New on-campus bike stand educates student cyclists

Amir Vera
Staff Writer

The new RamBikes Stand is now open on campus to serve student cyclists in the VCU community. The RamBikes Stand has been open since early October and focuses on maintenance and education instead of product sales.

Although the stand joins the long list of bike shops already near VCU, it works in cooperation with other community stores to show students how to fix and maintain their bicycles, said Brantley Tyndall, alternative transportation coordinator at VCU.

Students learn how to repair and maintain their own bicycles with the help of League of American Bicyclist-certified intructors. Photo by Audry Dubon.

Even though the RamBikes Stand has just been added to the already long list of bike shops near VCU, there has been no fierce competition between VCU’s new stand and the already existing businesses in the area.

With about 14,000 cyclists on campus and 12 bike shops within a five-mile radius of VCU’s Monroe Park campus, the Richmond and VCU biking community has expanded significantly, according to Tyndall. Since 2010, according to the State of Cycling Report, about 57 percent of student identified themselves as bikers. The new RamBikes Stand has been just one more addition to the ever-expanding biking culture.

“The idea is that we’re not competing with local business because the market’s pretty saturated as it is and we’re not a bike shop in the sense that we sell products, we just distribute knowledge,” said RamBikes Stand Ambassador Evan Lang. “We’ll send people to the different bike shops in the area for tubes, pedals, crank arms, basically anything they need to repair the bike,” Lang said. “Then they come back here and we show them how to do it.”

Other local bike shops, like Pibby’s Bicycle & Skate and the BunnyHop Bicycle Shop, believe the RamBikes Stand benefits not only the VCU community, but the Richmond biking community as well.

“It promotes a knowledgeable consumer base for all the shops,” said Chip Atkins, owner of Pibby’s Bicycle & Skate.

“It makes for smarter shoppers, they have a better understanding of what they’re buying and they may have some better idea as to what the service department is worth in a bike shop,” said Atkins.

As far as business competition, owners of the bike shops in the area have said the VCU stand hasn’t really affected business by taking customers away from them. BunnyHop Bicycle Shop owner Luke Stevens said there was no way to tell if the stand affects his business because he collaborates with the stand sending people back and forth for cycling information. As a result, Stevens said there hasn’t been that much change in business.

“We already work closely with VCU Police, the Outdoor Adventure Program, the sustainability program. It’s all about getting people on bikes,” Stevens said.

With business competition a non-issue the local bike shops also feel that the addition of the VCU shop expands the biking culture in Richmond. Teaching students how to fix their bikes themselves rather than depending on area stores is a vital skill the Stand teaches. One of the most common skills the RamBike Stand teaches is fixing a flat tire.

“It really is one of the most beneficial skills for a cyclist to know in order to be more self-reliant and confident in commuting by bike,” Tyndall said.

Both Stevens and Atkins said the stand is doing a great job of promoting the bicycling community through their workshop structure and guidance.

“I think anything that raises bicycle awareness or puts bicycling in a positive light is good for the community. Hopefully they won’t just show people how to fix their bikes, but how to ride them as well,” Atkins said.

Atkins has heard many complaints from people who are frustrated with those who don’t know how to ride bikes  properly in the city. Some of the biggest offenders, Atkins said, are those who are not accustomed to living in this community.

The RamBikes stand can help students be informed cyclists as well. A list of all the biking laws in Virginia and Richmond are listed on the RamBikes website and bike ambassadors are also knowledgeable in safety.

“RamBikes has a staff of League of American Bicyclist-certified instructors qualified to teach proper safety practices, a fleet of bikes for teaching skills clinics and a calendar of classes for members of the VCU community to take,” Tyndall said.

The RamBikes Stand is located on the corner of Grace and Belvidere streets and is open between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. According to Tyndall, the stand currently serves between five and 20 people a day and about 40 to 50 people a week.

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