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Bicycles Bring People Together at Community Bike Shops

Some fix and donate bicycles to those in need, while others teach kids essential skills.

A volunteer helps two local students at The Recyclery’s open shop.   Photo: Jesse Miller

Beyond affordable repairs and used bikes, Chicago’s community bike shops are hubs of neighborhood engagement and growth. Many have open shop hours, when anyone can come in and learn how to fix their own ride—usually for a small, optional donation. These workshops—and the bike donation programs that often go hand-in-hand with them—promote cycling as a sustainable, healthy, and reliable mode of transportation for everyone.

Stop in, meet the good-hearted folks who keep the place running, and make a donation or a purchase. The only thing better than the satisfaction of riding a bike you fixed yourself is the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from helping someone else do the same.

To that end, here are six Chicago shops where bicycles bring people together.

Bike 4 Life Chicago

3603 W. Armitage, 773-722-5433

Don’t let the selection of shiny new bikes from Aventon and 6KU fool you: This West Town nonprofit donates all its earnings to a variety of local causes. Year-round cycling events raise awareness and cash for groups like the Wounded Warrior Project and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

Bikes N’ Roses

4747 N. Sawyer, 872-203-9019

This Albany Park stop peddles all the usual bike shop offerings, but operates with social goals in mind. Teen volunteers grow into cycling experts and organize fundraiser rides—like the upcoming Shift Gears Illinois, a three-day, 211-mile trek to Springfield in the name of criminal justice reform.

Blackstone Bicycle Works

6100 S. Blackstone, 773-241-5458

Youth volunteers at Woodlawn’s Experimental station learn the ins and outs of bike mechanics, and earn their own set of wheels as a result. A tiered apron system of apprenticeship encourages responsibility and friendly competition—think the colored belt system in karate—with the black aprons receiving externships at repair shops around the city.

The Recyclery

7628 N. Paulina, 773-262-5900

Rogers Park and Evanston would be worse off without this North Side beacon of bicycling excellence: As an “educational bike shop,” the Recyclery offers open workshop hours in both English and Spanish ($10/hour suggested). Volunteers repair donated bikes and pass them on to local refugees and low-income families, with the surplus sold to the public on Wednesday and Saturdays.

West Town Bikes

2459 W. Division, 773-772-6523

This cycling center located in West Town works with groups all over the city, sponsoring ride- and repair-focused programs on three Chicago Public Schools campuses. In addition to classes and open shop hours at WTB proper, they also operate Ciclo Urbano, an affordable, community-focused cycling shop.

Working Bikes

2434 S. Western, 773-847-5440

This Pilsen nonprofit has a huge selection of bikes, parts, and gear, and it funnels its proceeds into a bike donation program, which sends free, refurbished bikes to developing communities around the world.


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