So, I did my time at the Bike Kitchen – 6 hours to earn my membership and 6 more hours to earn digging rights for bike parts. What has the work been like? Oddly enough, after spending months cleaning out my own room – I spent most of my volunteer time doing more cleaning and organizing.
This is the parts room a the Bike Kitchen. Each bucket contains an assortment of brakes, pedals, gears, handlebars, shifters, etc… All of these parts are donated – some are brand new, while others were pulled from hundreds of bikes that have passed through the kitchen – everything from cheap and abused mountain bikes to expensive racing bikes. My job was to sort through these parts, pull out the garbage, and put matching parts together whenever possible. For example yesterday I sorted tires according to size and found matching brake sets.
The work may seem kind of boring, but I think I managed to get something out of it. I learned the names and functions for a lot of parts I knew nothing about. I now know the difference between cantilever and V-brakes, why road and mountain brake levers and handlebars can’t be mixed and matched, the names for all the little fiddly bits of different components (jockey wheels, spoke nipples, clip-less pedals, brake noodles, etc…) All of this should help me with building up my own bike.
It’s also quite easy to converse while sorting through all the doo-dads, and I met some interesting people. There was a woman who just finished pedaling across Laos and Cambodia – she was probably just across the border while I was vacationing in Thailand. There was another woman who was starting a similar bicycle workshop in Maine, and was doing volunteer work to see how the Bike Kitchen managed their program. There were multiple people building bikes for burning man. One of the mechanics told me about his real job – managing a small-scale hydroelectric plant.
All in all it’s a really great deal for those who can’t afford to build up their own bike or pay for membership. But now comes the most important part – building up MY bike!