When Your Bikey Job Has You Working on Everything BUT Bikes

20 01 2014

This past fall, the folks at the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society learned that BikeWorks South, a fixture of the cycling community located just off Whyte Avenue for more than a decade, would have to say goodbye to its old home. This means that much of the responsibility for finding and renovating a new space falls on my shoulders. For the purposes of this blog, it has meant that I’ve been too preoccupied to update it, in case you were wondering where I’ve been.

It’s exciting times, and every step of the way has brought new challenges and lessons. It’s an opportunity to build a better BikeWorks: more accessible, no more alley entrance or navigating through a bike pile to get in, store front, windows!

Around the same time that we were scrambling, looking for a new space, one of the coolest video stores in town was, unfortunately, going the way of the video store. Videodrome’s end was a sad moment for supporters of local, independent businesses but marked an opportunity for EBC, and we secured a long term lease on the space.

Next task: turn a video store into the best community bike shop on the continent (aim high). Considering I have exactly zero experience in renovations, this was going to mean a crash course in everything from ceiling to floor in order to scale a learning curve with the profile of a cliff. Luckily, there are many knowledgeable volunteers who’ve stepped forward to help out and show us how to do things right as the bulk of the work is being done by volunteers with experience ranging from none to extensive.

Day one. This is what we started with: grungy carpet, the remains of a front counter and security system, a pink ceiling…

…windows on three sides, and a whole lot of open space. I’d never noticed the windows when it was the Videodrome as there was shelving blocking it. They’re glorious!

First step, paint the ceiling and ductwork yellow. This was especially urgent as it was a dirty pastel pink.

Next, tear up the carpet and the counter ruins and scrape the carpet adhesive. We started with floor scrapers but after a whole day’s work by a small army of volunteers, we’d only cleared a small portion of the floor.

Time to bring in the heavy machinery, but first, a screening of Triplets of Bellevue on the translucent plastic protecting the windows.

We brought in a floor grinder to obliterate the stubborn carpet adhesive and polish up the concrete.

It was still a tonne of work grinding and then cleaning up the 250 pounds of sand it took to remove the glue. The concrete had to be clean enough to eat off of when the sealer was applied. The tedious work was rewarded with richly patina-ed stone-looking floor. I must admit, though, that pushing around that piece of machinery was pretty fun.

Painting came next. No meek colours allowed.

The colour scheme pays heed to our old shop and helps create a glowing, welcoming and energetic mood.

There was a back room that we felt would be more useful if it was part of the main space, and I’m all for tearing down walls, so…

Thanks to some very committed volunteers, we lost the excess wall and gained a pretty and functional design feature.

At this point, the space is really taking shape. Don and Bruce have been integral to keeping the renovations on track and have already lent their decades of experience and hundreds hours of volunteer labour.

Bruce salvaged steel countertop from a former Vic Comp science lab that they’ve turned into the parts washing and hand washing stations.

The last week has been especially hectic because last Saturday was moving day. I was too busy directing the steady stream of volunteers bearing crates of parts and tools and other what-nots to take any pictures, so you’ll have to be satisfied with these before and after panoramas. (Click on the picture to enlarge.) At least the weather cooperated with a spring-like January day.


Yep, there’s enough stuff to set up a community bike shop in that mess. The wheels and bikes will come after we get a handle on the storage situation for everything else.

This story is still in progress and I learn something new every day. I keep getting more excited about the new shop and all the possibilities. There will be more repair stations and more space to work, we have a really cool bike storage system in the works, the place will be bright and accessible, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  For many of the volunteers who helped with the move last weekend, it was the first time they had seen the new BikeWorks South. The reactions were fantastic and the enthusiasm contagious. March, when we plan to open our doors, is not so far away.
We’ve been raising money with an indiegogo campaign, and though we reached our funding goal the day before moving day, we have big plans for any additional funds. Plus, there’s some really cool swag to be had. Be sure to check it out here:

Bye Bye Bonelli

26 03 2013

If you have read this blog since I began it 3 years ago, or have just read all the archived posts, you may remember a little bike called the Bonelli that really got around. It’s the bike in the banner picture of this blog but Bonelli hasn’t made an appearance for quite some time, mostly because I haven’t been riding her.

Ol' Neli, fresh from the basement.

Ol’ Neli, fresh from the basement.

I’ve probably put more miles on this bike than any other I’ve ever owned. It was my only ride for years, and it was integral to me learning bike mechanics. The only original part on this bike is the left shifter, every other part, cable, bearing has been overhauled or replaced, often repeatedly, by my own hands. She got me through every possible situation, from winter ice to summer trails, and took all the abuse I could give.

