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Nonprofit mechanics petition for repairable bikes

Published January 11, 2022

A version of this article appeared in the January 2022 issue of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News. (Subscribe here if you are not receiving the print magazine).

DENVER (BRAIN) — Bikes — even, or especially, the cheapest ones — should be repairable, according to a petition to the industry being led by a group of nonprofit bike shop mechanics.

The petition calls on manufacturers to “stop producing and selling bikes that fall apart after a few months of use. These products are harmful to the environment, erode public confidence in the usefulness and joy of bicycles, and waste the money of the mostly poor and working-class people who buy them.”

The campaign’s early supporters are bike techs from nonprofit community bicycle shops and similar programs, the groups that often refurbished used bikes to provide affordable transportation to the needy.

One supporter, Mac Liman of Denver’s Bikes Together shop, said bikes have gotten less and less repairable in recent years. Liman has been a mechanic for nearly 19 years, including 14 at Bikes Together.

“If I get a Huffy from the 90s, chances are I can actually make repairs to it. It will still be heavy, but the steel will hold together,” Liman said.

More recent bikes from big box stores and the internet have threads that shear off when a mechanic tries to replace or adjust components. They have frames that crack, and non-standard parts that can’t be affordably replaced, she said.

“I’ve seen bearing cups that just fall out of hubs, so there’s no way you can rebuild them,” she said. 

At Bikes Together, entry-level bike repair classes start with tips on how to identify bikes that simply can’t be repaired, she said. 

The petition resulted from a discussion among mechanics at Bike!Bike!, an annual conference for community bike organizations. The 2021 Bike!Bike! was held online in November.

The movement is especially timely given the recent surge in bike sales and the lack of repair parts. “Walmart sold out of all its bikes in March 2020, and we’re already starting to get those bikes come in. And we can’t fix them,” she said.

The effort has received some support from “right to repair” advocacy groups, who lobby for legislation requiring manufacturers to make consumer products, including electronics, repairable.

The petition calls on manufacturers and retailers to

“- Set a minimum durability standard for bicycles to last at least 500 riding hours before breaking down, 

- Design bikes to be serviceable and hold adjustment, with replaceable and upgradable components, and 

- Stop creating and selling bikes that are made to fall apart.”

More information: The petition.

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