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Des Moines Bike Collective Volunteer Handbook

From Bike Collectives Wiki

Des Moines Bike Collective

In General

Our collective works with a structure where volunteers work with the shop manager to prepare bikes for sale, gift or recycling. Volunteers are not responsible for opening, closing or any administrative tasks. Volunteers generally work at repairing bicycles if qualified or interested in learning the proper methods, but may be asked to sort the parts into bins, to organize bicycles on the shop floor, clean the shop or bikes, salvage axles from worthless wheels, salvage parts off undesirable frames, test tubes for air holding potential, or many other tasks which need to be done at the Des Moines Bicycle Collective (DMBC).

Volunteer Guidelines

Volunteers should follow these rules:

  • Clean up at the end of a shift
    • Please devote the last 10-15 minutes of a shift to this task, to ensure that everyone can work safely and efficiently with everything in place.
    • Put all tools back on the peg boards.
    • Some specialty tools may be stored by the Manager. If you need a tool and don't see it, ask.
    • Any parts that could not be installed on the bike you are working on should be placed in a small bag and attached to the bicycle.
    • If possible,please attach a note to the green work order mentioning what is left to be done or what you have completed with the bike you are currently working on.
    • All parts that you didn't need for the repair should go back to the part bins.
    • Make sure all lubes, cleaners, degreasers go back on the bike stand or their proper spot.
  • Tools
    • Tools are a major expense for the collective. If you are missing a tool, let the manager know.
    • If you need a tool required for a job, tell the manager. He may be able to order it.
    • Keep tools free of grease and replace them to the exact spot you found them at the start of the shift.

Fixing bikes

  • Fixing a bike: is this bike worth repairing?
    • Check for cracks in the frame. These are often apparent at the welds, particularly near the head tube.
    • Look for bends in the frame or fork. If the down tube is wrinkled... even if there is a paint bubble on the bottom of the down tube, the bike may have been crashed. Inspect the forks, too for alignment. A crashed bike may have a fork that is straighter than usual. Or the left or right right fork may not line up with the wheel.
    • Look for rust spots that may have gone completely through the frame.
    • Is the paint in such a state that it needs a paint job before repair?
    • If there is no green repair slip attached to the bike, you could prepare one. If you don't feel comfortable with this, ask the manager to help.

  • Fixing a bike: clean it up first

You may not always see what needs to be done to a bicycle if there is a layer of grime or dust on it. Take the bike to the bike bath. Spray on some degreaser. Brush the bike thoroughly. Rinse it all off.

  • Fixing a bike: applying repairs
    • Probably a good idea to start with the heavy stuff first. If you need to overhaul a bottom bracket or a headset, you should do this first. Reason is if this repair uncovers a severe problem, other repairs might be a waste of time.
    • If the bike needs new parts, discuss this with the Manager. She/He might have some parts that are available and will save you searching through the various bins.
    • If you don't feel competent to perform a particular repair, please mention this to the Manager. If you might be able to do the repair, but it's your first time, ask the manager or another volunteer to work with you. Like other disciplines, bike repair goes a lot smoother if two people are able to work on it... two heads usually being better than one. Keep in mind that this should be a learning experience, not an ego display.
    • If there is no way in hell you are going to do repair X, for whatever reason, discuss this with the manager. Perhaps it's okay to continue with other repairs on the bike and someone else may undertake what you don't want to do.
    • If you can't complete all repairs, you could fill out a note and attach it to the green work order, stating what needs to be completed and what you have done or attempted.
    • If you complete everything, move all leftover parts either to the parts bin or to the recycle bins. You should find recycle bins for all type of parts.

  • Fixing a bike: all repairs done
    • If the bike is dirty after a series of repairs, you might need to bring it back to the bike wash and clean it again.
    • When the bike is dry and back on the stand, spray some "Bike Lust" or furniture polish on the frame and handlebars. Go over it with a clean cloth rag to shine it up. In a pinch you can also use car wax.
    • Alert the manager that the bike is ready to go. You could locate the tag used for pricing. Measure the bike's seat tube (from the center of the crank to the top of the set tube) and write this down on the tag. Write down the make and model. For example "Trek 720 53cm". This format is used by the collective for many bicycle styles.


  • Fixing a bike: safety checklist
    • Handlebars are tight. Hold the front wheel between your legs and try to twist the handlebars. Make sure they are clamped tightly in the stem by pushing down on them.
    • Seat is tight. Hold the rear wheel between your legs and try to twist the seat.
    • Brakes are strong. Squeeze the brake levers and make sure they do not touch the handlebar when full force is applied. Check that the brakes are able to lock the wheels.
    • Wheels are correctly installed. Visually inspect the wheel spacing in the fork or rear dropouts to see if it is centered. Spin it to see if is reasonably true and doesn’t hit the brake pads. Test that the wheel is securely fastened to the frame (either bolted or with quick release) by pushing with force to try to rock it side-to-side in the frame. Also check that axle bolts or quick release are making good contact with the frame, gripping the dropouts with most of their surface area.
    • Nuts and Bolts are tight. Check the axle nuts to be sure the wheels are secure. Check the brake calipers and pads to make sure they are firmly attached.

Organizing parts

Being able to find the right part for a repair is critical. Since the collective has so many bikes coming and going, as well as bikes being parted out, the roles of the parts organizer is an important one.


  • On your first visit
    • Make sure that before you begin any work that you understand all the safety procedures and equipment.
    • There is a first aid kit available. Make sure you know where it is located. Open it to see what inside.
    • Keep the locations of exits in mind should you need to evacuate.
    • As you are working on bicycles or other activities, be mindful of others in your vicinity. This is particular important when children are present.


Good online sources for fixing bicycles

The Bicycle Tutor

Park Tool Website

YouTube Bicycle Repair videos

BikeForums Bicycle Mechanics

Wrench use and safety

Monty Python Bicycle Repairman

Bicycle Cooperatives

Bike Forums List of Bike Co-ops