The Black Label Bike Club is not your run of the mill, YMCA-type biking group. For instance, you can’t exactly join. “You can’t join our group,” says President Michael Corson. “If you can put up with hanging around with us, and we can put up with hanging around with you, then we talk about that.”
Black Label Bike Club sounds like drinking and biking.
We’re a beer-drinking club with a bicycle problem.
What does the club do?
We’re just a family. I don’t know, everybody in our club’s really, really close and we ride bikes together, party and live together and tell each other BS.
You have community programs.
We have different things that we do to take up our time. We raise money for different charities. … We collect bikes. A lot of us work for Burning Man to get a paycheck during the summer, and they’ve had bad bicycle problems, so we help distribute those bikes throughout the community to different organizations that do stuff with them, whether it be Kiwanis Club or kids or the Reno Bike Project. They get some of our bikes. We do a good job of passing out free bikes to people in the community that we know that need bikes and can’t afford to pay for them, kind of help them fix them up. Our main focus is, you know, hanging out together and building mutant bicycles and having a good time doing it.
Where do you get the bikes you fix?
Most of our material comes from Burning Man. We’re fortunate to have that event really close by and so many people are wasteful, go out there and buy a bike and then just leave it on the desert with no intention of bringing it back. Six to twelve hundred bikes are abandoned every year at Burning Man. Basically we take it on ourselves, working out there and cleaning up. … The only options were to throw them away [or] recycle them. … If it’s a good bike, we just try to find them homes, and anything that we can’t find homes, those are the ones we cut up.
It’s hard to imagine buying a bike and leaving it.
There are couple of organizations that are no part of Burning Man, but they sell bikes on the side of the roads [on the way to the festival] … to raise money for their different projects.
Have you ever thought about doing that yourselves?
No, we like to tackle the bike problem more from a volunteer/donation standpoint. I don’t want to sell any bikes to Burning Man yuppies and have more of a problem for myself picking up more bikes out there.
How much work do the bikes need?
It depends. They’ve frequently had stickers from Wal-Mart still on them. And some of them have been ridden hard and need all kinds of work, or been hit by cars, or ridden over and abandoned. A lot of the time out there people ride bikes and they get lost and can’t find them. Or people are messed up and they can’t remember where they put their bikes. I mean, I guess not all of it’s abandonment, straight abandonment, but a good portion of it is just because people can’t figure out how to pack their car at the end of the event, so they just leave it. But that’s why people in our community get to use them to raise money or for art or we get to give them away.