Temperatures have risen, the undergraduate HSR pass has expired and now we’re left to figure out a cheap way to get around. Walking limits you to either a short radius or painful blisters and $2 (with a presto) for the HSR adds up quickly. I ventured out to get a bike for the short trips within town and the longer eighteen kilometre commute I would have to do from the GO bus stop to my work. Until you go to buy your own bike, you never quite realize how expensive bikes are. Road bikes can cost upwards of $300, sometimes going into the thousands. Even most of the used road bikes on Kijiji were over $200.
As always, my mind drifted towards do-it-yourself and I found a cheap bike on Kijiji in rough shape but with a perfect frame and wires for $50 but needed somewhere to get parts and/or labour cheap. After talking to a few enthusiasts, I discovered New Hope Commuity Bikes, a not-for-profit charity in Hamilton aiming to educate, advocate, teach new skills, and provide affordable means for people to get around while staying active.
“We take donated bikes and refurbish them. We also teach people how to fix their own bikes and provide a space where they can do that. When you have a bike you want to work on, we will give you access to space and tools and we will help you along the way”, says manager Andrew Hibma, who has been with the shop since its second year.
Used parts at New Hope are $5 and new parts start at a fraction of the cost at a bike shop in the Hamilton or Toronto area. Refurbished bikes start at $150 in perfect condition.
“We’re one of the few places that you can come to if you need a repair but can’t afford new parts. We can usually do it for less than half the price, even less if you want to put in some sweat equity and do some manual labour yourself,” said Hibma.
For $60, I got two new tires, two new tubes, two new brake pads and they even did it for me. If you take the opportunity to learn how to fix your bike yourself, you can rent tools from zero to ten dollars an hour, on a sliding scale. If you just need the tools and the space without instruction, you can rent tools from zero to five dollars an hour.
Walking in there with a bike that warranted laughter from the staff and pictures taken of my tires that had exploded, I didn’t know what to expect. As soon as I walked into the shop, I was immediately greeted. A selection of bikes lined the front room, the workshop was upstairs, and the customer repairs were downstairs. A week later, I had a functional bike that is going to end up saving me a ton of money this summer and reduce my carbon footprint.
The only thing needed now is for Hamilton to improve its roads for bikers. There are only a few bike lanes and motorists don’t like to share the road. The bike culture is improving though, even avid cyclist Hibma agreed. New Hope educates the community on safe cycling, hoping that both motorists and cyclists can learn how to get along on the road.
“[The bike culture in Hamilton] is growing, but it’s nowhere near where it should be. I think there’s a lot of mindsets we need to get past with drivers and cyclists. It’s too much ‘us versus them’ mentality. As more cyclists take the road, it will become more commonplace and people will get used to it. It’s no different from [driving with] construction or a bus. It’s about teaching cyclists how to ride in a manner that’s safe and predictable so drivers aren’t fearful or annoyed but at the same time drivers need to respect that cyclists have a right to be on the road to get places. I think it will improve with the bike share the city is putting in, I think that should help with developing the culture. The City is installing some bike lanes this summer too, I think that’s one very important missing link.”
Advocacy for cyclists is one of the things that sets New Hope apart from other bike shops.
“We are also one of the few shops that engage in cycling advocacy. We go to city council meetings and are almost kind of a voice for cycling. Our main goal is education and getting more people on bikes where at a bike shop it’s almost like a secondary goal, they are a for-profit business primarily,” said Hibma.
Many in the community have taken to using New Hope as their primary bike shop and it’s easy to see why. Some have even rented out New Hope’s cargo bikes to start a business, like Jen Vanderherberg, a Hamiltonian who has started a mobile bicycle ice cream parlour named Icycles.
New Hope’s annual bike festival runs this year from June 8 to 15. Check out New Hope at 1422 Main Streeet East near Main and Kennilworth and try and find the Icycles bike.