Editor’s note: the following post is not actually by me. It was written by Steve S., a recent graduate of Chain Reaction. I was recently interviewed on The Sprocket Podcast, where Aaron suggested I reach out to our graduates for testimonials. Thanks for the great idea! And thanks to Steve, who wrote the following:
If you sign-up for the Chain Reaction Bike Co-op volunteer program, you will learn everything you care to know about building and wrenching bicycles. I have to admit, after decades of wrenching cars and motorcycles I at first felt lost in bicycle nomenclature and other terminology, as well the right tool for the job. But, with able and methodical instruction by Matthew (and trusty assistant Andrew), I soon felt comfortable with some pretty advanced stuff, like wheel truing and headset adjustment. If those procedures sound like Greek to you, no worries, Chain Reaction will have you spinning an alloy rim in no time.
And, after a couple of months of Tuesday evenings, you will be taking your own bike, hand-picked and crafted by you, for a spin to the destination of your choice. It was with with a true sense of joy and accomplishment that I was able to ride my new commuter bike from the Estate Hotel where Chain Reaction refurbishes bikes and trains others to do the same. With an impressive shop of bike stands and tools, and scores of bikes in various states of disassembly, repair, or restoration, one is immersed in all things bicycle. Road bikes, mountain bikes, BMXs and cruisers, all beckon, each with its particular mission, personality, and charm.
The hard part starts with the disassembly of a bike destined for recycling, deemed beyond repair or restoration. Long forgotten stickers may give a clue where that bike was ridden and conjure images of people and places in its history as you watch its end. Next, you must select the bike for you, out of the small sea of available bikes. You have to consider how you will use the bike; touring, racing, trail riding, commuting, etc., as you carefully make your choice.
You will also start to study the repairs your project bike will require. These, along with the work you will be helping your co-op partners do on their own bikes, will be your Tuesday evening’s hobby for the next several weeks (cookies are provided). With a full stable of 10 or so other soon-to-be bike mechanics, you will also learn to work as a team with new friends and fellows in the downtown biking community. The social dynamics and camaraderie make the evenings a worthwhile experience on their own.
Did I mention, free cookies.
So this Central City Concern (with Bikes for Humanity PDX) program has multiple benefits, from recycling abandoned and donated bikes back into use, to building a downtown community of trained volunteers, and fostering a sense of ownership and accomplishment to program participants. The program covers bike registration and security, riding safety, and the methodology and practice of bike repair and service. And, once your basic volunteer commitment is complete, there is a fully-equipped bike shop for you to repair your new bike should any problems occur. But don’t expect many. By the time you have finished your bike, you will know what you’re doing.