by Howard Cohen
You look outside—it’s a beautiful day. You throw on your helmet, hop on your bicycle, and take off! Sunshine. Slight breeze at your back. Your body is thanking you effusively, and your spirits soar.
Ten blocks later, your chain falls off. Or you get a flat. Or you start to hear a grinding noise each time your right foot reaches the middle of your pedal stroke. You stop, look at your bike, and consider what to do next. You reach for your cellphone, but quickly realize that there’s no roadside assistance phone number to call.
This is not what you signed up for.
Of course, you can call someone at home to come pick you up, or you can trudge home with your bicycle at your side. Or—miraculously!—you can grab a bicycle tool out of your pocket or saddlebag, make a quick adjustment, and in a few minutes continue your ride, happy as a lark.
If that miraculous solution seems way too farfetched for you, Bikerowave wants you to think again.
Bikerowave is a not-for-profit, volunteer-owned-and-run, do-it-yourself bicycle repair shop. The volunteers who staff the shop have expertise and training in bicycle repairs of all kinds, and they are eager to help you learn how to keep your bicycle rolling. How? By providing the space, the tools, the parts, and the equipment, and especially the helpful hands-on instruction, oversight, and encouragement of bicycle repair experts, to teach you how to maintain and repair your own bicycle.
That’s right. You.
Because once you learn the simplest, most common repairs, whether it’s putting your chain back where it belongs or patching your punctured tire tube, you’ll never again find yourself standing over your bike, scratching your head and wondering what in the world to do next.
“Our goal is to build confidence,” says Steve Mattson, Bikerowave’s general manager. He’s gratified by the wide variety of cyclists who come in the door—commuters, daily riders, and weekend riders from all walks of life. Several of the volunteer staff gathered in the shop one afternoon last week to chat—Steve, Vincenzo Loconte, Thomas Anthony, Raina Schwarze, and Mike Roddy. Some volunteers work in retail bicycle shops, some at REI. All are friendly and enthusiastic and look forward to helping more of us from Culver City figure out how to fix our bikes. While Bikerowave offers organized basic repair workshops from time to time, Mike pointed out that “every hour we’re open is an informal class or workshop.” He says that the shop isn’t just a shop—“it’s also a clubhouse, a place to rendezvous.” There’s even a comfortable lounge area if you need to take a break.
There are 8 bicycle repair stands and at least 4 volunteers to help you out. Just sign in, tell a volunteer why you’re there, and you’ll be on your way. Workshop time, or “stand time,” costs $7 per hour, or $4 per half hour. There’s a sliding scale for those who cannot afford to pay. You’ll have full use of the shop’s tools (don’t worry, someone will tell you how to use them!), and you might even want to choose a new or used headlight or fenders from the shop’s useful selection of items for sale. (Bikerowave happily accepts donations of used parts and serviceable bicycles.) If you have any questions you can call the shop during business hours (check their website, www.bikerowave.org). Better yet, stop in! Chances are, someone there will know how to help you.
Once you develop just a little familiarity with the basics, the next time you’re out riding and your handlebar suddenly seems loose, you won’t even think about quitting and going home. You’ll know what to do, you’ll know that it’s really not difficult, and you’ll have the skills and the confidence to do it.
Culver City cyclists are fortunate to have Bikerowave so close by. It’s located on the north side of Venice Boulevard, just a block east of Centinela. And if you check out their website, you’ll see a link on their homepage to the Culver City Bicycle Coalition!