Bikers swap stories, gear at weekend meet

Bernie Mikkelsen, an East Bay custom frame builder, at Bike Love Festival

Bernie Mikkelsen, an East Bay custom frame builder, at Bike Love Festival

WOBO FINAL

Proceeds from the festival went to the volunteer-run nonprofit Walk Oakland Bike Oakland.

A man crouched beside one of several dozen bicycles that filled a parking lot on the corner of 24th Street and Valdez in Northgate Sunday. On the other side of the lot, beyond folding tables and blankets strewn with bike parts, a Lycra-clad man with grey hair and grey tube socks stood next to his drop handle bike.  Between the two, a small boy dressed like Lance Armstrong competing in the Tour de France pedaled furiously in place on a stationary bike, powering a blender.  The product of his efforts: a fruit smoothie.

“I feel like I’ve gone through a range of emotions with bikes,” said Nate Byerley, the builder of the blender-powering bike, as he manned a booth at the first annual Bike Love Festival and Swap Meet this weekend.   “First there was the falling in love, the obsessing over catalogs. Now, what I love about the bike world is getting people to cycle.”

Five years ago, Byerley, an East Bay resident who said he started riding bicycles around age four and building them around age 12, donated the prototype to a local non-profit, Cycles of Change, and he hadn’t seen it since. Until Sunday.

Oakland resident Michael Stangl envisioned and organized the event. Proceeds from the festival, which included a small marketplace and an alley cat race, went to Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO), an all-volunteer nonprofit formed in 2006 to make biking and walking in Oakland safer and more accessible.

When Stangl was a teenager in Santa Cruz, he said, he biked to the mountains “to disappear” when times were tough.  After hurting his knee recently, Stangl said he wanted to use his downtime to “give back to biking.” Stangl said he wanted to take advantage of the current boom and get people committed to bicycling for life.

“Right now very much seems like a peak,” Stangl said. “My concern is the valley is coming.”

Bernie Mikkelsen adorned a colorful shirt to match the colorful bike frames he custom built on display at the festival.

Bernie Mikkelsen, an East Bay custom frame builder, at Bike Love Festival

Bernie Mikkelsen, an East Bay custom frame builder, at the Bike Love Festival.

Mikkelsen, who opened his custom bicycle framing business in Oakland in 1974 after he returned from the Vietnam War, said Melodie Beylik, Bernie’s life partner, established himself as a leading custom framer by the time US cyclist Greg LeMond competed in the Tour de France throughout the mid-1980s. When LeMond’s bike stem broke during a competition one year, the part was sent to Bernie for repair, Melodie said.

In 2006, after Bernie had a stroke severely debilitating the right side of his body, Bernie, then nonverbal and using a wheelchair, regularly returned to his welding studio while in rehab.  The first time he entered his workspace, she said, he identified his tools aloud.  Bernie later learned to pedal a custom-made bicycle using his left foot only, she said, and to build frames using only his left hand.

“He’ll work ‘til he dies,” she said. “He loves to build bikes.”

At the other end of the parking lot, Steve Rex, a master custom framer based in Sacramento, mingled with local clients.

“She’s been jonesing after one of your spike bikes,” a man said to Rex about the woman standing between them.

Joe Stillwater attended the swap to find several different parts for the frame he purchased a few weeks ago for 20 dollars at a yard sale.

“I’m totally in love with it,” Joe said.  “The color, the shape, the chrome, the handlebars are kind of gooey, I just sunk into them when I tried them.”

Now 30, Joe said he recently became interested in biking to be more independent from large companies and for recreation.

“It’s s fun,” he said. “It’s like building a model airplane except more functional and I’m an adult.”

A friend of Joe’s told him about the festival, he said, after Joe posted “looking to build a bike” as his away message on Facebook.

Roger Miller, WOBO Treasurer and Development Chair, said the organization’s current project to add bike lanes on Broadway around Franklin and Webster looks likely to happen next spring. The community event “Sunday Streets,” originally scheduled to start next month, will not begin until sometime in 2010.

Chris, an employee for Bay Area Bikes, said he wants “better lanes – curbs, painted medians, more distance from cars – before more lanes.”

Stangl met with Ride SFO after the festival to discuss planning next year’s event.

Throughout the day, attendees of all sizes and ages lined up to make their own frothy beverages on the novelty bike.

“The bike blender lives on,” Byerley said. “It went unloved for sometime and he gave it some love so we share that bond.”

2 Comments

  1. Ann Canann

    Mike the Bike Stangl – Great Job! Great Fun!

  2. Lin Hypes

    Way to go, Mike!!!!! Woo hoooo!!! Great job!

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