Cola Town Bike Collective – Midlands Gives

As long time followers of the blog know, I’ve had some extremely high highs and some extremely low lows. And until last year, I had been off the bike for several years.

A big part of my return was as a result of joining the board of Cola Town Bike Collective. They’re a non-profit that happened to move into my neighborhood about the same time I was buying a house. They do a lot of different things. In some ways they are a bike shop, which I’ve taken advantage of. It’s a nice luxury having one in your neighborhood! They also do a lot of advocacy, which we could use given how difficult it is to ride in our city. They have special events, many of which are bike related, and some aren’t. The last event that I attended was Tommy Stinson of The Replacements fame doing a solo acoustic show. It was a blast of a time and helped with branding and fundraising.

They are most impactful by helping those in need. This can range from homeless, to people in poverty, or even students that are trying to make ends meet. A big part of the charity is fixing up donated bikes and finding homes for them.

Covid-19 took an immediate toll on the business. Obviously the special events are over. A big question was whether to keep the shop itself open. We are technically an “essential business” during this lockdown, but given the small building, social distancing would be next to impossible. There are many tools around where the virus could live, and frankly, we work with a vulnerable population that does not have access to testing. We didn’t want to be part of the spread of the virus so the shop was shut down.

The shop is currently shut down

That hasn’t stopped us from supporting supporters. A lot of essential workers rely on bikes to get to their place of work. Scott has been doing work behind the scenes to safely help people get back on the road. In that sense we are partially operating but have little income.


Which leads me to the reason behind this post. We have an annual campaign called Midlands Gives. It’s a localized fundraising effort to drive donations to non-profits. This year it is essential because we need the funds to not only continue operating, but hopefully be more effective and impactful. A lot of people need help, but I’m asking readers of the blog and longtime supporters of me as a cyclist to consider a donation. The minimum is $10 and it goes a long way.

I’ve already donated $500 and am matching another $1,000. That’s how strongly I feel about this organization.

Here is the link to our campaign.

I’ll also share that because of the Bike Collective, I rode more last year than ever. The hip is fine with no setbacks. For awhile I was even getting some riding fitness back. We played with the idea of taking a trip to the mountains this summer, which I think would have happened if it weren’t for Covid-19. And if so, it would have been covered here. I’m still riding on a limited basis, more for function than for exercise, but because I have such a strong support group, I will ride and even climb again.


4 responses to “Cola Town Bike Collective – Midlands Gives

  • hikecyclephoto

    Aaron,

    This sounds like a fabulous project. I’m glad you found something so productive (or, who found whom?).

    I have moved to northern Pennsylvania, but still occasionally visit (and rid with) fries in Polk County, NC.

    My offer to you is this: My photography, at no charge, because a) I also ride, and b) I like what you’re doing.

    When/if these Covid-19 restrictions re lifted, I plan a trip to NC. Please let me know what will be going on when and where, and I’ll try to hook up. Please let me know what you need, and when.

    Mark Schmerling, schmerlingdocumentary.com

    215 495 5223

    >

    • aaronwest

      Thanks, Mark! We sort of found each other. The founder of this org was a riding buddy and a follower/supporter of the blog. He achieved non-profit status around the time when I was at my peak riding ability, and we’ve stayed in touch during the downtime that I needed to heal up.

      I’m actually in SC but have done plenty of riding in Polk County. Big fan of the area. We had talked about doing the watershed, which is one of the easier climbs in the area but a lot of them are brutal.

      Stay safe and healthy during this situation! I hope you are getting some rides in.

  • Gerry

    Just saw a bit of your ‘live’ that is actually 8 hours old. Looks like the campaign was a great success, congratulations!

    • aaronwest

      Thanks, Gerry! It was a massive success! Hard to say whether people are more generous due to the Covid-19 crisis or if they just wanted to follow along with something. I think we ran a strong campaign but it exceeded our loftiest expectations. It’s an enjoyable and supportive community, and I appreciate the opportunity to do more for advocacy and support people that are less fortunate.

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