Riot Fest Community Spotlight: Working Bikes
Our Community Spotlights feature all the wonderful food, local businesses, and things to do within Douglass Park, home to Riot Fest. Join us throughout the year as the Riot Fest staff recommends their favorite spots in the neighborhood on a continuing basis, in hopes that you’ll make a stop in Douglass Park before, during, and well after the fest concludes.
This week, we’re giving some love to our favorite bike shop in town: Working Bikes. Located on 2434 S Western Ave, they’ve been fixing up thousands of donated bikes since 1999 and delivering them to families around the world, Chicago included. There’s a lot worth checking out inside their shop, aside from hosting a staggering 35,000 square feet of bike storage (seriously, there were a lot of bikes).
The space—once home to a mattress factory—includes a full bike repair operation, loads of workbenches for volunteers, and some of the weirdest bikes you will ever see (including unicycles, which there is a “tree” dedicated to). They’re always looking for donations, and it’s easy to do so: no appointment is needed, and there’s even a network of drop-off locations and events where you can bring your old ride and give it a new life. Read their donation instructions if you’ve got some wheels gathering dust.
Where do the bikes go once donated? Basically, the nonprofit gets referrals from social services and other groups, requesting bikes for certain heights, weights, and ages. While Working Bikes is known around Chicago for their charitable work, the majority of their fixed up bikes (about 80%) go abroad, serving countries such as El Salvador and Zambia. Working Bikes employees also work overseas to train mechanics, the bicycles they donate up and running. Some bikes, like older street bikes, have elements like rubber that can’t be sourced in many countries; those stay here in Chicago.
Working Bikes has 18 full-time staff, but it’s largely volunteer-powered. Want to help out, and tune up your bicycle at the same time? Volunteers get to learn bike mechanic skills, and even work on their own bike at the end of a shift, in exchange for fixing up donated bikes. Points are also earned each shift, which can be traded in for bike parts and other gear. Volunteering requires no prior experience—and it’s a pretty sweet deal for any avid cycler. Those interested can get started via the Volunteer Portal.
If you’re looking to buy a bike, you can do so on the Working Bikes website. Each bicycle listed gets at least 4 hours of dedicated repairs & tuning from a professional mechanic, and comes with a 30-day guarantee. About 1,200 different bikes are offered for purchase each year, which you can check out online before buying. The storefront doesn’t sell any bikes in-person, but they recently opened back up for in-store shopping. Stop by if you’re looking to donate, volunteer, or need some used parts.
2434 S. Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60608
WED: 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
THU: 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
FRI: 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
SAT: 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.