Derailer bicycle collective celebrates its tenth anniversary

Derailer, the neighborhood bicycle collective that our city has maintained a love/hate relationship with, will celebrate its tenth anniversary this Saturday -- despite the fact that the group has actually been around for longer than that. "The shop itself was actually opened almost twelve years ago in a garage on 21st and Stout," says Derailer organizer Mac Liman. "We've been too busy the last couple years to have our tenth anniversary, so we thought we'd do it now."

Derailer has certainly been kept busy over the years, opening up its workshop three times a week to a community with an ever-increasing need for bicycle transportation. "I've never seen a slow day in my nine years at the shop," says Liman. "There's a wide-range of people who come [to Derailer], but the majority are people who can't even afford public transportation. A lot of homeless people; or people recently released from prison, or people who can't get a drivers license. They have few options to get around."

There's no question that bicycles have risen in popularity over the last decade. Whether it's the economic factor, or trendiness, or the recent revival of the health-conscious lifestyle, the roads of Denver have been invaded by two-wheeled commuters. The city has responded with a significant increase in bike lanes, hundreds of miles of new, off-road, paved bike paths, and B-cycle program. On the commerce side, it's a great time to be in the bike repair business, with new bike shops springing up almost as fast as marijuana dispensaries.

Derailer has maintained a significantly different approach to bicycle maintenance, however. "We are able to salvage bikes that can't be used by Boys and Girls Club or need too much work to be part of a church drive, or otherwise would be thrown away," says Liman. "It's a very specific skill," she says, commenting on the alternative methods of bicycle maintenance required of a Derailer volunteer. "It's not the same skill you might have in a commercial bike shop. To be able to look at a mountain of bicycle junk parts and be able to turn that into a bike is a very specific -- and I like to think very useful -- skill."

Many of the volunteers and organizers of Derailer thrive off the grid of society, utilizing the food, clothing, and shelter that most members of society hadn't considered useful. This approach has at times put them at odds with the city bureaucracy. In the spring of 2006, the collective was approached by a neighborhood inspector, who gave them a cease-and-desist order, accusing them of operating a "non-profit bicycle shop" and a "non-profit boardinghouse" in violation of zoning regulations. Derailer eventually moved from that location to their current warehouse address of 411 Lipan Street.

"The new space has worked out well," says Liman. "The people behind Derailer are extremely resourceful. We're pretty unaffected by the city now; certainly no support [from them] but also no harassment."

Since Derailer doesn't charge its customers, however, its financial needs are difficult to satiate. So, for the tenth anniversary party, the creative community is lending a hand. Bands like Pacific Pride, DeCollage, The Haircut, Bearsnail and Perfumeman will be donating their sonic services to the event, and Derailer will be setting up a silent auction of bicycles and bicycle parts -- as well as donating a complete bike in a raffle.

Derailer is asking for a sliding scale donation of $5 to $15 to attend, all of which will go to helping sustain the collective. The party begins at 7 p.m. June 2, at the Derailer Bicycle Collective at 411 Lipan Street. Click here for more information.

Derailer opens its doors to the public for bicycle maintenance every Thursday and Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. They also provide a womens, girls and trans open session every Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m., as well as a build-a-bike lottery -- where patrons can assemble a whole bicycle from the Derailer junkyard -- every 1st Thursday at 3 p.m.

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Josiah M. Hesse
Contact: Josiah M. Hesse