For those who can’t decide between a Sunday morning bike ride and dutifully going to church, Manifesto Bicycles has been helping Oakland cyclists have it both ways. Since 2008, the locally owned bike shop on 40th Street has been hosting “Bike Church,” an irregular Sunday morning gathering at Manifesto, where attendees can listen to music, enjoy street food and catch up with one another.
Despite its name, the event is not religious— although it does take inspiration from an actual church, the Celestial Church of Christ across the street from the shop. When MacKay Gibbs, co-owner of Manifesto Bicycles, and her husband Sam Cunningham opened the store in 2008, Gibbs says she knew she wanted to use it to cultivate a sense of community among bikers and anyone who happened to be passing through the Temescal. Listening to Celestial Church’s congregation singing on Sundays, “I just started to think about listening to gospel music and how we might just have people come and hang out and have coffee,” Gibbs said. “The best part about church for me when I was growing up was after the service was over and everybody hangs out and talks and has coffee. And so I just wanted to have that kind of feeling on a Sunday morning—in relationship to bikes.”
But bikes are not required to attend. Manifesto’s “congregation”—about 30 people this Sunday morning—is made up of both seasoned bikers and children too young to pedal, as well as friends of the store and anyone who happens to pass by.
Bike Church has evolved significantly since its earliest meetings. “We used to play old gospel music,” Gibbs said, “and we made our own coffee.” Now, coffee is served by neighboring Subrosa Coffee, food is prepared on the sidewalk by the Jon’s Street Eats food cart, and instead of gospel recordings, attendees listen to live music by local bands. Sunday’s lineup ranged from rhythm and blues to indie rock with performances by Winfred E. Eye, The Heated, and Anna Ash.
Sunday’s Bike Church was the last of the year, but it will resume again in the spring. The season’s finale was well attended and included Bike Church’s first-ever amplified performers, but otherwise ended without a bang. As the music faded, Bike Churchgoers became customers, and Manifesto’s staff set to the task of helping them select new cycling gear.
Sentiment among congregants was universally enthusiastic. “It’s just a rad little event that can happen in a place like Oakland,” said Anna Ash, the singer whose band led off the day’s performances. “Having this bike shop, coffee shop, and record shop right next to each other and being able to all congregate out on the street.”