Walking down the concrete steps into the Right to Move bike co-op, a man brushes past me and steps through the door, holding it open for me a second before he skirts off into the underground store. I step in to see him holding up a series of photos featuring the co-op’s volunteer staff in the nude, much to the approval of his fellow bike shop volunteers.
Having explicit photos of the staff waved in front of them is not the typical greeting most visitors to the bike co-op receive, though it is something the Right to Move are hoping their patrons will be interested in paying for; as of this week, they’ll be selling a nude calendar featuring the shop’s mechanics, with all proceeds going towards helping Montreal’s community bike shops.
The Right to Move’s mission, for those of you not in the know, is to promote cycling as an accessible and environmentally friendly form of transport. The shop, located in the alley between Bishop and Mackay behind the Hall building, gets roughly 3500 drop-in visits a year for things like general maintenance, repairs, and bike building. Even in winter, they help between 10 to 15 people a night. The co-op also seeks to provide an alternative to regular bike shops and is geared towards bikers who might not be able to afford expensive parts or are too intimidated by the formality of big cycling stores to ask for help.
“We provide the tools and the expertise for them to learn how to repair their bikes, we also have used parts which are really cheap and new parts when you can’t find a part to suit your bike,” said volunteer Shanty Richer. “It’s basically just about people coming in and wanting to learn about bike repairs, and we’re here to help them with that.”
Richer has been working with Right to Move since it first debuted its naked calendar three years ago. She says that their non-profit organization is in a unique position to be able to help their fellow community bike shops thanks to their arrangement with the university.
“We’re very fortunate in that we don’t have to pay rent or electricity since Concordia’s providing that for us, but it’s not all bike shops that are that lucky,” she said. “Most of them have to pay rent and utilities, so it can be hard for people who want to get together to form a community bike shop to actually start one without having expertise or money; we want to provide some backing for them.”
Richer says that since the inception of the calendar fundraisers, four new shops have appeared in Montreal.
“The calendar is a way to help them get a bit of funding to start as well as raising awareness about Montreal bike co-ops.”
One startup that will be receiving funds is a new shop near the theatre production studio at Loyola campus, tentatively set to open next spring.
What of the product itself? Far from being a raunchy sexposé à la Hustler, the calendar photos are tasteful yet cheeky (in every sense of the word), reproducing classic paintings like Raphael’s The Three Graces, and staging mock ‘bike fights’, among other tableaus. Each photo features a volunteer from one of Montreal’s community bike shops as well as clever repurposing of bike parts as props, clothing or something in between, lending the photos a peculiar junkyard chic.
The calendar is also a chance to give the Montreal bike shop volunteers a bit of recognition for their efforts.
“A lot of times, visitors come to these places, they receive help from people, but don’t necessarily see them as people. It’s nice to get the chance to glorify, for lack of a better word, the people involved,” said newly minted RTM board member Alex Woznica. “It’s their time to shine!”
So why should you buy a calendar? Woznica presented a simple ultimatum. “Buy these calendars, or we’ll start killing cats!” he joked. Richer objected to this sentiment immediately, offering her own form of incentive to potential purchasers: “You won’t need to buy me a drink to see me naked!”
The calendars themselves, however, are $15 each and are available both through RTM’s website and its downtown location, as well as at venues like Bike Curious, Le Yeti and La Bicycletterie Jr.
RTM is located in the alley between Bishop St. and Mackay St., below Sherbrooke West St.