Volunteers at the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen spread the two-wheel word—and change your flat
On a late Wednesday evening next to the rattling railroad tracks on 19th and I streets, the faint tinkering of metal on metal draws also catches your ear. Then, a quick blast from an air compressor, the dull scent of degreaser and the hum of chattering locals draws you closer to a shed covered in ivy. Look inside, and there are bicycles everywhere.
Basically, if you’ve got two wheels (even if they’re a little flat), the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen appears to be the place to be.
And SBK, in Midtown since its move from Oak Park, continues to grow. This is probably because all faces of the Sacramento bike community are welcome—the pink Huffy cruiser rider, the rickety Schwinn commuter, the $3,000 carbon-fiber speed demon.
Seated at SBK’s counter is co-founder Gina Disney, 28, who is Sacramento’s unofficial biking goddess. Inspired by the other California bike kitchens in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Disney’s helpful approach to bicycle maintenance goes beyond making a buck.
This place is so busy. How did you get this Bicycle Kitchen up and running?
Well, I started biking when I was living in L.A., and everybody thought I was crazy. But I’ve always really loved it, and when I moved up here a few years ago, this all started from getting a bunch of people together who liked biking, too. And we’d sit around and have beers and talk about “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a kitchen, like the ones they do in L.A.?”
[After] a lot of daydreaming and brainstorming, eventually there were people who were willing to buy us tools and pay for a couple months’ rent in Oak Park, so we just went from there. We applied for our nonprofit status, and before we knew it we were too big for our space. So we moved to a more central location in Midtown a couple years ago, and we’ve been here ever since.
How many volunteers do you usually have?
Usually anywhere from 20 to 30 that I can expect to loosely schedule. I do the volunteer coordinating, and in the beginning I tried to call everybody all the time to fill certain spots. After a while I was like, “Y’know, this stuff kind of works itself out.” It ends up working out really well. We’ve got everyone here, from Girl Scouts to guys we’ll meet at the coffee shop, some serious gearheads and women who want to fix their own brake pads. We do have regular shop managers and clerks, as well as mechanics that usually work the same days every week. So while you’re learning, you’re the one doing the work on your own bike; we always want you to leave here safe.
So how can I get started fixing my bike?
It’s a really simple process. … You can come in and talk to one of our clerks who can hook you up with a mechanic that will meet your needs. We have most of the tools and parts you need, but some things we might have to order. But you’ll be the one fixing it, taking the parts on and off, and getting your hands dirty.
When you’re finished, we do suggest a $5 donation, plus maybe any parts or additional labor you may have needed. But we don’t insist on it; you pay whatever you can. And you can always help by patching tires or sweeping the shop. We just want to bring the bike community closer, it’s about learning and growing together. The money part is something extra.
How did you come up with the Hunt on the Grid, your bike scavenger hunt?
We just thought it would be a fun idea. I also do the event coordinating. At first I thought it would be fun to do a poker run, but it sort of evolved into a scavenger hunt. I wanted to involve local businesses, and everybody involved so far has been really positive. Basically, you’ll stop at different shops, pick up certain things and drop them off around certain stations around town. Volunteers will be posted to help you gather things and look for clues. It’ll come down to “How well do you know Midtown?”
Can I come in on Saturday to fix my brake pads?
(Laughs.) Yes, of course!
Bike tips from Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen’s Gina Disney
Get off the sidewalk!
“Do not ride your bike on the sidewalk! That area is for pedestrians, not for people on wheels!”
Obey traffic laws while in the bike lane.
“Do not ride your bike the wrong way in the bike lane. I know it feels like you can see better because you can see oncoming traffic. But they’re not expecting you, there’s no depth perception. If you’re on a bike and someone is coming at you from the bike lane in the wrong direction, and maybe there’s a car next to you, it’s a really unsafe situation.”
A bike is like a car …
“When you’re on your bike, you need to consider your bike as your car. Stay within your lane, but stay out of the ‘door zone.’ Always be looking! Watch in front of you, at the parked cars next to you, for brake lights, reverse lights, any sign of movement. Chances are they can’t see you.”
Do not wear headphones while biking.
“That is so dangerous! It’s your responsibility as a rider to listen. You need to be aware of everything going on around you.”
No one keeps you safe but you.
“Everyone seems to think ‘Oh yeah, everybody rides bikes in Sacramento! It’s super fun!’ And it is really fun, it should be! But you really need to be aware. Just because you’re in a group doesn’t guarantee safety.”
No drinking and biking.
“There is such a thing as a BUI!”