Bike Wheels - Key City Bike - Mankato, MN
Photo by Don Lipps - Bike wheels salvaged from donations are among the many parts Key City Bike offers for sale

There is a community of folks on Vine Street in Mankato doing good for the community far out of proportion to their apparent size. Whether it’s keeping bikes out of landfills, providing affordable bikes to anyone who needs them, or working to grow biking culture in the region, Key City Bike is making an impact!

A Community of Volunteers

Key City Bike - Connor Davis
Photo by Don Lipps – Volunteer Connor Davis works on disassembling a bike for parts and scrap.

“A lot of people don’t understand what this place is about,” said Brian Gosewisch, chairman of the organization’s board. “Some people assume it’s just a bike shop. We get calls saying, ‘I want to drop my bike off and get it fixed.’ We have to say that’s not really what we do here.”

Gosewisch uses these opportunities to educate, “It’s a nonprofit, volunteer run community bike space that anybody can use. Everything we get in here, bikes, parts, tools, it all comes in as a donation. If somebody wants their bike worked on we happily refer them to Flying Penguin, Nicollet, or Scheels. Any of them do a phenomenal job. People can come here, use the space, use the tools, we help as best we can but most of our volunteers are not professional bike mechanics. If somebody doesn’t know how to do something we have the Internet and are glad to help them look it up.”

The group does offer a solid selection of used parts in good condition for sale that have been salvaged from donated bikes.

Key City Bike moved into their new location on Vine Street this spring. The entire organization is run by volunteers. There is no paid staff. “We’d like to get to the place where at least the Executive Director could be paid, maybe even a shop manager,” Gosewisch said. “We’d like to be open more hours. Right now, our hours are based on when volunteers can get here.”

The Heart of the Matter

Key City Bike - Brian Gosewisch
Photo by Don Lipps – Key City Bike board chairman, Brian Gosewisch, stands next to the door from the organization’s previous location on North Riverfront Drive.

Recycling — keeping bikes out of landfills — is at the heart of the group’s mission. Used bikes are received from individuals, bike shops, and even police departments who have unclaimed bikes on their hands. The bikes are sorted into those that can be refurbished and sold and those that can be broken down for parts with the rest being sold for scrap. According to Gosewisch, nothing is wasted. It’s either reused or recycled.

“We have a saying, ‘scrap happens,'” Gosewisch said. “We can’t refurbish all the bikes we get in because of their condition and our limited space.” The group gets some of their operating funds from selling scrap metal. Recycling tires, on the other hand, is an expense. Even so, they maintain their commitment to nothing being thrown away.

Classes on bike repair, maintenance, safety, and other broader topics are a part of the organization’s offerings. “Some of our volunteers are mechanics, for example, Aaron Buege and Joe Madson from Nicollet Bike Shop. They occasionally teach classes here. It’s a great resource!”

“Our rides are pretty laid back. We might ride out to the trestle bridge on the Red Jacket Trail to hang out and watch the sunset.”

Of course, Key City Bike also puts bikes in the hands of those who need them. “One thing we’ve always done is to give away kids bikes, bikes with wheels 20 inches and smaller,” Gosewisch said. “At our grand reopening, we got funding to fix up 40 kids bikes and helmets too. In just a couple of hours we sent 40 bikes out the door.”

Less known, perhaps, is that Key City Bike has a program in place where individuals can earn a bike. “Tuesday night is currently the time people can come and put in hours and accrue credit towards a certain bike they want. They actually earn the bike, a helmet, a lock and lights. It’s one more way we try to get people a safe ride,” Gosewisch explained. “You put in the sweat equity and you can get bikes back.”

Time to Ride!

Key City Bike sponsors a Sunset Cruise the last Friday of every month. “Our rides are pretty laid back,” Gosewisch explained. “We might ride out to the trestle bridge on the Red Jacket Trail to hang out and watch the sunset. Maybe we’ll ride over to Madison Lake and grab some burgers at the Trailblazer. We post our events on our Facebook page. So, if it’s bad weather it might be a short ride or we might go have some beverages.”

Finally, as one of the leaders of a volunteer-based organization, Gosewisch said, “We’re always looking for more volunteers. Maybe you don’t want to ride bikes. Maybe you don’t care about bikes. But maybe you want to help an organization using your talents. If you want to sit at the front desk and greet people, we can use that. If you want to volunteer to come mow the lawn, great! Let us know!”