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Shadetree Bike Works: People helping people help their bikes

Shadetree Mechanic: a self-taught, hobbyist mechanic, usually without any experience or formal training, who often posts up in a driveway or under the shade of a tree to work on their own and others’ vehicles.

Shadetree Bike Works adopted their name from this vintage concept, and follows the same philosophy in their work as a self-sustaining, non-profit bicycle cooperative.

Originally part of a larger project known was The Wire Community Resource Center, the bike co-op became its own separate entity and has moved from place to place within Athens over the past decade, eventually settling in its current location at 30 First Street.

Around the back of a charming little home, shrouded in potted plants and novels, one will find Shadetree Bike Works, a locally-supported collective of roughly five people who dedicate their time and skillset to educating people on how to repair and maintain their bikes.

“We try to make a point to help people, to educate and empower them to learn how to maintain their own bikes, as opposed to a more traditional bike shop that would have somebody drop off a bike, fix it, then call you when it’s done,” said Nate Schirmer, a volunteer at the co-op for nearly two years now.

The cooperative is open from 6:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M., Tuesdays and Thursdays to anyone in need of bicycle repair. All are free to come in for guidance on how to repair their bike, or if able, one may make repairs on their own. Because Shadetree is a non-profit collective, they operate solely on the donations of others and voluntary efforts of those who love bikes.

“All parts come off bikes that for one reason or another are not worth fixing. What we do is pull parts off of them or off of a bike that’s sitting here, either an unwanted bike or bikes that were donated,” explained founding cooperative member Cusi Ballew. “Sometimes we show up and there are more bikes in the backyard. People know that it’s here and they drop them off.

“There’s never any profit. Everyone just volunteers and we never really spend much money. We don’t make any profit. Any money that we get goes back into the bikes, getting patches, sometimes tubes, tools, whatever we need around the shop,” Ballew said. “We have a donation bin–if people have money, they can donate, if they don’t, they don’t have to.”

One of a few ways the co-op generates interest and support is through the organization of a yearly bike sale each fall, exchanging inexpensive, refurbished bicycles, rebuilt from recycled parts for the opportunity to maintain their workshop. Shadetree Bike Works will host this year’s bike sale on Saturday, Sept. 19 beginning at noon at the Athens Courthouse. 

“Unlike cars that have a motor that will blow out or a transmission, bikes can always have parts replaced until you bend or break the frame, they just go forever,” Ballew said. “I do it because I like bikes and I want people to learn about bikes and have a bike … More people on bikes, less people in cars.”

Photos by Alexa Smith, Staff Writer

Alexa, strategic communications major, spanish minor, and environmental certificate candidate, hopes to one day become a tree. Her best friends are plants and the occasional human that can keep it chill. You will always find her with music in her ears and in her head, whistling or even grooving to an unheard tune. When there’s time to breath, she enjoys floating in water, looking at the sky, and cooking delicious, flavorful food. 

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