Announcing The Good Container

The journey of a Working Bikes bike is a circuitous one. It moves from blissful joyrides with its first owner to years of basement cobwebs, from a bike drive on a sunny day to the back of a pick up truck blustering towards our shop, from a cramped container to years of happy riding with its new owner, halfway around the world from its first.

Our friend Flavio Pina wanted to find a new way to help people support these journeys, so he created the Good Container, an Instagram project that lets you “fill” a container by supporting it one piece at a time. Here’s how Flavio tells the story:
“I love bicycles. But I didn’t know how much I loved them until I read about Working Bikes. Working Bikes has helped more than 50,000 people get access to jobs, education, medical attention, and other resources in countries throughout Latin America and Africa. Thinking that was pretty awesome, I called them and offered to help. I didn’t know exactly how, but I wanted to collaborate with them and be a tiny part of what they were doing. I started thinking that probably more people would feel the same way and want to be part of such a great thing.

That’s the story behind The Good Container. Just like a bicycle, it’s a tool of empowerment. It allows people like you and me to make the world a little better, and the coolest part is we get to watch it happen.”

The Good Container is the first crowdfunding platform designed on Instagram. We think it’s pretty neat, and hope you do too!

Go to to watch a video and learn more. Follow @goodcontainer on Instagram to participate.


Bronzeville Bike Giveaway a Success!

This spring Working Bikes volunteers worked steadily to repair 500 kids bicycles in just a few months. Many of the bikes came from a stock pile of children’s bikes–Kiddy Bike Mountain, as it’s called–that usually grows on our dock all year, reaching the ceiling by the time we have our annual Holiday Kids Bike Sale in December. But this year Kiddy Bike Mountain was temporarily leveled, combed through by volunteers looking for bikes to repair for our largest local donation to date.

On Saturday, May 24, Working Bikes and the T.A.G. Foundation partnered to distribute these bicycles to youth in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. The donation was the brainchild of Angela Ford and the T.A.G. Foundation, an organization that aims to revitalize Chicago communities by promoting healthy and sustainable lifestyles. Ford organized the giveaway in the hopes that the bikes will help to develop a culture of cycling in Bronzeville, encouraging youth to be active and to explore their city.

The giveaway was hosted by Wendell Phillips Academy High School, which lent use of its auditorium and classrooms for the day. Families began to line up at 7am, forming a queue that wrapped around the block. Once in the building, kids went to the auditorium for a presentation about T.A.G. and the value of bicycling, then moved to classrooms for a lesson on safe riding techniques, and then to another classroom to select their bike. In the hallway, Working Bikes volunteers adjusted seat heights and filled tires with air when needed. Kids picked up a helmet and lock before making their way outside to a lot where the Chicago Bike Ambassadors ran a brief safe riding lesson/obstacle course.

It was a very fun day, and a great start to this year’s local donation efforts. Over the past few years, Working Bikes has begun to increase our local donations here in Chicago. We hope that programs like this will help us to reach our goal of donating more bikes to those in need in Chicago, while maintaining our commitment to donating 5,000-6,000 bicycles internationally.

Click here to see video coverage of the project on WGN Channel 9 News.

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Photos courtesy of Marie Akerman.


Phil Kaplan Named Working Bikes Board President

We are pleased to announce that the Working Bikes Board of Directors has named Phil Kaplan as its new President. Phil was selected at the March 13 meeting of the Board, after Working Bikes’ founder and former Board President Lee Ravenscroft stepped down.

Phil, formerly the Board’s Vice President, has volunteered at Working Bikes for five years and has been on the Board for two years. Prior to Working Bikes, Phil worked at the Environmental Protection Agency for thirty-plus years. He became involved with Working Bikes, as many volunteers have, after helping out at “shipping party.” Phil soon became a regular face at our volunteer bike repair sessions and at Working Bikes events. Today he is particularly active coordinating bike drives and donations in Chicago’s northern suburbs.

Lee has been President of the Board since its creation, several years after he and wife Amy Little began collecting bikes for donation out of their garage. Lee will continue to be active as President Emeritus, Board Member, head of our Shipping Committee, in-house bike machine engineer, and de facto Building Super. We hope that this change will allow him a bit more time for rest, relaxation, and trips to the Indiana dunes.

We are immeasurably thankful for the time and energy that Lee and Phil have devoted to Working Bikes over the years. They are both passionate and dedicated leaders, and we’re excited to see what the future holds.

