By Stan Purdum
QUESTION: How do I get rid of old bicycles? I’ve got two old bikes in my garage from when my kids lived at home. I don’t think they’re worth much, but I hate to just junk them. Any suggestions? —Frank R.
RBR’S STAN PURDUM REPLIES: The first thing I’d do is look for a nonprofit bike shop in your area that recycles old bikes. These may be connected to a charity group or have a mission of their own or simply be a volunteer effort to help people learn how to build and service bikes. Some have programs where teens or even adults can earn a bike simply by helping in the shop and/or working on the bike that will become theirs.
Many of these shops accept donations of bikes in any condition. Often what seems like a junker to you can be successfully refurbished into a reliable ride. But even ones that aren’t worth fixing can be parts donors for other bikes. In a previous location, I volunteered in a shop sponsored by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Through sales of recycled bikes, our shop donated thousands of dollars each year to the club, but the only new parts we regularly purchased were inner tubes, brake and shift cables and housings. There were a few other new parts we occasionally bought, but most of our parts — shifters, derailleurs, rear cassettes, cranksets, handlebars, axles, seats, pedals, wheels, tires, etc. — came off donor bikes. We sent what remained of those bikes to the metal scrapper.
Some nonprofit shops, because of space limitations or not enough volunteers to process donations, may be more selective about what they accept, and a few may request a small cash contribution to help with overhead, so call first and ask about their policy.
Here are three such shops to give you an idea of the range of differences in their approaches:
The main problem with this solution is that there aren’t enough of these kinds of bike shops, so there may not be one near you. But try googling “recycle bicycle shops” or “nonprofit bicycle shops.”
A second option is to contact a regular bike shop. In the past, those shops didn’t want used bikes, though some took a few in trade when it was the only way to make the sale of a new bike. But the pandemic broke bicycle supply chains, causing the demand to exceed the supply. That’s beginning to improve, but it’s possible, especially if your bike is in quite good condition, that the shop would accept yours. If not, it’s worth asking the shop staff how they get rid of old bikes. The recycle shop I worked at received several bikes from regular shops — bikes they’d taken in trade but didn’t want to fix and resell. In our case, we were able to arrange for pick up of the bikes, which encouraged the regular shops to hold them for us.
- If the bike still works or almost works, you can often sell it on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
- If it still works and is in decent condition, give it to The Salvation Army or Goodwill. The “still works/decent” stipulation is important because these organizations may not have someone available to fix those that aren’t functioning. Both organizations can become overloaded with donations, so check before taking your bike in.
- If you just want to give it away, try Craigslist’s free stuff area or Freecycle.org.
- Some curbside recycle programs accept bicycles. (I’ve had no personal experience with this, so be sure to check what’s accepted before putting the bike on the curb.)
- In some locations, you can simply put the bike in your front yard with a “FREE” sign on it. I got my very good mountain bike that way.
Readers: If you have ideas I’ve not mentioned, please tell us about them in the comments section below.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.