BY ADAM ROGAN
On the corner of Grand Avenue and Sixth Street stands the Des Moines Bicycle Collective. Both on the outside and the inside, it appears to be no different from other bike shops. Aerosmith and similar classic rock tunes blare from the speakers as workers tend to tuning up bikes in the back. Replacement bike seats, helmets and other assorted bike accessories line the wall and top of the front desk. Bikes for sale take up most of the floor space, ranging from child-sized to road models and everything in-between.
But appearances can be deceiving. That’s an idiom that the Collective has been battling since its founding in 2008 through business practices that are perhaps best described as “atypical.”
All proceeds go directly back into the business itself and its numerous philanthropies – not into the pockets of owners or shareholders.
In 2015 alone, the Collective gave away 400 bikes free of charge through organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Head Start, The Salvation Army and its own charities.
“A lot of people can’t afford cars … but they still need to get to work, so a bike is a very good option,” said Seth Johnson, the Collective’s shop manager. “Through our Earn-a-Bike program and our bike giveaways program, we make transportation access a little bit easier. We work with a lot of (the) homeless population, and we help them get their lives back on track, teaching them that they can earn a bike if they work hard and do their job.”
Not all bikes are given away for free, though. The shop is open to the public and sells bikes and other cycling gear, oftentimes at a reduced cost since the bikes are usually older models, have been donated or are refurbished by the Collective’s staff. However, they are willing to share their knowledge with customers, not taking sole responsibility in the upkeep of people’s bikes.
When a broken bike is brought in, employees at the shop will work with the customers to fix it so they can repair their own bike in the future.
Johnson says this tactic helps keep prices low, while also bringing people more closely into the cycling community-one of the Collective’s primary purposes.
The Collective focuses much of its efforts on encouraging more kids to ride bikes. It hosts Bike Rodeos, which teach kids how to be safe cyclers before giving them a bike of their own.
A study published on Bicycling.com found that kids who ride bikes have improved concentration and memory, as well decreased stress and anxiety, which is something the Collective promotes.
Although getting kids passionate about biking is where the Collective focuses much of its efforts, Bike Month targets a more adult audience.
Bike Month officially kicks off May 6 at Confluence Brewing on 1235 Thomas Beck Road in Des Moines. Jeremy Lewis, the Collective’s executive director, also hinted on the event’s Facebook page that a new “specialty brew” will be released that night with proceeds being donated to the non-profit. Eight days later on May 14, Bikes. Beers. Tacos. will be held at The Iowa Taproom, located at 215 E. Third St.
Expanding from the general fundraising and hangouts of these two events, the Collective will also be hosting the Fun Urban Brewery Assault Ride on May 21, a 65-mile ride to seven different breweries starting and ending at Firetrucker Brewery in Ankeny.
The Collective plans to team up with The Orchard Place, a non-profit focused on children’s mental health, for the Moonlight Classic at the Iowa Tap Room. The proceeds from the event will go to Orchard Place.
The Collective is more concerned with advocating for bikers and “getting more butts on bikes,” a mantra that was touted by both Johnson and Community Outreach Organizer Kimberley Boggus.
“(We want to be) working with the community, reaching out to them, making sure that they know who we are, they know the services we provide and they know the work that we do,” Boggus said.
That’s what Bike Month focuses on as well. Its events may not be quite as kid-friendly as The Collective’s Bike Rodeos, but they still succeed in “getting more butts on bikes,” even if those butts belong to older individuals.