Fix-it shop brings bike culture to Flint

Fix-it shop brings bike culture to Flint
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It’s not your everyday bicycle mechanic service.

In fact, there’s not much about Recycle Bike Shop and Mobile Repair that’s traditional, and that’s what customers and supporters of the business like.

With a mission to support an increasing number of commuters and cyclists who travel in and out of downtown Flint, husband and wife co-owners Jon and Kassy Mason launched the company in May 2016.

Jon Mason (right) and his wife Kassy (left) launched RecycleBike Shop to help increase bicycling in the downtown area and greater Flint.

“We’re not a very regular bike shop. We do things kinda funky because we think that’s what Flint needs,” Kassy Mason says.

Befitting the habits and needs of their patrons, the service’s mobility is perhaps its most novel attribute, since it travels closer to bike owners.

Celebrating two years in business, Recycle Bike Shop recently launched its six-month, pop-up season at Flint Farmers’ Market. The Masons will perform affordable, on-site repairs and maintenance at Farmers’ Market weekly until autumn, while regularly announcing other dates, times and locations on their Facebook page.

Both avid cyclists, the Masons recognized a market for customers seeking a more conveniently located service shop than other stores in the community.

“My husband grew up riding bikes in downtown Flint and he always knew there was a need for a bike shop,” Kassy says.

The pair purchased a facility at 312 N. Grand Traverse Street downtown seven years ago and is in the process of modifying it into a business address. Meanwhile, they conceived a mobile service to help meet the more immediate needs of students, employees and casual riders frequenting the area surrounding their eventual headquarters.

One woman had been traveling on five different buses from her home to the nearest repair facility, unloading and reloading her bicycle to a transport rack each time she boarded. Today she’s a regular Recycle Bike Shop customer.

The business services five to 10 bicycles weekly and between 30 and 50 customers a month, including occasional buyers of bikes the Masons repair and sell. The shop also supports Flint’s weekly “Thursday Night Party Ride,” a “social cycling” community event that begins downtown and travels for several miles. They bring tools along and offer maintenance as needed.

Jon Mason (center) and his wife Kassy support bicycle gatherings like Thursday Night Party Ride.

Apart from offering affordable services, like $45 tune-ups, compared with as much as $110 at other shops, Kassy says the Masons pride themselves on treating customers professionally. Too often, she says, a cyclist visiting the traditional repair store encounters the dreaded “bike snob” waiting behind the counter.

“There’s a really big stigma when customers go into a bike shop. When they go and purchase a bike at, say, a pawn shop for $50, a lot of people are looked down upon when they bring it in for a repair,” she says. “But we don’t care.”

Some bike owners without cars might use their $50 purchase as a necessity for daily travels and shouldn’t feel embarrassed if it needs a $25 repair, Kassy adds.

“We know it’s your primary transportation and we don’t want you to feel you were treated poorly because you had a used bike,” she says, adding that bike snobbery is a nationwide phenomenon, and it reflects shades of economic discrimination.

“I personally have gone into bike shops ready to buy a new bike and was treated poorly,” Kassy says.

Fairly serving all local cyclists is the shop’s main objective. The Masons repair donated, used products and sell them for as little as $50. That ride is like new, says Kassy.

Flint’s pop-up bike shop brings repairs to riders who might not have easy access to affordable service.

“There are a lot of people who want repairs who, unfortunately, go to other shops looking for new bikes that start at $150 because they don’t think it’s worth it to repair their bikes, or they get quoted fees that are so expensive at high-end bike shops they don’t want to get them fixed,” she says.

Not only can Recycle Bike Shop serve as a more affordable alternative, but Kassy recently added impressive credentials that should boost customer confidence in buying used. In February she was professionally trained at United Bicycle Institute after being chosen as one of 16 women from throughout the country to receive a QBP Women’s Bike Mechanic Scholarship. Kassy’s application was chosen from about 2,000 others.

Now she serves as the business’ lead bicycle tech and some customers will be surprised.

“This year is a big switch for them, to know they’re dealing with me instead of Jon,” says Kassy.

Even so, she doesn’t expect complaints from those who understand the shop’s goal to put more Flint residents on wheels.

“Our customers are very supportive,” Kassy says.

For more information visit Recycle Bike Shop and Mobile Repair’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/recyclebikesflint or call (810) 444-9781.

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