“Bicycle co-ops have been popping up around major cities for years and, as an avid cyclist, I thought it would be great to have something like that around here,” says Don Jones, who runs the Stark Cycling Center in Massillon. It’s a non-profit, volunteer effort that operates under the notion that it should be easier for someone to own a decent bike even if they can’t afford a new one. They also promote bicycle education and safety and offer after-school programs designed to get kids interested in cycling. “When you’re 16, you get a car and pretty much forget about your bike,” Jones says. “At least that’s how I was.” But now Jones, 48, has jumped back onto the steel horse. He raced cars and go-carts for most of his life, until a bad accident in 1999 severely damaged his left knee. He started riding his bike because it was easier on the knees than jogging, and he’s come back to cycling full-force. “This is the third year in a row we’ve tried to start one of these,” Don says. He tried Akron, but couldn’t afford the rent. So he found a place in Massillon at 106 Cherry Road for cheaper and had an open-house on March 8th. Since then, he’s sold nearly 70 refurbished bikes, in addition to countless tune-ups and hours spent in workshops and after-school programs, consisting of classes where they give out helmets and do mechanical and safety training. The Center is only open on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. Strange hours, Jones admits, but that’s the nature of a non-profit working its way from the ground up. The staff is all volunteers and advertising is basically by word-of-mouth. “We’re not a retail bike shop, we’re a community-based organization,” he says. It takes time to build a solid volunteer base but Jones isn’t worried. “We’re slowly working toward our goal and learning as we go.” On Saturdays, parents, kids and bike enthusiasts can come in and work on their bikes, getting help and advice from the volunteer staff. There is no charge, everyone just works together to get these bikes back on the road. “A lot of kids have problems like flat tires and non-working brakes,” Don says. “Rather than taking them to a bike shop, they bring their bikes into Stark Cycling to learn how they work and how to fix one first-hand, free of charge. Bikes are also donated to the Center and the volunteers work to get them roadworthy with used parts, and the Center sells them back to the public for cheap. They ask for a donation, and there is a suggested price, but rarely do bikes go for much more than $50. Most go for as little as $10-$25. One can also earn a bike by becoming a member and volunteering 12 hours, after which Stark Cycling will give you all the materials to build your own. When a bike is brought in for repair, the owner signs a membership agreement that doubles as a waiver, and a lot of these members wind up being repeat customers. “We have a small, dedicated group of volunteers,” he said, and a lot of repeat customers; from high-school students to an old guy who comes in to work on the rusty old bike he bought at a bar. “So yeah, we see a lot of the same faces.” Jones says the shop is looking to partner with any organization, church group or government program interested in promoting safety and education and increasing community involvement. He’s basically always looking for volunteers to help share the workload. Between his regular job as a subcontractor installing windows and the Stark Cycling Center, Jones has ironically found less time to ride since giving up his weekends. However, he still enjoys riding with his fiance, Marsha, whenever they get the chance. They take every opportunity they can to get out onto the towpath or take a spin around Portage Lakes, a 15-mile stretch. Jones will often bring a small trailer along behind him on the towpath, carrying food and water and a first aid kit, a service he says he enjoys providing for fellow bikers. “It gives me a chance to split for two hours on Saturday and go ride,” he says with a chuckle. The Stark Cycling Center can be reached at 330-689-6376 or at email@example.com.