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Basic bike repair at the Sibley Bike Depot

It's been one thing after the nother in the life of Sui G but I'd be lax to slack on the opportunity to share about the basic bike repair class at Sibley. After buying a U-Lock and cable at REI, picking up the keys and signing a rental agreement at our new home, and eating a delicious sandwich at Jimmy John's, I arrived about an hour early for class. I dragged my de-wheeled bicycle out of the trunk of my Saturn and reassembled it on the sidewalk.

Terry let me into the shop so I could drop it off, and we chatted for a while about the organization and how donations work. I got a mocha from the café next door. He took me out to the junk pile and showed me a sweet frame from a donated bike that had got them all excited until they realized that it was cracked and terminally unsafe. Some neighbor kids came by and asked if they could have the bikes for free ("no"). Soon, other people started showing up for class and we migrated into the shop.

I wasn't sure what type of people would attend, but the turnout that night was really diverse. There were two women who left before class was over, and two men, all in their 40s or 50s let's say; a couple of girls my age, (one who seemed experienced and one who had just inherited an old bike from her sister and taken her first ride); a guy who couldn't have been over 26 and had just returned from a hardcore bicycle tour in the South; a younger girl who seemed to know that guy from work and had to be somewhere else about halfway through; and a man who brought in his wife's bike for repairs and hijacked the class for a while with specific personal questions. A total of ten students, including me.

The instructor clearly knew and loved bikes and enjoyed talking about them. We got sidetracked plenty of times and ended up going about an hour over the scheduled ending time, which stretched the class to a healthy three hours. At $15 dollars for the class, I felt like I got my money's worth out of that time. He showed us how to fix a flat, adjust gears, replace a chain, and discussed a hundred other tangential topics.

I didn't feel comfortable asking him to look at my own bike until the class had been officially over for a long time and most of the other students had left. He checked my shifters, lubed the chain, and tightened up the brake lever that was bothering me. Then he pronounced it good. I was relieved to find out that all the parts are in the right places and I've got a sound and sturdy bicycle with no major problems. I removed the front tire again and packed it back into my trunk for the long drive across the Twin Cities back to my apartment.

The cool thing is that the place we are moving into this weekend is really close to downtown St. Paul where this shop is located, so I'll be able to take advantage of their knowledge, experience, and great deals on secondhand chains. I'm going to continue taking classes and hopefully return on Wednesdays for their volunteer nights, since they made it sound like even someone as inexperienced as me would be able to help out somehow, and I can learn a lot more about bikes by actually working on them.

Besides that, I was looking for somewhere to volunteer, and what better way to do it than to combine my new interest in cycling with a non-profit organization that fixes up donated bikes and gives them to people who can really use them?

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