Switching Gears: The Kick Stand Bike Collective Is in Transition, Again

For the past year, Kick Stand Bike Collective, formerly the Knoxville Bike Collective, has been in near-constant upheaval.

The ever-evolving collective has been compelled to move shop three times since spring 2012: from the basement of Saw Works Brewing Company, to the backyard of Groundswell Collective, to an outbuilding behind Tribe One. With the closing of Tribe One, the collective is in the throws of restructuring, preparing to move yet again. Soon, the new leaders hope to settle into what will be their fourth location along Magnolia Avenue, a former barbershop at 2636 East Magnolia next to Cat's Martial Arts.

The history of the collective is a bit of a muddle, complicated by changes in name, location, leadership, and the focus of those served.

The volunteer-run collective, formed around 2005, aimed to give away free bicycles to those in need, share tools, and teach bicyclists to repair and rebuild their own bikes. For a while, it operated out of backyards and sheds, with bike-repair workshops held at Caswell Park and Market Square.

The collective gained more public recognition in 2011 when they secured the basement of the Marble City Brewing Company (now Saw Works Brewing) located in the Magnolia warehouse district. Decorated with bike-themed graffiti art, the "Bike Co-op" was a valuable space to store tools and donated bikes, and host workshops and parties.

At this time, the Bike Collective was run by a group of friends in their mid-20s funding the endeavor through beer sales and rock shows. Some members had ties to the social justice center/music venue Groundswell Collective. Johnathan Woodruff and Kevin Horn were especially energetic leaders during this period.

In the spring of 2012, Saw Works decided to expand their storage and the Bike Collective had to find a new home. They temporarily stored their bikes and equipment in Groundswell's backyard at 1512 Magnolia Avenue, before moving to the urban youth center, Tribe One, a few blocks east at 2112 East Magnolia.

The move to Tribe One prompted a name change to Kick Stand, an upbeat name reflecting the new focus on kids. The program proved popular among bike riders in the neighborhood, with those seeking help often outnumbering and overwhelming volunteers. With the focus mainly on kids, no one was selling beer or throwing parties at Tribe One. Paul Attea was a main representative of the collective during this period. In the winter of 2013, plagued by funding problems, Tribe One closed.

Kick Stand still stores bikes and tools at Tribe One, and holds sporadic workshops in the parking lot. With the building up for sale, Kick Stand organizers feel pressure to begin the move to their new location.

Jerome Diaz, owner of Cats' Martial Arts, offered the empty space he rents next to his studio (formerly the barbershop Head to Toez) to Kick Stand at no cost. Last Thursday, Kick Stand held an organizational meeting in the building they hope will soon be their new community bike shop.

Demarquise "Dee" Nelson, a student at Austin-East High School, sat at the head of the conference table in a small florescent-lit room.

"A question I get a lot is, ‘When are you moving?'" Nelson says. "The answer is...?"

"We don't know," several people ruefully finish.

Nelson says he first learned about Kick Stand when he heard "a crackhead" walking down the street shouting, "Hey, they're giving away bikes!"

Since then, he's become an integral volunteer in the organization, teaching bike maintenance during work sessions, helping to organize the shop, and participating in meetings like the one at the new space next to Cat's.

"Exciting new developments" in the new bike shop would include electricity, air conditioning, and a bathroom, says Paul Laudeman, the current go-to guy for Kick Stand.

Kick Stand volunteers are responsible for doing their own renovations, and the new space is rough. An unfinished bathroom is among the repairs needed before they can move in.

On July 11 at 5-7 p.m., Kick Stand will host an open house/volunteer interest meeting at their current space in Tribe One, where people can learn about volunteering or donating to Kick Stand to help facilitate the move to 2636 E. Magnolia. You can contact them at kickstandknoxville@gmail.com.