Photo credit: Caitlyn Berman,

Photo credit: Caitlyn Berman,

Working at a used bike shop, I kind of forget what new bikes look like. When I walk into a commercial retail shop I’m sort of shell-shocked: everything is gleaming! Everything is shiny! And then I get a look at the price tags. Everything is really expensive!

At the Fort Collins Bike Co-op, very little is gleaming or shiny, unless a significant amount of elbow grease is invested in it.

There’s a good amount of dirt and grease and a bit of rust here and there. Working for the Bike Co-op has taught me, however, to look for the beauty of used. Used parts, used frames, used bikes, used accessories, you name it: if it’s still functional, we’ll probably find a use for it at some point. (And if it isn’t, we’ll recycle it.) I now spend a considerable amount of my time at the shop encouraging others to do the same.

Beautiful things come from used bikes. My 1997 Bianchi Boardwalk came in as a donation from a customer, and as soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for me. I upgraded the handle bars and the shifters, and tuned it up, and I have been riding it ever since. Since I don’t own a car, it’s my main vehicle. I wonder what its previous owner would think if he knew the hundreds of enjoyable miles his old Bianchi has seen since it became my regular commuter and road bike.

We get so many donations from the Northern Colorado community that there is no way to fix up all of them; we sell, in fact, a considerable number of our bikes in “as-is” or “project” condition. We check the frame on every as-is bike to make sure it’s not bent or broken, and we sell the bikes at super-low prices, starting around $20.00. Recently, a customer who came in looking for a project bike found a 70s-era cruiser bike in our as-is section for $25.00. We paired her up with one of our mechanics, the venerable Dr. Tim Anderson, to help her fix it up. With almost entirely used parts -they did have to replace one shifter cable with a new one- they got her “brand-used” bike into near-new condition. Bree loves her bike and was thrilled with the end result we were able to deliver, and for so much less than a new cruiser or hybrid would have cost.

Another recent success story began with a dad and his two boys looking for bikes. Their mom had taken them to a local big-box store and they weren’t particularly interested in our “as-is” bikes after seeing all of the shiny new bikes on display at the big-box store. Dad was a bit dismayed, as he saw the value of what we had to offer in our as-is section, and with a little convincing from a few Bike Co-op volunteers, the kids each picked out a Trek mountain bike. A few hours of work later with our volunteer mechanics and voilà! They each had a brand-used beautiful mountain bike that was a much higher-quality build than anything offered at area big-box stores. True, they weren’t quite as shiny as the big-box stores’ brand-new bikes, but they’re simply much better bikes, and the kids will enjoy them for years to come.

We consider regularly how fortunate we are to be in the Fort Collins area. Truly, in a lot of other places, an organization like the Bike Co-op wouldn’t be in business for very long. We stake a good part of our 13-year history on the generosity of the cycling community here. We get in boxes of high-quality used parts and sometimes even new parts too! Many cyclists generously donate their old road or mountain or commuter bikes, and we’re able to sell them in rebuilt or as-is condition. The proceeds from all of our sales help keep our operating expenses paid, as well as our charitable programs, such as Earn-A-Bike and Women’s Wrenching Nights, fully funded.

So the next time you’re looking to upgrade, rebuild or add to your collection of bikes, consider stopping by the Fort Collins Bike Co-op. We might just have your dream bike!