For millions of people, bicycles are more than just a source of recreation – they're a depended-upon means of transportation. Unfortunately for many of those people, however, they can't afford to buy decent parts when their old ones wear out. That's why Arizona-based bicycle advocacy nonprofit One Street Components has announced a new project, which will allow partnering groups to make shift levers from readily-available materials including scrap aluminum and bottle caps.

The Bike Shift Lever was conceived by One Street's executive director Sue Knaup, after she learned that bicycle-supplying/repairing programs around the world were having trouble locating quality affordable components – particularly shifters.

"A bike shift lever only has to pull a cable," she says. "Everyday cyclists should not have to choose between junk shifters made from plastic and pot metal or race-designed shifters that cost a month’s wages. Both types wear out within months of daily use and cannot be repaired."

The non-indexed lever that she subsequently designed consists of two parts made from waste aluminum that's been melted down and cast in a mold, along with a bottle cap, hose clamp, and a regular nut and bolt. It can be used with front or rear derailleurs, through all gear ranges.

The first furnace that she made to melt the aluminum was housed within a flower pot, and utilized charcoal fanned by a hand pump as a heat source. She has since moved up to a brick furnace that utilizes a hair dryer.

One Street is now offering Bike Shift Lever packages to nonprofit bike programs around the US and the rest of the world. Groups have to pay a one-time licensing fee, after which they will receive a casting mold, casting training, a finishing jig, network marketing, and technical support. They're then free to produce and sell all the levers they want, keeping the proceeds to further their own work.

Should you just like the look of the lever and want one for yourself, you can buy them direct from One Street for US$20 a pop. They also work as throttles or chokes on things like motorcycles, boats or yard equipment.

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