Not many people know what a “bike kitchen” is and even fewer people are lucky enough to have one in their hometown. Here in San Luis Obispo, we’re lucky to be graced with such a wonderful and passionate biking community, and our own Bike Kitchen.
It started with 5 people in 2001, who met once a month in a local park to help people fix their bikes. They have since grown massively and expanded into their new, current location in 2010, thanks to the help of a massive donation by a man named “Troll”. Another major contributor is the SLO County Bicycle Coalition (slobikelane.org) and their continual efforts to find funding and push alternative transportation (mainly cycling).
Earlier this week, I was able to meet up with the Bike Kitchen Manager, Tyler Jamieson, and get a rundown of the operation. Here’s what I found.
Art’s: Tell me: what exactly is the Bike Kitchen?
Tyler: The Bike Kitchen is an education space where you can come in learn how to work on your bike. There is usually myself and 3 or 4 volunteers present to help you run through the process of working on your bike, finding parts, or answering any questions you might have about cycling in SLO County.
Art’s: What is your place within the organization?
Tyler: I am the Programs Manager; so what I do is run the Bike Kitchen Program and Bike Valet Program. In the shop, I’m working with customers and wrenching on bikes. I also do volunteer orientations and help volunteers become more confident in working on customer’s bikes. With Bike Valet, I am out on Thursdays at Farmer’s Market providing safe parking spots for people who ride their bikes there.
Art’s: Where do your bikes come from?
Tyler: Donations from within the community. All of the parts that you see in the bins around the room have been donated by community members and bike shops.
Art’s: Where does funding come from for the Bike Kitchen?
Tyler: It comes from people coming into the space to use the facility (Half-Day and Full-Day Use Fees, $5 and $10 respectively) and selling the donated parts that we get. A lot of money also comes from selling the donated bikes that we get and they tend to sell anywhere between $75 – $1200.
Art’s: Who owns or runs the Kitchen and is there any affiliation with the County?
Tyler: There is no affiliation with the County. The Bike Kitchen is a part of the SLO County Bicycle Coalition and what we do is advocate for better cycling and walking infrastructure. We try to get more people comfortable on bikes. One of the hurdles that we face is people being very uncomfortable with the mechanical side of things, so a lot of people might be scared of riding across town for fear of getting a flat tire and being unable to fix it.
Art’s: How does the Bike Kitchen work?
Tyler: Customers can pay a $35 Yearly fee to get perks like discounts at the local bikes shops and 4 free visits or they can simply pay $5 for a Half Day and $10 for a Full Day.
Art’s: What hours and days are you open?
Tyler: The Bike Kitchen is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12-5.
Art’s: Short term goals of the Bike Kitchen…
Tyler: Get more bikes on the road. We’re trying to get more of the bikes we have sold and more donated, so we can fix them up and turn them over to students at Poly or people looking to change their mode of transportation to something more efficient or environmentally friendly.
Art’s: ….how about overarching, “world domination” goals?
Tyler: Hopefully, have a Bike Kitchen type of organization in every city…or at least every major one. More people biking is the main goal. Or at the very least using alternative transportation.
Art’s: How did you end getting into this sort of thing?
Tyler: Well, I went to college down in Clairemont at Pitzer and found a bike kitchen organization (Green Bike Program) down there. I started volunteering there and when I came back to San Luis Obispo, I saw the Bike Kitchen growing into what it currently is today. So I got involved in 2010 that way.
And then I asked Tyler a few personal questions…
Art’s: Have you ever used a bike as a getaway vehicle?
Art’s: Pizza, burrito, or pie?
Tyler: Burrito. Carnitas. And then pie afterwards…obviously. Rhubarb.
Art’s: Have you ever seen Bigfoot?
Tyler: Seen some people that look like him. So far none locally.
Art’s: Best cycling innovation ever.
Tyler: I would say Index Shifting, although friction is pretty good and there’s the Height Right (spring-actuated dropper post).
Art’s: What’s your favorite place to ride?
Tyler: I’ve been really liking combining West Cuesa Grade, Cerro San Luis, and Irish Hills all into a single ride.
Art’s: Who are your heros and/or role models?
Tyler: Sheldon Brown.
Art’s: What are you most grateful for?
Tyler: The wonderful SLO weather that allows for year-round cycling and being able to move. We have some amazing trail systems here. I’d say the biking community here is awesome. What the SLO County Bicycle Coalition has done since 2001 is amazing.
Tyler: I have watched a few of the Art’s Cyclery How To and Ask a Mechanic as refreshers for suspension set ups.
Tyler enlightened me about some phenomenal up and coming things involving San Luis Obispo’s bike culture and community. SLO County has recently established one of the most forward-thinking and powerful bike funding policies in the entire nation. It didn’t happen overnight and has actually taken the greater part of 8 years. Here is a link to the article: http://slobikelane.org/powerful-bike-funding-policy-nation/
The Bike Kitchen’s future sure is looking big and bright…
The Bike Kitchen is pushing hard and working towards a Bicycle Education Program through the SLO Coastal Unified School District. This education program first teaches the basics of cycling, like rules of the road and proper cycling technique. Once these introductory courses are completed, you are then free to take Mechanics Classes and more. These programs will also be used to teach homeless people, people in need, and people on the “Honor Farm” (allows an inmate to perform eight hours of general labor for every one day of jail time in a low-security fashion). These people are then able to fix bikes and send them back out into the community to help other people in need and make use of a large number of bikes that would previously go to waste.
Keep an eye out in the future for more articles and information on the Bike Kitchen as it grows and expands, making San Luis Obispo an even sweeter place to be. To stay as up to date as possible with the Bike Kitchen and all of San Luis Obispo’s bike-related activities, check out http://slobikelane.org/.