Alberta Bike Swap founders Chris and Laura Grant at last year's Calgary swap

Find New Wheels (or Sell Old Ones) at an Alberta Bike Swap

By Tom Murray

Chris and Laura Grant like to think of their work as “dream fulfillment.”

Each spring since 2011, the couple has operated the Alberta Bike Swap, which offers a safe environment for people to buy and sell used bicycles. Laura is the mastermind of the operation, while Chris is its main spokesperson and promoter.

“One of the reasons why we love to do what we do is for the smiles on the faces of people who are finding their dream bikes,” Chris says. “It might be a custom-made job, or a brand that they remember from their childhood. It could even be as simple as someone finding a $50 bike that just gets them to work.”

Now scheduled annually in Edmonton, Lethbridge and Calgary, the events see individual sellers set their price with guidance from Bike Swap staff, who also do a tech check of the vehicle to make sure it’s safe. (The swap doesn’t accept children’s bikes, largely because the return on them may not be worth the seller’s effort.) There’s a $15 per-bike rack fee, though AMA members get a $5 discount. If a bike doesn’t sell—though the vast majority do—the seller is given the option of donating it.

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“We’re partnered with a few different groups that happily take used bikes and get them back in the community through different programs,” Chris says, citing not-for-profit organizations like Calgary’s Two Wheel View—which helps kids learn independence through cycling—as well as Edmonton Bicycle Commuters. Last year, the Grants donated more than $30,000 worth of bikes, plus half the profit from the events (the remainder goes toward operating costs). In addition to the Grants’ work getting bikes to people who need them, the Alberta Bike Swap also loans out bike racks for public events in Calgary and advocates for bicycle safety.

The swap itself is straightforward. Bikes for sale are brought in during the early part of the morning, while those who are looking to buy generally line up to enter in the afternoon. Donated bikes are accepted through the duration of the swap. It’s a streamlined operation with very low overhead that ends up running slightly out-of-pocket.

“It’s a labour of love,” Chris concedes. “We’ve gotten a little back over the years to cover what we’ve put in, but generally we only make enough to cover costs for the next year. It’s important to us, though, which is why we’ve stuck with it.”

AMA’s Bike Assist program offers roadside assistance when you’re in the saddle. You can use any of your annually allotted service calls to get a rescue for you and your bike if it leaves you stranded. If we can’t fix the problem, we’ll transport you (within the limit of your membership) and your bike back home or to a repair shop.