With the La Crescent Community Bike Shoppe in business, local cyclists don’t have to look far for expert advice, and people in need of a bike are never too far away for the shop to help.
Run under La Crescent Area Healthy Community Partnership (HCP), the Bike Shoppe has been around since 2009, after it was funded by a five-year grant for Active Living from Minnesota Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
When the grant ended in 2013, so did the Bike Shoppe’s paid employees, and the shop transitioned to being all-volunteer and moved into a garage behind the Community Arena. Last year the Bike Shoppe re-opened in a bigger space at the front of the arena.
“Now we’re actually in a space where people can see where we’re at,” said Brownsville resident and Bike Shoppe volunteer Terry McManus of the new shop space.
In 2017 the Bike Shoppe sold 27 refurbished bikes and made 102 total repairs — 20 of which were free of charge. 128 bikes were donated to the shop, which volunteers decided to either repair or salvage. Over the past year the program scrapped around 5,729 combined pounds of sheet iron, rubber, aluminum and copper.
Sixty-one refurbished bikes were donated by the Bike Shoppe to various groups, including New Horizons, migrant workers at the Old Hickory Orchard on South Ridge and a group in Guatemala that uses bikes to transport children in wheelchairs.
Scot McCollum, bicycle mechanic at Smith’s Cycling and Fitness in La Crosse, is a big reason the Bike Shoppe continues to be a staple for cyclist enthusiasts as well as beginners. McCollum, who Program Director Linda Larson refers to as the shop’s Master Bike Technician, has been working with bikes professionally for more than 30 years.
“When I’m not working on bikes, I’m riding them,” McCollum said. “I come here to share my knowledge. My whole reason for being in this business is that I love bikes, and I want other people to love bikes as much as I do.”
All bikes that enter the Bike Shoppe get evaluated for free, which McCollum said he prefers to do with the customer present, so they know exactly what parts he recommends repair on, and why. He says that when somebody brings in a bike, his primary goal is to make sure it’s safe to ride.
“You might come in for a brake adjustment, and I’ll say let’s take a look at this a little bit more,” McCollum said. “I don’t want to fix the immediate problem you came here for, and then two weeks later you come in with more things. I’d rather knock it all out, and send you on your way.”
The cost of a tune-up at the Bike Shoppe is $35 but that does not include the cost for replacement parts. When tires, tubes, brake pads, cables, chain and freewheel are added — which McCollum said are all necessary for a bike to be safe and functional, the tab for what was was intended to be a tuneup can cost up to $135. But in the end, customers decide whether or not they want all the repairs McCollum recommends.
“I do encourage people to do more,” McCollum said of repairs. “Because again, I don’t want people getting hurt.”
The Bike Shoppe is able to recruit and train a number of its volunteers through the free class McCollum puts on in the fall.
“If you come in for that free class, I’m gonna want some hours out of you in the summer,” he said.
In the winter, Larson said they consolidate their supply of bikes by getting some of them ready for cycling season in the spring. She said that last spring, the Bike Shoppe had around 20 bikes ready for sale, and sold all but a few on a single Saturday.
“So these guys will go to class, learn new skills, and then will work through different sets of bikes all winter to get them ready for the spring sale,” Larson said.
The Bike Shoppe also puts on Spring Tune Up classes through the Community Education department, in which McCollum instructs participants with their own bikes through the many procedures of bike repair. Classes this year are scheduled for March 15, April 19 and May 17, and cost $35 plus the cost of any necessary replacement parts.