So, why haven’t I been riding her? Now that I have my own personal fleet of bikes, I have bikes that are specialized to do the things I used to do on Bonelli, only better, and more in synch with my personal style. This is a super utilitarian bike, but I’ve come to expect more of my bikes – I need them to be useful, cool and unique, so given the choice, I always ended up choosing another one of my bikes, until eventually Bonelli ended up in the basement collecting cobwebs.

I don’t have infinite storage for bikes, though, so with the addition of yet another bike to the fleet (the Fixte), I decided it was time to find Ol’ Neli a new home. I brought her down to the local community bike shop, where Tim cleaned her up and I gave her a complete tune-up to get her ready for her new home.

Now, she's waiting for her new rider down at BikeWorks South.

Now, she’s waiting for her new rider down at BikeWorks South.

It’s a common pattern amongst I’ve seen amongst women who really get into cycling: start on a hybrid that can do anything, though nothing particularly well, and then move on to more specialized bikes as you get a better idea of what kind of cycling you like to do (which can, of course, change, like who knew I would’ve been riding fixed?) and begin exploring different challenges and riding experiences. Eventually, the hybrid becomes redundant and unneeded.

I hope Bonelli finds a home with a bike commuter and gets put to work every day, because I know first hand that this bike is up for it.

In the meantime, I learned how to ride fixed during the biggest snowfall all winter.

A foot of fresh snow is good for two things: Canadian kickstands, and learning how to skid stop.

A foot of fresh snow is good for two things: Canadian kickstands, and learning how to skid stop.

I think I’ve caught a case of the fixie fixation. I’m having a blast on this bike, and am really enjoying how it challenges me in new ways physically and mentally. It’s also handled pretty well on the snow and ice – I’m glad I didn’t wait for better weather to start riding it.

Too bad I can’t wait for better weather for decent bike parking.

Here's what's going on in this picture. See the slant-lollipop style of bike rack? Of course not because it's almost completely buried in snow. To lock up, I had to hike to the top of that show pile then lean over low to get the lock on the rack. In the background, there is a limo and the cops. Because that's who's out on Whyte Ave during the worst storm of the year: a limo, the cops, and me.

Here’s what’s going on in this picture. See the slant-lollipop style of bike rack? Of course not because it’s almost completely buried in snow. To lock up, I had to hike to the top of that show pile then lean over low to get the lock on the rack. In the background, there is a limo and the cops. Because that’s who’s out on Whyte Ave in the middle of the night after the worst storm of the year: some limo, the cops, and me.

I’m a Truck!

8 03 2013

Living car free can pose a challenge when it comes to moving big heavy stuff. Actually, even living with a car still won’t help you move a couch. For a job like that, you need a truck, or an appropriate bike trailer.

Nice parallel parking job, eh?

Nice parallel parking job, eh?

Luckily, you can rent an 8 foot long cargo trailer from EBC. Also, luckily, there was a break in the winter weather the week the bf bought the couch.

This is how you move a couch.

This is how you move a couch. Always place the center of gravity over the trailer wheels, and use a tonne of bungees.

I'm a truck rollin' down Whyte Ave!

I’m a truck rollin’ down Whyte Ave!

The hardest part of the day was carrying the couch up the stairs from the basement shop where we bought it. Hauling it by bike was a breeze, though when you’re pulling a large piece of furniture on a bike trailer, you discover your seemingly flat neighbourhood isn’t so flat after all.

The residents settle in on the new furniture.

The residents settle in on the new furniture.

Post script: it took less than a week for the two legged, two wheeled residents to get bike grease on the couch. Luckily, a solution of washing soda got it out. Sodium carbonate FTW!

Snow Day at the Community Bike Shop

7 11 2012

Twelve hours, ten inches. It takes a lot of snow to mess with the functioning of this winter city, but that was enough. To mark this occasion, here’s some pictures from BikeWorks South.

Bike shaped object.

Bikes for sale! Buy a bike, get 6 inches of snow free!

Sticky snow.

Tunnel of bikes.

EBC’s tenacious Manitoba maple.

I saw quite a few cyclists on my travels today, and those of us with studded tires handled the slicked up roads well. It sure beats buses that are running 2+ hours late. The temperature’s dropping tonight, though, and the streets have turned to glare ice in places. I took my first fall of the season when my bike caught an icy rut. No biggie as there weren’t any cars around.

Only at a Community Bike Shop

6 10 2012

Last week, someone cut open the fence at BikeWorks North in the dark of night and made off with some bikes. It being a community bike shop run by a not for profit society, there isn’t much extra cash floating around for fence repairs.

Yes, those are spokes.

Let’s Be Friends!

12 07 2011

Last month, a little gold folding bike from the ’70’s was donated to EBC. The CCM Traveler was in rough shape, but the shiny gold paint under all the dirt and car stickers looked promising, so I decided to clean it up and give it a makeover to create a quirky sweet bike like my own Porta-Bike.

