Bikeworks builds on their legacy of community

Whether you’re a university student in need of cheap transport, a parent looking for a gift for your child, or simply a dedicated disciple of do-it-yourself, if you’ve ever needed to bike on a budget, you’ve likely been to Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Bikeworks. Opened in 1988, Bikeworks is one of the longest running community bike shops in North America, offering members and the general public low-cost access to fully stocked repair facilities, new and used parts, and ready-to-ride refurbished bicycles.

Bikeworks in the late 80s, Edmonton, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters

Bikeworks at 10701 85 Ave Photo courtesy Edmonton Bike Commuters’ archives

According to EBC executive director Christopher Chan, Bikeworks began in a communal space shared with several local activist groups, before relocating to a historic former brothel on 107 Street and 85 Avenue, where they remained until 1994. From there, Bikeworks moved to a Quonset hut and then an abandoned tile factory at 10343 University Ave, where their only heat was a wood-burning stove. “That winter was a particularly cold one,” recalls EBC member Karly Coleman. Three years later, in 1998, they made a move to their longest running location at 10047-80 Ave.

“[This location] was a very good move,” notes Coleman, “as it put EBC into an area that, whilst challenging to find, was by far more accessible to the uninitiated than both [of our previous] locations. Each of the spaces were evolutions of what had been in place before as each new location offered various benefits.”

Bikeworks at 10047-80 Ave., Edmonton, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters

Bikeworks at 10047-80 Ave Photo courtesy Edmonton Bike Commuters’ archives

For over 15 years, this iteration of Bikeworks filled a valuable niche in the Edmonton cycling scene. Ranging from professionally trained bike mechanics to enthusiastic rookies learning the ropes, its volunteers helped hundreds of local riders to repair and renew their rides of choice. An upstairs lounge and meeting space was made available for free to community groups, and classes were offered in bike maintenance and repair. In 2012, they opened a second location, Bikeworks North, at 9305-111 Ave.

In 2013, however, Bikeworks faced a challenge when their landlords decided they required the building for their own use. EBC took this as an opportunity to expand their vision of what their community shop could be. “We recognized,” explains Chan, “that a big challenge in our old space was making it welcoming and comfortable. I hated having to tell people that we were located in a back alley. It was intimidating, and though our volunteers worked hard at it, the space was just really difficult to keep tidy and clean.”

After checking out several potential locations, EBC settled on a storefront space once occupied by popular alternative video store, The Videodrome, at 8001-102 St. “There has always been an underlying desire to return to a shopfront-type location since we left the brothel,” says Coleman. While the space required serious renovation, EBC embraced the challenge as an opportunity to create the space they needed. “We really saw this as an opportunity to make a shop whose daily operations weren’t just the accidental product of serendipity,” explains Chan, “but rather a careful, planned space that would, in the long-term, be a joy to use for everyone involved.”

BIkeworks South, Edmonton, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters

The new Bikeworks South location. Photo courtesy Yelp

With its broad windows, open design, and cheerful colour scheme the new Bikeworks South is an immediately inviting space. In the space of a mere 2000 square feet, it houses a broad front counter, small kitchenette, eight repair spaces, a wide array of used and new parts, and a hanging rack system capable of holding up to 91 bikes. “We have a front door,” enthuses Chan, “We have a south wall that’s almost entirely windows. We have a bright, clean, welcoming space with a clear flow.”

The space can also be reconfigured for public meetings or movie screenings and is available for use by other community groups. “We really see ourselves as a part of a community,” says Chan, “not just focused on bikes, but interested in a livable vibrant city.”

Bikeworks South is open to help cyclists of all skill levels repair and maintain their bikes. For a mere $5/hr ($2 for EBC members), visitors can access bike stands, tools, and volunteer mechanics who will help diagnose issues and provide guidance and assistance with repairs. 

Bikeworks South – 8001 102 St – 780-433-2453 – edmontonbikes.ca/services/bikeworks/