Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Bike House in search of a Home

So a few months ago, I wrote about my first (awesome) experience with The Bike House. I had meant to get involved right then, so impressed was I with the co-op members' friendliness and helpfulness and commitment to empowering cyclists young and old to ride -- and fix -- their bikes. And yet, like many folks with 146 balls in the air these days, the mental note fell off my mental notebook page. At least until a reminder email popped up in my inbox from Maggie, The Bike House's volunteer coordinator, a few weeks ago inviting me to a volunteer orientation. So I went.

I tried to explain that I was a self-taught, MacGuyver-style mechanic, but the group was not phased by my tales of sticks-in-place-of-screws or possibly-inappropriate-use-of-duct-tape or self-wounding-with-a-multi-tool. They smiled and said that enthusiasm and curiosity and a desire to help were the only criteria. There I was the very next Saturday afternoon helping neighborhood kids that pulled up into the alley behind Qualia Coffee pump up their bike tires and clean their chains, then furrowing my brow in concentration as I watched more experienced mechanics install new brakes and realign derailleurs. I did don an apron, at least, and apparently had sufficient amounts of chain lube and bike grease on my hands that I was taken for someone who knew what they were doing.

A week later, I found myself at the Bike House holiday potluck with a loaf of pumpkin bread, half of which disappeared within 20 minutes of my arrival. So they like food, too, it seems. My kind of people....

So you should not be surprised that the next morning, I rolled up for a shift at the Bike House's stand at the Bloomingdale farmers' market. Before my very eyes, a capable team of volunteer mechanics got 15 folks back on the road over the 2-hour session of brake adjusting and chain cleaning and tire inflating. (I helped mostly with these last two items, plus taking photos and checking folks in on the very official looking clipboard.) I could see myself getting involved with this group more long term. He must've seen it in my eyes, because Ryan chased me down later that afternoon while I was selling pasta to invite me to the bi-monthly Bike House planning meeting.

This past Monday night I joined my newfound biking friends for a brainstorming session as their 3-year tenure at Qualia comes to a close. They must know I am developing a soft spot for the place. Or rather, a soft spot for what the Bike House stands for. You see, the Bike House is actually an idea, though an active one, made up of a devoted core of cycling advocates with a couple of bike stands and a few sets of tools. There isn't actually a Bike HOUSE. At least not yet.

The co-op is currently in search of a home for the upcoming year, a place to store tools and run regular bike repair clinics and classes (on Saturdays, but possibly even during the week if they find the right place). They're such a community asset, this group, that I'm surprised there aren't hordes of local business owners with extra space banging down the Bike House's virtual door. There are a few possible options on the table at present, but they're still on the lookout. If you know of a place that might be a good home for the Bike House clinics, especially in the general vicinity of Petworth, drop 'em a line.

Meanwhile, drop by Qualia for the final few Saturday clinics. They run from 12-3pm until Dec 10th. More than likely, I'll see you there...

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