Cooking Up Bike Co-Ops in Los Angeles
I don't know if there is an official stat chart on bike co-ops/collectives in the United States, but certainly Los Angeles boasts more in one city then any I am immediately aware of.
So fresh from the oven we cooked up this dish of a Streetfilm from our West Coast swing. We were able to drop by Los Angeles' famed Bicycle Kitchen to see the secret recipe for how it works, along with other inspired-by shops, Bikerowave and Bike Oven. We found the atmosphere at all three to be highly fun and informative, with the spirit of community to be the true draw. When you need to fix your bike why not make friends at the same time?
Oh and if you like the great tune, there are more at Williamsonsound.
[00:12] The Kitchen’s a non-profit where people learn how to work
on their own bike. We have a lot of used parts from bicycle businesses
that are expanding and wanting to get rid of older stuff and all their
stock, to donations of people’s bikes that they’ve just had leaning
against the garages for a couple of years. Pay what you can is
the… one of the seven kind of setups at the door that you can see.
It’s so busy that there’s no question about people just being strict
on like how the rules work because it’s like sink or swim for those
of us that are volunteer staffing. We can do a lot of, you know,
rather sensitive work, everything from like chasing threads in the bottom
bracket to straightening a frame, as well as the surge in popularity
of fix your bicycles. It means that you get a real dynamic mix
of people in here. How you doing?
Very cool man, I got it all off. I’m just trying to clean it
up. They’ll teach you. They’ll teach you so can actually
put all this stuff into use when you get out there. You go to
a lot of bike shops and sometimes, yes, it is worth the money to get
stuff done, but a lot of this stuff you could do at home.
I love just being able to do stuff by myself. I knew how to change
a tyre, barely, when I came in here, and I built my own bike up from
[01:26] Bicycle mechanics is like any trade. You know, you learn
from your elders. I learned from Jimmy and Ben, the founders.
I’ve been a volunteer at Kitchen since about 2003, and that was when
it was back at the LA Eco-Village.
Joe Linton: [01:38]
This is it, this is the unit that was bike storage, where the Bike Kitchen
started. In about 2001 Jimmy Lazama straightened this room out,
made some space in it and, you know, made these racks and whatnot, and
then in that kitchen right there started to wrench on his bike and other
people’s bikes. Volunteers who wrench at the Bicycle Kitchen
are called cooks and they actually have, I think, between 30 and 40
cooks, and they all do at least one four hour shift a week, which I
think is incredible.
[02:15] You got three different co-ops, they both kind of spun
off of the Kitchen. You have Bicycle Kitchen and then the Bike
Oven started and then the BikeroWave started. Those places are
their own personality and are amazing in their own ways.
[02:27] So if you come to the BikeroWave and you want to work on your
bike, you’ve got a choice, you can come in here and work by the hour,
which are seven bucks an hour, and we have a bunch of people that can
help you work on your bike, plus a load of tools and stands. And
let’s say you get into working on your bike and you want to be rebuilding
a lot of bikes, you might want to get one of our annual memberships,
because you can see even on a rainy Saturday afternoon we’re pretty
The great thing is that there’s always somebody here to explain to
you how to do it. My first project here, totally taking the bike
apart, rebuilding all the bearings and the cranks and putting all the
cables on it and just learning.
[03:05] LA’s really fragmented often into different little communities.
You’re not going to go 45 minutes to work on a bike that’s broken
if you have to ride there. You’re going to try to get to something
close, it doesn’t matter what it is.
[03:17] It’s important to have several bike co-ops because we’re
so spread out and there’s such vast distances between communities
[03:26] Give this crank a whirl and while you whirl it, let’s roll
through the rear derailer. The Bike Oven got started in my garage
in November of 2005. I decided that I was going to do something
positive in the vein of the Bike Kitchen, so I stole their idea and
appropriated something from the name.
[03:44] It’s really wonderful to be able to look up to, for example,
Joseph over at Bike Oven and some of his strategies politically.
[03:49] Most of the time we’re teaching people how to fix their bikes
and kind of engaging in that way. We’re also a social space
where people can feel comfortable coming and hanging out, meeting friends
here, starting and ending rides here. We have art shows and movie
nights, a bunch of different events, and people here are a little bit
more political active.
[04:05] This is something that really keeps my humanity up.
I enjoy the social environment, people of all ages are here.
It’s always a great atmosphere. Even the people who just come
in to work on their bikes are willing to help out someone who knows
less than them.
[04:21] A lot of people taste that emotion of sharing with, someone
who’s pretty much a stranger but willing to work with you and they
I saw a lot of people working on their bicycle and I was like wow, I’m
never going to be that, you know, like just show me how to change my
inner tube and that’s it, I’ll be out of here. And the more
you start coming and the more you actually ride, you just want to learn
more about the actual bicycle.
[04:47] The good things that happen when you’re working on bikes,
the good things that happen.
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