Q&A: Paul Attea, a bike mechanic for the Knox Bike Collective

Paul Attea is one of a handful of dedicated mechanics for the Knox Bike Collective (also known as the Knox Bike Co-op), and a lead on its search for a permanent new workspace for fixing bikes to sell and donate.

How goes the search?

We haven't found a new space yet, but we're temporarily at Groundswell Collective, at 1512E. Magnolia. We've been meeting with Tribe One to see about moving in with them, but won't know anything for a while.

Still interested in other ideas?

Yeah, we're definitely still searching. Our current place is okay enough that we don't have to jump into anything immediately.

How'd you learn to work on bikes?

I just learned by myself. I got my first road bike from Goodwill. I'm into bikes because they're easy to get around on—they're fun and cheap. I also like mechanics, so this is just another thing I got to tinkering around with. I recently built a folding bike frame. I do a lot of traveling, so I made one I could fold up and take with me. I firmly believe in bikes. They're better for the environment—better for everything except for riding around in the rain.

You're not from here?

I grew up in Nashville. It's definitely easier to ride a bike where I'm from—it's not as hilly, people don't get as discouraged. People here are also intimidated by the sprawling areas. It's easy to get around downtown, but Bearden or Farragut are not as quick, though still completely possible.

What's the farthest you take your bike just for transportation?

I'm a student at UT, studying architecture, and I will ride from my place in Fort Sanders to South Knoxville or Bearden sometimes. Usually I ride no more than 2-3 miles, but if I've got time I sometimes ride out to Home Depot, which can take 2-3 hours.

Do you still want bike donations?

Yes! Any bikes. You can leave them at a location with a note, come by the space during work hours [Sundays and Tuesdays, 5 p.m.-8 p.m.], or e-mail me.

Do you receive nice donations?

Some bikes are nicer than others; we've got a carbon fork, which is part of a bike, and a nice aluminum Cannondale frame. A lot of it comes from guys who are really into biking and have parts they're done with; they'd rather they go to a good cause like this than sell them. And we do get rare finds—funky old bikes you don't see around town anymore. Some of the bikes we fix to sell, because it makes more sense to do that and buy chains and stuff instead of donating really expensive bikes to one person.

Can anyone join the effort?

Anyone's welcome to just kind of walk up and start building on a bike. Our shop hours are Sunday and Tuesday evenings. It's more preferable and potentially more rewarding to show up earlier in the evening—we start at 5 p.m. Because we're working with someone else to have this space, we really have to stop and get out on time, and clean up takes the last half hour.

Who gets the bikes you donate?

Really, we give them to anyone. We don't really differentiate between the kinds of people who get them: college kids coming in, or homeless people from the mission who are down on their luck and need a ride around town. Lately we've been helping a bunch of kids in East Knox get some BMX bikes. For me, the most rewarding is providing a bike for someone who's expressed that they need a job and how hard that is to do and not have a car. It's nice to see those scenarios.

For more information, facebook.com/knox.bikecollective, or e-mail Paul Attea at pattea@utk.edu