At Anchorage bicycle co-op, all are welcome

Non-profit Off the Chain, in the heart of Spenard, is a bicycle collective open to everyone
All are welcome at this 'Off the Chain' bicycle co-op in Anchorage
Published: Aug. 4, 2023 at 6:06 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2023 at 6:08 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - There are certain special places that are not only open to everybody — welcoming people of all ages and backgrounds — but also encouraging everyone to get involved.

Off the Chain, a bicycle collective and co-op in the heart of the Spenard neighborhood in Anchorage, is one of those places.

“We are a volunteer-run bicycle collective, where we help people learn how to fix their bikes,” volunteer coordinator and board member Tara Devlin said. “We fix bikes that are donated, so that people can have affordable bikes to ride, and we take in donated parts.”

The garage off 33rd Avenue in Anchorage is filled from floor to ceiling with bikes, parts and people, whether volunteers or guests of the longtime collective.

“Whatever your goal is, we will meet you there, and there will be somebody there to facilitate that,” volunteer and board member Kendra Higgins said. “Outside of our mission, the values of the shop and the people who are participating and part of it are so inclusive that feels like a family.”

It’s a labor of the love for the group that sees people of various ages and backgrounds each day the co-op is open.

“Someone who comes in to get their bike fixed or find a bike,” Devlin said, “I feel like I’m immediately purposeful for something that will help somebody continue on —like, getting to work, having fun, being healthy, and using our trails. And so it’s immediately good!”

The garage was busy on Thursday, one of several days Off the Chain is currently open.

“My coworker brought me to fix her bike, and told me about the place,” Madyn Powell said, who swung by in the evening and found herself working on a bike she hopes to take home soon. “So I thought I’d come, and I kind of love it. I think it’s a lot of fun. I like that it’s a co-op.

“Immediately, everyone was very nice,” Powell said. “And that’s kind of what you look for when you’re trying something new, I think — like, nowhere that makes you feel alienated or freaked out or anything, and I don’t feel that way here, so that was very nice.”

The stock is all based on donations.

“So every day it changes,” Devlin said. “Sometimes, people will bring in a fat tire bike, and the next day, it’s gone. So some days, it might be your size of a road bike, and the next day, it’s not. So, it’s really based on daily donations and how fast we can fix them up to get them rideable.”

Any sticker shock you will experience will likely be from how inexpensively you can get your next ride, and what you might learn — free of charge — at the same time.

“You can do anything you want in here,” Higgins said. “If you don’t have any bike experience, you can just come in here and learn. Everybody in here is willing to teach and learn. And the amount of times I’ve opened up a book or Youtube’d something that I didn’t know about — because I’m not mechanically-brained — and just, like, learned with somebody who’s come in, who has no knowledge about bicycles, we just learn together. And that’s the whole point.”

The organization is a non-profit and will always accept monetary contributions, which are tax deductible. There is also a list of accepted items, which currently includes but is not limited to bikes in fair condition or better, that can be easily fixed; lightly used bike parts; and tires in great condition. Off the Chain is not current accepting bikes that have been weathered in the outdoors or bikes that are severely damage, such as a rusty or bent bikes.

Anyone, of any skill level, is welcome to volunteer at Off the Chain. Volunteers can earn credits toward merchandise and bicycle parts or equipment through that work.

“A bike collective is just really important for the community,” Devlin said. “There isn’t a lot of fully, volunteer-run organizations, where our whole point is to get people to have more autonomy and to have a better life in Anchorage, based solely on loving bikes and loving the community.”

Off the Chain’s current open hours are Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The shop is also open on Sundays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

You can learn more about Off the Chain by visiting the organization’s website, or by checking out its Instagram and Facebook pages.