Cyclists flock to FrankenBike swap meet

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Cyclists flock to FrankenBike swap meet

Upcoming FrankenBike meets

May 26, BikeTexas, 1902 E. Sixth St.

June 30, Fast Folks Cyclery, 2513 E. Sixth St.

July 28, Jorge's, 2203 Hancock Drive

Aug. 25, Cycle Progression, 2153 S. Lamar Blvd.

Sept. 29, Monkey Wrench Bicycles, 5555 N. Lamar Blvd., L145

Take a cycling fanatic to FrankenBike and watch his eyes spin like bike wheels.

Cranksets and derailleurs spread on tabletops. Bike seats and handlebars heaped on blankets. Racks of used cycling jerseys. And did we mention beer?

Open to anyone who wants to buy, sell or trade bicycles and bicycle-related gear or parts, Austin-born FrankenBike takes place monthly at rotating sites across the city. Part bike swap meet, part keg party and all bike-geek-o-rama, the latest edition unfolded on the lawn of University Cyclery on North Lamar Boulevard. "It's a lot cheaper than buying new parts, and you can get really cool stuff," says Andrew Gregory, who swings by every few months to shed his cast-off parts and check out the inventory.

Part of the charm comes from the mix of attendees. From high-end roadies to commuters and the fixie crowd, they all converge to find new homes for their no-longer-needed stuff.

"You don't really make money, but it's an afternoon under a tree with friends versus stuff going in the trash," says Joe Ender, owner of Monkey Wrench Bicycles, a small Austin bike shop that sells commuter, mountain and road bikes and makes bicycle repairs. "And it's always great to have it go on another bicycle."

Today he's hoping someone else might see gold in the yellow single-speed bike chain he's offering for just a buck. He always sets out a bin of free stuff too, alongside the array of just plain cheap stuff.

Buying is as much fun as selling, so Ender also makes time to peruse what others have brought. He clangs an old Peugeot bike bell he turned up today, perfect for his cruiser bike.

Once, FrankenBike founder Chris Gross scored a homeless $1,100 Titus bike frame for $400. And he still remembers a set of CrossMax wheels he uncovered for a pittance on another memorable day. A $40 Sram derailleur might go for $2, or a used cycling jersey for a few dollars.

"A lot of things you're not going to find anywhere because it's been in somebody's garage," Gross says. "There's a treasure-hunting component."

As the name suggests, you could build an entire bike by bolting together scraps gathered here.

Gross got the idea for FrankenBike seven years ago, after attending a bike swap at Austin Yellow Bike Project, a community bike shop and nonprofit cycling advocacy group. He thought the city needed one every month, so he started his own. Since then, FrankenBike has expanded to San Antonio, Houston, Corpus Christi and North Texas.

This year, Independence Brewery came on as a sponsor. The May 26 edition of FrankenBike at BikeTexas, 1902 E. Sixth St., will mark the 82nd in Austin.

"FrankenBike exists because it needed to," says Gross, a graphic designer who runs his own business. He's wearing a Frankenstein green T-shirt with the FrankenBike logo — a drawing of the famous monster's head encircled by a bike's chain ring. "We did this because our heart was in it. It really is about the community. Bikes are fun, and we've got a lot of stuff."

He fills a cup of beer for a patron, hollers at a friend who's just arrived and leaves his girlfriend, Michelle Moore, who joined the operation in 2008, to man the free keg.

"Bike beer-tenders, our work is never done," Moore says with a chuckle.

Moore added the FrankenBabe component to the event. Meets occasionally include live music or free tune-ups for women.

"It's Craigslist come to life for bike enthusiasts," Moore says. "I've seen a lot of faces light up when they find a part and they find it for a steal."

It's casual and laid-back, like a community garage sale.

"It'll always be like this. We might make a little more money, but that's the only thing," Gross says, returning to his post. "Then I'll get five big cheese pizzas and five big pepperoni pizzas, and it'll be even greater."

Contact Pam LeBlanc at pleblanc@statesman.com; 445-3994. Twitter: @fitcityleblanc

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