Only a few welded metal strips and gears separate you from the pavement. On a bicycle, there is no glass, nor any polycarbonate or steel casing sheltering you from the elements. Having a healthy set of wheels is not a matter of money.
Volunteer-run co-ops prove that while you can certainly buy a bicycle, you can't buy the love it brings, no matter the price. Plan B's Web site spells it out plainly: "Money is no object to us either." Founded in 2000, the Marigny bike shop co-op encourages cyclists to join workshop sessions and build a bike from scratch, beginning the relationship between you and the street and removing you from you gas-guzzler. The shop provides the tools and know-how, as long as you're willing to put in the time.
At RUBARB, opened in 2006 after volunteers rounded up flooded-out bikes (hence the name — Rusted-Up-Beyond-All-Recognition Bikes), volunteers operate a co-op and workshop in the Upper 9th Ward where bicyclists can join the four-step Earn-A-Bike program. The program teaches basic maintenance, from fixing a flat to overhauling a whole bike, and encourages shop beautification and upkeep.
Both places encourage more people to volunteer and offer classes and special workshop days throughout the year.
Plan B (511 Marigny St., 944-0366; www.bikeproject.org) is open 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday. RUBARB (2225 Congress St.; www.rubarbike.org) is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.