I like bikes

We HeART Bikes Bicycle Art Show

Jumpin’ Jimmy poses with his sculpture for the We HeART Bikes Bicycle Art Show.

Jumpin’ Jimmy poses with his sculpture for the We HeART Bikes Bicycle Art Show.

Photo by AMY BECK

Reno Bike Project’s 6th Annual We HeART Bikes Bicycle Art Show is at Holland Project Gallery, 140 Vesta St., at 5 p.m. on April 28. For more information, visit www.renobikeproject.com.

“The Reno Bike Project is a work in progress, so when Noah Silverman and Kyle Kozar meet up for coffee, the talk centers on what they want to do.”

That’s how a 2007 RN&R story began. Back then, RBP was a high-energy group of artists and bike mechanics who wanted to share their enthusiasm for cycling with the community, but weren’t exactly sure how.

Headquarters was bike mechanic Eric Carter’s basement. Reno Sparks Kiwanis Bike Program Re-Cyclery let the group use its warehouse for events. With greasy hands and rolled up sleeves, RBP jumped head-first into the world of being a nonprofit. Or maybe a business. Or something. Heck, they’d just start, then decide.

Five years and three locations later, at quitting time on a Saturday, mechanics Anthony Arevalo and Casey Clark locked up the Bike Project’s East Fourth Street shop, a compact garage space with a cotton-candy-colored façade, and met up for beer to talk about what they’ve accomplished.

“We’re now running a full-service, for-profit bike shop inside of a community bike shop,” says Clark, sporting an almost chest-length beard, sleeves still rolled up.

“We have just made our own way,” says Arevalo, whose demeanor is so thoughtful it imbues his clean black hoodie with downright professionalism. “We had an idea and a group of people who believed in it, and it’s growing.”

At first, they focused on bike-repair education and staffing a repair co-op. Friends volunteered to host events such as Ladies’ Night.

Eventually, says Clark, “People kept coming in and dropping off bikes, not wanting to work on them, just for the Bike Project to repair them, as a way of supporting us, basically. And it turned into a profitable thing.”

Reno Bike Project now has eight employees and an eight-member board of directors. They team with companies such as Microsoft and Patagonia for Bike to Work Day events and send a rep to City Council meetings to put in a good word for bike-friendly planning. At the shop, cyclists can buy a used ride, repair their own at a DIY workspace for $3 an hour, or just drop off bikes for professional repairs.

What’s next? More advocacy (lobbying for the proposed 4th Street/Prater Way corridor redo to include bike-friendly infrastructure). More outreach (providing bikes to job-seekers in exchange for a few volunteer hours). And maybe lending a hand to the neighbors.

From the shop, Arevalo says, he can see people coming out of St. Vincent’s Food Pantry across the street carrying heavy loads of canned goods on foot, and he’d like to be able to offer them the use of a few cargo bikes.

But first, there’s fundraising to be done, RBP style. On Saturday, April 28, the Bike Project hosts its 6th Annual We HeART Bikes Bicycle Art Show, the most profitable of several fundraisers the group holds.

“We solicit donations of bike-themed art, and lots of people give it to us,” says Arevalo.

“New Belgium [Brewing Company] sponsors us. They show up with this van full of beer and a rep,” adds Clark.

At last year’s art show, environmentalists and bikers rubbed elbows with art-world regulars. Bands played, and sales of about 90 bike-themed paintings (from the traditional to the avant-garde), drawings, jewelry, postcards, and sculptures made of welded cycle parts netted about $5,000, a sizeable chunk of the RBP’s operating budget.

After six years of evolution and trial-and-error, Reno Bike Project has gone from a “work in progress” to a progressive, self-sufficient community organization that hearts bikes, hearts art, and has carved out a stable niche somewhere between a non-profit organization and a for-profit business.

Plus, adds Clark, we’re finally getting over that “douchebag-hipsters-on-fixed-gears reputation.”