Alumnus manages own business in restoring bikes

Alumnus Joseph Jones works on bicycles in a workshop behind his home in Bowling Green. Because he does all of his sales happen online he’s able to do his work from home. “When the weathers nice I’m usually still back here working on something,” Jones said. “But it’s always worth it when I can get out and ride.”

Spencer Harsh

Almost everyone has ridden a bicycle in their life. Maybe it was during childhood, when they saw it as an outdoor toy of sorts. In many parts of the world, it’s a mode of transportation. 

For Joseph Jones, bicycles are a dedicated hobby and source of income.

Despite the many possibilities a bicycle can create, they may sometimes be overlooked and forgotten. They get stowed away in a closet or garage. They are even sometimes abandoned on roadsides. Jones, a WKU alumnus, sees this issue as a chance to get those frames back on the road after a quick tune up.

“Ideally the components are in working order, and the bike just needs to be lubricated and have disposables like tires, tubes, cables and brake pads and handlebar tape replaced,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t draw huge crowds with his work, but his work offers people the experience to enjoy the positive qualities of owning and using a bicycle. A bike ride can offer a fun moment, a breath of fresh air and maybe even a little exercise.

Jones uses Instagram as his main platform for selling the bikes he restores under @jjrecycled. He said whenever he refurbishes a bike he can easily pay around $50 in replaceable parts, but he’ll also try to replace parts with stuff from the same era as the bike. He said he also finds all sorts of vintage bike parts online as well as at garage sales and flea markets. 

“I have always been a hands-on kind of person and enjoyed building things and tinkering as a child,” Jones said.

Jones realized bicycles were a great way to get around when he was young. He started off with a BMX bike and would take rides around and outside his neighborhood. 

“When I was 14, I found an old 60’s Western Flyer 3-speed on the side of the road that was in need of some love,” Jones said. “I chopped off a broom handle for a seat post and put some new tires on as well as brake pads and cables.”

Jones said it was a modest first “real” bike that he ended up putting roughly 500 miles on. He rode it around until the next summer, when he used every penny he saved to purchase a used Trek road bike that “opened a lot of doors.”

“I rode that bike 120 miles to Nashville and back a year later,” Jones said. 

Jones started learning more of the intricate mechanics of bicycles and continued finding older bikes on the side of roads and was even starting to get them from friends that knew he was interested in bikes. 

When he was 17, he bought 13 vintage bike bodies, refurbished them and turned them around for $100 a piece. When he was 19, he bought 36 bikes from someone, refurbished them and starting selling them for $100-$300.

Ebay, Craigslist and the Facebook Marketplace can be flooded with ads for bicycles. More often than not, they’re used and have probably been left outside for longer than they’ve ever been ridden. Maybe the owner has no use for it, or maybe it’s broken and the owner just wants to get it off their front porch or out of their garage. If you’re persistent and perhaps a little lucky, you’ll find an old-school Schwinn road bike or an Italian Peugeot racing bike from the 80s. 

“The spring, summer and fall seasons are when I sell the most,” Jones said. “In the winter I will sell nicer components and frames online.”

Jones has sold around 20-25 bikes every year for the last few years. It’s a source of income for him, so he doesn’t typically give anything away for free, but he has done trade-ins and aims to rebuild or refurbish them for as inexpensively as possible for people who are in need. 

He often makes posts on his Instagram account that show off bikes that are ready to sell, whenever he finds a new set of parts and he even posts just to show off rides he has taken. The Instagram profile is a gallery of shiny metal and colored frames waiting to return to pavement. 

“Believe it or not, I do still ride bikes, too,” Jones said. “It’s tough having to sit down and build bikes for other people on beautiful days when I would rather be out riding.”

Jones has completed the 160-mile cycling trip “Ride Across Indiana” for the last three years and has broken his record each time. 

In September, Jones and his girlfriend, Magnolia Ray, traveled to Germany and cycled over 400 miles in Europe in 18 days on vintage Italian and German road bikes. They even managed to fly their bikes back with them when they got back stateside.

Ray said she rides her bikes as often as possible because of the positive effects on her mental and physical health. She said she thinks people often think cycling is too difficult because they ride a bike that’s in disrepair or the frame doesn’t fit them. 

“When you find the right bike, it’s your best friend,” Ray said. “I was shocked at how much of a difference it made to switch a few parts out and get a frame that was fitted to my height and leg length.”

Ray said the trip she took with Jones to Germany was a rewarding experience because of the cycling they did. She said she hadn’t done any training for it, but she was still able to do a 110 mile ride in 8 1/2 hours. 

“It’s a very intimate and personal experience as opposed to being in a car or train,” she said.

One of Ray and Jones’ first dates was actually a “business trip” to pick up a frame from the Cincinnati area. 

Jones also plays drums for local Bowling Green bands Spirit Week and Morning Teleportation. Jones graduated from WKU with a business degree and a German degree in 2018. Jones said he had an “opportunity to flex those muscles” on his recent trip to Germany. He also works for WKU at the Van Meter Auditorium as a techie. 

Because Jones works as almost a jack of all trades, Ray said she’s able to help refer clients and provide support to his business.

When Jones isn’t playing keys on a stage or working sound equipment at WKU, he can be found diligently working on a frame in his workshop. On a day with nice weather, he can seen riding around town on occasion. Sometimes he may even be riding a tandem bicycle with his girlfriend.

Reporter Spencer Harsh can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ActualSparsh.