Phil KaplanPhil, above, helping out at a bike drive in spring 2013.

IMG_9443Lee, above, helping to load bikes for CESTA in April 2014.




Shipping to El Salvador with The Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign

We had a shipping party last week! Newsletter subscribers, confused because you didn’t get an email? This party was on the road, in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.

Working Bikes founder Lee Ravenscroft and board member Trevor Clarke made the two and a half hour trek from Chicago to Champaign to help The Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign load a shipping container on Wednesday, April 16. The container is now en route to CESTA in El Salvador.


***Bikes await packing at The Bike Project’s storage space, the University of Illinois Agriculture warehouse.***


In past years Working Bikes has transported a couple hundred bikes annually from The Bike Project to our warehouse, where they were shipped with other bikes collected locally. But this year The Bike Project collected so many bikes that moving them would have been impractical and inefficient.

In the weeks and months before the shipment, volunteers from The Bike Project prepped hundreds of bikes by removing pedals and turning handlebars. The prep-work made for a very smooth loading day. Lee, Trevor, The Bike Project shop manager James Roedl, University staff member Tina, and several Bike Project volunteers loaded the truck in just four hours, from 10am to 2pm.


***A dedicated donor delivers bikes to Urbana-Champaign. This photo courtesy of Bryce Davis of The Bike Project.***


***Without a shipping dock, the team used industrial spools for some improvised leverage while lifting.***


The crew fit 413 adult bikes on the container, including a small load of 19 bikes that Lee brought down from Chicago. A big thanks to The Bike Project for their longstanding partnership and for letting us be part of their first onsite shipment. Thank you also to Jeff Yockey, president of Champaign County Bikes, who, just one day after serving as the host and organizer of the fantastic 3rd annual Illinois Bike Summit, got up early to get us the wood we needed to form two levels in the container!


***Working Bikes board member Trevor Clarke loads a blue cruiser.***


***Day is done!***


***Lee loads a pick up with kiddie bikes (which weren’t shipped to CESTA) for the return trip to Chicago.***
Photos courtesy of Trevor Clarke and, where indicated, Bryce Davis.

Brandon’s Bike Shop Opening

On Saturday, August 31 we opened a new volunteer workspace on the first floor of the warehouse. Construction of the space was made possible by a generous donation from the Brandon Bernier memorial fund and the Peter J. McGlaughlin and Jane Kitchel McGlaughlin Family Fund. Brandon’s friends, family, and Working Bikes comrades were on hand to remember the dedicated volunteer and to hang the last few tools on our new workbenches. We hope that the space, named Brandon’s Bike Shop, will be a joyful place of learning–and a fitting testament to Brandon’s life.

Brandon's family and friends tour the warehouse
Brandon's family and friends tour the warehouse
Volunteers hang the Brandon's Bike Shop sign.
Volunteers hang the Brandon's Bike Shop sign.

Working Bikes at Windy City Rollers Derby

WB at Derby 2013On Saturday April 20, Manager Paul Fitzgerald appeared during the half time show of the Windy City Rollers Derby to receive a check for $500. The Fury, one of the home teams in the league, had selected Working Bikes to be their charity beneficiary for the 2013 season.

As Fitzgerald graciously received the check and spoke about Working Bikes to the audience, Volunteer Chair Sujith Kumar walked into the ring dragging a trash can full of discarded bikes. Lamenting the fact that Chicago contributes hundreds of bikes to the waste-stream every year, Kumar asked Fitzgerald what could be done with such refuse.

Fitzgerald suggested a mini bike race around the track, and called for his mini bike racer, with whom he always travel. Wearing a bright orange, skin tight outfit, with Fury logo prominently displayed on the chest and crotch, Sybil Disobedience entered the ring, ready to race.

Seeing as Fitzgerald brought his own ringer, Kumar thought it only fair to have a raffle in order to select the 2nd racer. Upon calling out the winning seat, a young man by the name of Frank Pro Bro-no, entered the ring. Pro Bro-no removed his street clothing to reveal a bright red, skin tight, single piece track suit, which he conveniently wore to the Derby.

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Fitzgerald started the race, and it was neck and neck until the very end when Sybil Disobedience took the lead and won by a hair. As the racers circled the track, the new Working Bikes Anthem was debuted by volunteer and rock star, bk elmore.

Working Bikes Anthem

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