Elgin's first bike shop in several years stems from a community-focused initiative to encourage all residents, including Spanish speakers, to enjoy bicycling.
Elgin Bike Hub, 119 S. Grove Ave., was spearheaded by resident Parker Thompson, who said it's about supporting all bike riders -- regardless of budget, skill level or background. The shop currently offers refurbished bicycles for kids and adults, accessories such as bike locks and lights, and mechanic services. The plan is to eventually sell new bikes, he said.
Thompson is a United Bicycle Institute certified mechanic and was the chairman of Elgin's former bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee, which has morphed into a subcommittee of the sustainability commission.
The Elgin shop started opening last month and officially launched this week.
"It's a nice high foot-traffic location. I've been surprised and pleased with how many people walk by and say, 'Wow, what's going on?' and peek in and chat," he said.
Thompson and his wife Katie are bicycling enthusiasts who like to ride with their children and have dedicated themselves to encouraging others to enjoy biking in a leisurely, fun way. They started organizing community bike rides in 2017 and eventually launched Elgin Bike Hub, which now has federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.
There were seven refurbished bikes for sale at the shop Tuesday, ranging from a kid's bike for $15 to an adult Trek touring 520 bike for $500. Typical prices for refurbished bikes would be $25 to $75 for department store-quality, and $100 to $300 for higher-end bikes, Thompson said.
The inventory comes from donations, which are tax-deductible. The shop offers a sliding scale fee for labor and used parts for whoever might need it.
"It's about relationships and generally trying to trust people," he said.
Bicycling has enjoyed a surge in interest due to the COVID-19 pandemic and most shops are having a hard time keeping up with demand. One of the main goals of Elgin Bike Hub is to make connections among the bicycling community, said volunteer mechanic Sandra Dávila of Elgin, who is a board member for the nonprofit and helped create its Spanish-English website.
It's important for people to embrace the concept that biking is simply about getting on a bike -- forget the fancy clothes and equipment, she said.
"It's either you are a commuter that needs a bicycle to get to work because you cannot afford a car ... (or) the bicycle sports person that swishes by with really expensive gear and a $5,000 bike," she said. "We want to build those bridges."
Davila said she has seen more Latinos and women taking part in the community bike rides organized by Elgin Bike Hub, which she appreciates because the biking community traditionally has been mostly white and male.
"The more bicycles and pedestrians you see on the streets, the more common it will be for people," she said.
Thompson agreed. "It's been really good and the community support has been wonderful," he said. "We try to stay hard at work and also appreciate what we've accomplished so far."