This project started as a proposal for an on-campus bicycle shop at Auburn University. (The proposal can be viewed in .pdf form here.) When the University decided to move away from a repair space, towards loaner bikes I personally took on the project. With limited resources and a handful of volunteers, we built Plainsman Bikes. By re-purposing an Airstream with scavenged, and reused building materials we were able to build a small shop space that works well for our shop and fits our operating budget.
The purpose of the space was to provide shop tools and coaching on how to build, maintain, and repair bicycles. We have used a wide range of used parts salvaged off of abandoned bicycles, donations, and unrepairable bikes. These were upcycled back into the community at very low prices to fund the space and keep cyclists on the road. We also offered the new parts that were often needed to get patrons and members safely back onto their bicycles. To avoid competing with local bicycle shops, we sold our new parts slightly above market rates.
Our members and patrons were a range of amateur mechanics; some learned how to fill tires while others were comfortable building wheels up from the various salvaged hubs and rims at the shop. A mechanic would be on duty to field questions and supervise repairs that patrons weren’t comfortable with. Patrons were expected to perform their own repairs. We believe that this is the best way for them to learn about bicycle repair and to become more empowered cyclists. We are currently open three days a week and are working with Auburn University to promote safe cycling on campus.
Update: The shop closed in 2012 after a year of serving the community.