Growing from a backyard co-op to an established non-profit, Bike Saviours is centered around solving problems, mainly the two-wheeled kind.
Raising up the community along with it, the shop provides bike maintenance education and affordable access to tools, a service it shares with both the Tempe and Arizona State University communities.
“We are very service orientated,” said board member Michael Nuccio. “We have a lot of people who live their entire lives on their bike … They’ll come in with a busted wheel or a busted rim and have only so much money and we’ll be able to get them rolling again.”
The culture of Bike Saviours touches many different walks of life. It can be a homeless person in need of safe and reliable transportation or a mother with a busted tire on her baby carriage.
Nuccio talked about the time he helped a deaf, homeless man get his bike fixed with new lights for the road. And yes, Bike Saviours even helped patch tires on a baby carriage.
Nuccio was introduced to Bike Saviours through its Build-A-Bike program, where he could build a bike from used parts for $80 to $110. He needed reliable transportation to get to school at Mesa Community College and did not own a bike or even know how to ride one. The shop manager at the time had to take him to a nearby park and teach him how to balance himself.
Located at 1930 S. Roosevelt St. in Tempe, Bike Saviours is near the edge of the ASU main campus, giving new college students access to a cheap alternative to the electric scooters and public transportation around the Tempe area. At the beginning of the fall semester the shop assembles a bunch of pre-built bikes for students who need to get rolling quickly. However, the staff recommends students build their own at the shop. They say it is a more rewarding experience.
Build-A-Bike is the shop’s flagship program where people can get a bike sized and fitted to their needs. For the program there is a $10 deposit and then the staff walk the customer through the entire process of fixing and replacing the various parts on the bike. There is no charge for shop time while a customer is participating in the Build-A-Bike program and they have 30 days to complete it.
“You basically have a brand-new bike at the end,” said Kristian Doak, another Bike Saviours board member.
The board members stressed that bike knowledge is not required to participate in the program. “There are no dumb questions,” said Zachary Poit, a customer of the shop and member of the ASU cycling club.
He could ask them questions repeatedly and the staff were always kind and showed him a repair as many times as he needed. Someone can start out with no knowledge on the mechanics of bike maintenance like Poit and still feel welcomed in the shop.
“It was so nice to see people who actually cared about teaching you how to fix your bike,” Poit said.
Bike Saviours gives access to all the tools in its shop for $5 an hour with a max of $15 a day. Bike repair can require various tools that might not be found in the common garage. While many people might have a trusty old wrench in the tool box, tools such as a spoke wrench to make sure the bike wheels turn straight is a less common sight. Some of their used parts are free, while others are reasonably priced.
“We help a lot of people who are not as advantageous…don’t have as many resources,” Doak said.
For people with not as much money, Bike Saviours has a work-trade system to pay for the cost of parts and shop time to repair their bikes. This helps both the locals who are low on money as well as the homeless. The shop helps the homeless stay mobile around Tempe, even in the face of accidents like a popped tire or broken chain. For Nuccio the “relief on their faces” is always something he appreciates.
“They need our help because bikes are how they live, they can’t get around without a bike,” Doak explained. They help mobilize people who have very few options to get around.
The environment at Bike Saviours is very open and accepting. Any person that comes in needing help can find it. Poit described the environment as “very community driven” where everyone is helpful towards one another. The shop holds gear swaps, art nights and a monthly basic bike maintenance class for $20.
Bike Saviours is also geared towards taking care of the environment. It recycles old bike parts into the Build-A-Bike program and, when the parts are unusable, they are transformed into art at the art nights they hold. Nuccio said students can get a bike to travel around Tempe and remain relatively carbon free, rather than take an Uber, Lyft or buy a car.
The little shop on the corner of Roosevelt and Broadway has made big ripples throughout the Tempe-ASU bike community. Patching bikes together, educating the community, and putting people on wheels has made Bike Saviours invaluable to their community members. They are always looking for people willing to volunteer their time around the shop to help them with their mission.
“We advance bicycles, we advance people, and we advance community,” Nuccio said.