so anything to help get us there is a huge deal and will go a long way. Thanks!

What’s your pet peeve with bicyclists, and one with motorists?

Cyclists riding the wrong way in the street. Motorists telling us to get on the sidewalk. Not cool.

You can find the RVA Bike Co-Op on Facebook.





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