The behind-the-scenes process of refurbishing a bicycle at Recycle-A-Bike
Photos & Text by Veronica Hoglund
As the weather continues to get warmer, there is no question that most of us will be spending our free time outdoors soon. With that in mind, now might be the perfect time to invest in the bicycle you know you’ve been wanting. I decided to check out the wares at Recycle-A-Bike (75 Ave. C, betw. 5th & 6th Sts.), located in the East Village. The cycle technicians at the shop take old, worn bicycles and give them a facelift, providing you with a beautiful, fully functional refurbished bike while creating no new waste in the process—a process that takes only four hours to complete.
The bike first comes to the shop as a donation, usually bikes that have been sitting in basements or have been left behind by former building tenants. “The bikes just need a little love,” manager Patrick Tomeny told me. Recycle-A-Bike has been providing a vast variety of New Yorkers with recycled bicycles since 1994, in addition to facilitating youth programs in and around New York City.
From the moment you walk into the shop, it is clear how meticulous the process of refurbishing a bicycle can be. The tiny shop is packed with tools, parts and various pieces of equipment. As the Recycle-A-Bicycle team prepares to tackle their latest project, a vintage Schwinn World Tourist, they begin by taking apart the bicycle and wiping down the various parts. As staff member Brendon Brogan explains, the team does an “overhaul” of the bike, completely disassembling it to “guarantee the quality of the bike.” Bear in mind though, about 85 percent of the refurbishing process is simply cleaning, which mainly consists of wiping it down with a concentrate of water and Simple Green.
Though much more complicated than the guys make it appear, the bike is pulled apart piece by piece, screw by screw. In what seems like an instant, all that is remaining is the bicycle frame.
Once everything has been disassembled, it’s time to rebuild the bike. First, each part is given all the way from the bicycle chain to the handlebars—is given a good clean. When able, parts used are taken from the original bicycle and are replaced only when necessary. Then, the many parts are reassembled, using fresh grease to get the bicycle moving the way it should.
After a long four hours, a once-exhausted bike has been transformed into one ready for the streets. A set of refurbished Recycle-A-Bike wheels will set you back $250-$350 dollars, but considering the care and love put into these pieces, it is well worth the price.
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