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Rag & Bones bike co-op aims for community connections at new location

Two people wearing winter coats stand outside a building flanked by bicycles.
Aaron Linas (left) and Sera Erickson volunteer with Rag & Bones Bicycle Co-op, a nonprofit that's set to move to a new space early in 2023. (Photo: Scott Elmquist/VPM News)

Rag & Bones Bicycle Co-op, a nonprofit that’s worked to make cycling more accessible to Richmonders for more than a decade, is moving to a new location early in 2023. 

The co-op's had several addresses since its founding in a Carytown storage unit. And with the extra space at its North Avenue location, Rag & Bones plans to offer more than just bike repairs and sales. 

Sera Erickson, the group’s administrator and volunteer coordinator, and Aaron Linas, Rag & Bones’ treasurer, chatted a bit about the organization’s goals and what the move will mean for the future. 

The following has been edited for length and clarity. 

Dave Cantor: Can you explain some of the programming that Rag & Bones runs? 

Linas: We're helping people learn how to work on their own bikes, but it also helps people get transportation. A lot of people that come in here are people that are just working adults that use a bike as their everyday form of transportation. The clientele — the people that show up — are really from all walks of life. [Programs are] centered around bikes, but the use of those bikes and how people use them is various. 

Can you kind of compare the limitations and benefits of each location you’ve had? 

Erickson: Yeah, so we really did like our space in Scott's Addition quite a bit, but because of the way that life is, and the breweries and the property values going up, we had to move out of there. So, we came here. This is a little bit of a smaller space, but Food Not Bombs used to be next door, and we kind of liked the aspect of RVA Createspace, where we could work with friends and throw kind of big events with them, which we did a couple times. …  

When we move to North Avenue, Food Not Bombs and RVA Community Fridges are actually going to be right across the street. So, we're all moving over there to sort of have this next community hub. 

Are connections to those kinds of organizations an important element of how Rag & Bones is trying to fulfill its mission? 

Erickson: Yeah, we like to work with as many people who are thinking of themselves as doing community work. 

When I started here 10 years ago, I was not a [bike] mechanic. The person who helped start the co-op taught me everything that he knew — or tried to help me. And then, I went on to work in a retail bike shop and went to New York to work in a nonprofit. But there have been a lot of people that have started working on bikes here and then gotten a job in bikes or made that a part of their life in a way that really enriched their life. 

So, I think it helps everybody who comes here — volunteers and people who just need to work on their bike one time.

How does the new space potentially help you achieve the organization’s goals? 

Linas: The new space really helps us fulfill a lot of projects that we're doing in the old space that we didn't have enough physical space to do — workshops and trainings around bicycle education. 

And with the new space — because there's going to be a café in the front — we're going to have the ability to have social events and kind of diversify the projects and the people that come into the space. We want to host the summer bike program that Sera's already doing with other organizations: It's called Camp Spokes. It's for young girls, whose families have experienced hardships. 

Erickson: The real benefit of the new space is that we have more room to widen the reach. So, we're gonna have a couple spaces for resident artists, and we'll sell their stuff, as long as they agree to maybe do a DIY workshop on their process. And then we'll have some wall space for artists as well.  

We want to have a book club in this space, and we're gonna have zines and books at sliding scale prices. Because at the end of the day, Rag & Bones’ main goal is to focus on education — skill-sharing of any type. We focus on bikes, because we think that it's a great way to be in community with people. And the idea behind bikes is really good: You know, sustainable transportation, all that stuff.  

It's a way to build community with each other and to create a space where we can share more than just bikes. In our collective now, we have some photographers and some artists and some engineers. You know, different people with different jobs. Some people work in bike shops, some people don't, but we all kind of share things with each other, and we can all teach each other. 

Dave Cantor has been an editor with VPM News since 2022, juggling daily digital and broadcast stories.