OGDEN — The Ogden Bicycle Collective, which flourishes with a strong volunteer ethos, has a new director who hopes to put his bike industry experience to good use.
“I’ve been in the industry a long time and have learned a lot,” Dustin Eskelson said. “It’s almost information that’s wasted if I don’t share it with people.”
Eskelson, a 30-year-old who lives in South Ogden, started as a competitive mountain bike racer. He’s worked 15 years in bike shops and for bicycle manufacturing and supply companies. He learned about the collective about seven years ago and has been a volunteer ever since.
Now, he’s the full-time paid director who will lead the nonprofit entity with planned stronger programs and the building of a more visible public profile.
But everything begins with volunteers who find and grow a passion for bicycles.
“I like teaching people and sharing information with others,” Eskelson said. “When you teach somebody something and they get it and you see the lightbulb light up, that’s my favorite thing.”
The collective, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, has settled into a renovated building on the corner of 28th Street and Fowler Avenue. Volunteers did the renovating.
The collective’s programs have more depth and participants than ever, Eskelson said, along with greater support from community partners.
At its core, the collective accepts donated, unwanted bikes. Volunteers fix them, and some are sold in the shop to raise money for programs.
Most rebuilt bicycles — thousands a year, according to the group’s website —are given to adults and children who can’t afford bikes.
Applicants are vetted according to need by partner organizations, such as the Utah Department of Workforce Services, Cottages of Hope, Catholic Community Services, Weber Human Services and the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation.
Programs include open shop hours three days a week, where people can bring in their bikes and learn how to fix them on their own.
“We don’t repair bikes for them,” Eskelson said. “It goes against the grain of do it yourself.
“Rather than take your bike somewhere to get fixed, come in at lunchtime,” Eskelson said. “We have six stations fully stocked with the tools you need, and our volunteers can help walk you through the repairs.”
He said such work is “kind of empowering ... it’s the reason we have so much return visiting as people continue coming in and enjoy learning new things.”
Rather that view the collective as unfair competition, mainstream bike shops are supportive, Eskelson said.
“It keeps people from bringing in bikes that aren’t profitable,” he said, and people who fix their own bikes at the collective can save money.
Meanwhile, bike mechanic classes offered at the collective help volunteers and customers become self sufficient. It’s in keeping with the mission of improving bicycling as “an effective and sustainable form of transportation and as a cornerstone of a cleaner, healthier and safer society.”
“We believe in the power of the bicycle as a tool for the transformation of transportation,” he said, especially for people who economically need help getting back on their feet.
“It’s more reliable than the bus and you can do it on your own time,” Eskelson said.