Porta-Bike meets Goldy Foldy. I think they want to be friends.

The wheels needed replacing, so I salvaged a set of purple rims and white tires that were too sexy for the kids’ bike they were on. Add some white pedals, a white saddle and overhaul most of the bearings, and an uber-cool one-of-a-kind bike was born.

The 20 inch white tire club.

It didn’t take long for Goldy Foldy to sell, and it’s been at its new home for a while now, but, hopefully, Porta-Bike will get a chance to go for a ride with the Goldy Foldy again.

Hauling Stuff

8 06 2011

I have been working what seems like a tonne of events all over the city with Edmonton Bicycle Commuters lately, doing free mechanical checks on bikes. Sometimes, this also involves getting all the tools, stands, signs, supplies and propaganda to the site on an EBC trailer.

Marjory is easily up to the task of hauling 50 pounds on a 5 foot trailer.

Now that it’s Bike Month, the frenetic pace of events has increased for everybody associated with the utilitarian cycling scene in E-town, scenes like the one above will be repeated almost daily.

Meanwhile, to thank Marjory for all her hard work, I’ve got her a special treat: a set of white wall Schwalbe Delta Cruisers. Pictures coming soon!

Bike Art Galore

8 03 2011

Edmonton isn’t exactly known as a cycling culture mecca, but it is home to one of the longest running bicycle co-op and community workshops in North America. This year, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters celebrates it’s 30th anniversary, and to begin what will undoubtedly be a banner year, EBC hosted a bicycle art auction and party.

There were dozens of bikes outside, lined up in the snowbanks in single file all the way down the block, for lack of other places to park with the ridiculous amount of snow we've had this winter.

With an amazing turnout and standing room only, EBC oldtimers mixed with the new generation of folks who’re stepping in to take the reigns of an organization that’s older than many of them. Hipsters and polo players rubbed shoulders with vehicular cyclists and utilitarian commuters. Artists, musicians and dancers mingled with politicians and advocates. Everybody, young & old, chowed down on cupcakes and gourmet food and grooved to bands playing over a PA powered by 10 bicycles.

The place was packed with friendly faces.

Bikes hooked up to generators were positioned on stage to power the music for the evening. I love how the riders are moving but the bikes aren't in this longish exposure.

Current EBC president, Chris Chan's illustrious light bike on a generator.

And then there was the art, 70 pieces by over 30 different artists, all of it about or made of or for bicycles and cyclists.

Made by Jan P. (who has been doing the most AMAZING stuff for years) this thumb piano consists entirely of recycled parts, including spokes and other bicycle parts. In the background, handmade belts by Calvin.

Lovely photos of weathered bikes.

One of the auction tables. Check out the Viking costume by Jesse C in the foreground (the costume was a hit at Halloween Critical Mass).

Creepy specimen jars. (I find them creepy because they remind me of a disturbing incident with a certain former roommate - if you have to ask, do it in person, preferably bearing social lubricant).

A little something for everyone, bikey underwear and a photo of shiny sprockets.

Robot made of bike parts and reclaimed wire, by Bret.

Retroreflective magnets, by yours truly, that can be stuck to any steel frame or accessory for added visibility at night.

Multi media pieces depicting old-timey ladies on old-timey bikes by Stephanie M.

I made these up and donated them through my workplace (where, among other things, I design embroidery). I never imagined that they'd be the subject of such an intense bidding war.

Overall, the night was a phenomenal success. I never would’ve imagined that more than 200 people would come out to a bike centered party on a -20C winter night. Anna V. and the rest of the EBC crew put on a great event, and I think the overwhelming success bodes well for the future of EBC and the wider cycling scenes in Edmonton.

Bike Shops Are For Dancing

28 06 2010

Before I get to the sweet rhythmic fantasticism that was the “Crank That Beat!” BikeWorks dance party, I just want to send a shout out to all the people who busted ass to make it possible (and to one busted ass in particular): Thanks for being solid, energetic, tenacious and for being your usual lovely selves. It turned into an amazing, dare I say, legendary night.

This photo of Kim on the dance/shop floor leaves me speechless.

Rob surveys the party from upstairs.

Killer DJ's + a kickass assortment of people + mood lighting + smoke machine = Dance Party Success!

I never though of combining Critical Mass & lasers before, but clearly this picture has a point...

Mind the hanging wheels when there's a whole lotta awesome brewin'.

And if you missed it, don’t fret, even though it was only THE bikiest dance party of the summer, and the best bang bike month has ever gone out on.

Crank That Beat!

23 06 2010

Coming this Friday, it’s just you’re average dance party at your local community bike shop. Which means, if you miss this you’ll miss the most fun you can have off of two wheels.

Friday June 25th, 9pm.


10047-80th Ave – Entrance through back alley.

Be there, or be a square wheel!