Co-op brings bike repair for the frugal to Oakland
on September 1, 2011
“Hey, you’re back! I remember your bicycle,” says Kate Coysh to a familiar face hauling in a speed bike for repair. Coysh checks the patron in, leans back and says, “It’s great, after a while you get to know the people who come in.”
Spokeland’s workshop is a small but well-utilized space with tools and bike parts hanging from every wall. A light haze of dust swirls through the air as volunteers rush from station to station stripping wheels off donated bikes and hanging up the welcome sign.
At the beginning of this Tuesday evening the volunteers outnumber the patrons, creating an accessible space for community members to learn how to fix their own bikes. As the co-op’s Facebook status for this Tuesday’s open workshop promised, “If you gots a broke spoke we got you, if your brakes shake we got you! If your bottom bracket is makin’ a racket we got you!”
Spokeland members pride themselves on providing support to everyone, with bike tutorial workshops designed for everyone from kids and families to women and transgendered people. “What Spokeland offers compared to many other bike shops is to provide a safe space where people can gain knowledge on how to work on their own machines,” says member Matt Ducot. “Bicycle culture and bike mechanic shops are sort of a male-dominated space that can be intimidating for certain people. We want an open shop for everyone.”
The idea for Spokeland came about through a thread that Coysh posted on a discussion board after being impressed by the accessibility educational Santa Cruz bike co-ops offered. “After we put it on a discussion board we started having meetings and from meetings came plans and from plans came actions and here we are,” says Spokeland member Ian Michael, who has been working with the group since its inception in October, 2009.
Michael points out what’s been donated on the wall behind him: tools, bike parts, and the bike stands that were paid for using the funds raised by an alleycat race. “It’s been really great the way people have just sort of helped out,” says Michael. “To a certain extent we’ve used networking with commercial shops we’ve had connections to. But we haven’t done a lot of solicitation. People hear about us and they say ‘Hey I have a bunch of bike parts to get rid of,’ and just bring them in.”
Situated one block west of San Pablo Avenue in the PLACE for Sustainable Living complex, Spokeland is at a crossroads for North Oakland community members needing help with their bikes for commuting or recreation. Patrons hoping to get their bikes tuned up may either make a suggested donation of $5 to use the co-op’s tools or volunteer at the shop for half the time it took to work on their bike.
“I definitely think being in Oakland is a big part of our success,” Michael says, smiling. “On days that I’m really busy and having to switch between four or five projects all at once there’s a part of me that enjoys looking back at the end of the day and saying to myself ‘I was able to help all these people with all these different things.'”
Coysh agrees their work is made meaningful by the people who come into the shop to learn. “I helped a five-year-old kid put together his very first bicycle who delivered me homemade jam and homemade letters,” says Coysh. “That was the best.”
Coming up: Spokeland will host a Women and Trans Bicycle Repair Workshop this Saturday, August 6th 2pm-5pm at Spokeland. Kids and Family Bike Maintenance Workshop Saturday, September 17th 10 am-2 pm at EcoHouse 1305 Hopkins Street in Berkeley (pre-register at 510-548-2220 x239, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org). On September 23, Port Sprints Race will be held to benefit Spokeland. Registration will begin at 6:30 pm at Mosswood Park Ampitheater. There is a $5-10 sliding scale donation to race. Cyclists will ride down to the ports at 7:30 pm and the race begins at 8 p.m.
If you are interested in volunteering or donating you can visit spokeland.org or show up anytime during open shop hours: Sunday 12pm-5pm and Tuesday 6pm-9pm. Spokeland is located at 1121 64th Street in Oakland and is on the Web at www.spokeland.org.
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