EVERYBODY asks, “so what is a bike swap?”  Very simply, it is a bike buy, sell, and donate event.  We put bike swaps on in four Alberta cities; Lethbridge, Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton.  These are not little events, we have hundreds of bikes and thousands of attendees.

Alberta Bike Swap Ltd. is a registered non-profit and funded out of a lint-lined pockets to get more people on bikes. We’re Chris and Laura, and dozens of volunteers, who believe enough in building the cycling community enough to break a sweat putting on events like this.

This is a great way to sell a bike, it is a consignment event, all of 12%, and a fee to rack a bike ($10.00 if you are a member of AMA, or $15.00, if you are not).   This is a great place to buy a bike because all the bikes are tech-checked by a bike tech.  We stand by what we sell.   We donate half the profit from the swaps back to the community (the other half stays in the bank to fund more swaps).  We donated nearly $10,000 last year, and ~300 bikes.

We thank Nate Lang, one of our amazing volunteers, for making the time lapse of our Calgary swap. (9 hours into 2-1/2 minutes)   Calgary Bike Swap 2014 – Time Lapse

Our goals:

  1. Give used bike sellers a safe and convenient venue for access to thousands of buyers
  2. Give used bike buyers access to hundreds of safe bikes in one visit
  3. Generate funds to support local safe cycling initiatives in Alberta

Some of our spin-offs:

  1. We pledge $50.00 to MS Bike Tour and Ride To Conquer Cancer cyclists if they bring in a bike to sell
  2. In 2013 we built 20 sets of bike racks for community use that are offered free to great events.  You’ve likely seen these bike racks at festivals, Canada Day, Market Collective, CANSuffer, Seedy Saturday, and more
  3. Direct bike donations to our friends at Good Life Community Bike, Two Wheel View, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters, Red Deer Optimists, Lethbridge BikeBridge, Boys and Girls’ Clubs, Kiwanis, and more
  4. We partially fund the container costs for Bicycles for Humanity with the great bikes they bring in to sell at the swap
  5. TEAM Alberta Bike Swap for the Airdrie to Olds to Airdrie MS Tour.  Team page HERE

What we learned:

If the measure of success is seeing the smile on someone’s face when they find their perfect bike, the bikes swaps are a resounding success. If the measure of success is to make money, then we’ve failed. We acknowledge that it will take time to recover the significant outlay of cash for racks, hall and truck rentals, banking fees, and expenses. We put our money where our wheels are, and will continue to donate half the profit to community cycling-based initiatives rather than define success by money.

Bikes sold at the swap are safer than a garage sale purchase because our squad of volunteer bike techs, led by the Calgary Bicycle Service and VeloFix perform a basic safety and mechanical check of each bike.  If it’s not in the sale – there is something significant that would prevent the bike from being safely ridden away from the swap.  The issues we’ve had to deal with include a cracked frame, brakes that will never work, and hot property.  Some good bikes with a minor issue will go into the sale with a descriptive tag.

We are geared toward name brand, adult oriented bikes.
There are thousands of new economy bikes available from a number of outlets, they are referred to as ‘Bicycle Shaped Objects’, that are better to look at than to ride.  Unless they come to swap in brand new condition, they will not pass the safety check.
We record all the serial numbers, there is paper trail of ownership.  We have an agreement with the National Bike Registry, and since the bike sale agreement has the serial number on it, we strongly suggest the new owner register their purchased bike with the National bike registry.