Walk around back of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center and you’ll see a flight of stairs leading down…
Inside lies The Bike Project. Pull hard!
The Bike Project’s downtown Urbana location has been around since 2006. Non-profit and completely volunteer-run, the underground space is home to hundreds of donated bikes, new and used parts, tools, a mini bike library, and assorted knick-knacks. If you’re in search of a bike end or oddity, chances are you may find it here.
The space is community driven and maintained by its members and volunteers. Memberships are annual and can be obtained through signing up at the Bike Project ($25 student, $40 community member, $65 family), purchasing a shop built bike (comes with a yearly membership), or eight hours of volunteering (fun and free). Once a member, the space is collectively yours to use! Meet and hang out with great folks while doing these other cool things:
- Fix a personal bike –> the beater probably needs air and lube
- Build a bike from scratch –> claim a donation bike and customize/build it up with the help of volunteers
- Teach others to fix bikes –> it’s how most of our volunteer mechanics have gotten better at working on bikes
- Work on shop builds –> shop bikes are built, tested, and sold to help support the organization
Most importantly, it’s a do-it-yourself space! No one will fix your bike for you, but many will be willing to teach you how to fix your bike. The majority of bike jams — flat tires, loose brakes, slipped chains — have simple solutions. Dirt under your fingernails and grease in your hair is a surprisingly empowering feeling when you can travel across town on a bike you fixed yourself.
The Bike Project in downtown Urbana relies 100% on volunteer staffing efforts. Volunteers host open hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 2:00 to 5:00pm, and Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 9:00pm. The Sunday afternoon hours this semester are hosted by Bikeface UIUC, a University of Illinois registered student organization geared towards all things bike-related. Students interested in joining Bikeface can follow the Facebook page here for updates on meetings and events.
The Bike Project also offers a variety of other special programs, including mechanics’ night and ladies and trans hours, that you can check out on their site here. Volunteers are always welcome and needed, so don’t be shy to stop in during an open hour sometime and talk a current volunteer about getting involved. You absolutely do not need to know how to work on bikes in order to volunteer! Many of our longstanding volunteer mechanics started out with minimal bike knowledge and have learned an immense amount through observing, trying, and teaching. As long as you’re willing to learn, you’re in the right space.
Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center: http://www.ucimc.org/
The Bike Project: http://thebikeproject.org/
Bikeface UIUC: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bikeface-UIUC/551436614931790