By Laura Warner
Photos by Laura Warner and Tammy Thorne
BikeSauce has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the garage of a former funeral home on Queen at Broadview. “It still smelled of formaldehyde, it was pretty bad” recalls Michelle St-Amour, one of the founding members of the “not-for-profit do-it-yourself bicycle resource centre.” Walking into their new location, just off the corner of Dundas and Broadview, all you’ll smell is a little grease.
The DIY bike repair shop originated from a late night conversation between St-Amour and her friends over beer in the Spring of 2009. The cycling advocates decided that Toronto was in need of a unique community space for two-wheel enthusiasts to fix their own bicycles. This wild idea quickly became reality and the BikeSauce team held meetings and bike builds at a member’s personal studio space in Kensington Market. Their first location opened on April 17th, 2010 and their fully functioning community space (slash) repair shop was launched on June 4th, 2011.
Upon entering BikeSauce you will most likely be greeted by a friendly volunteer and several other cyclists working away. The shelves are stocked with locally made, bicycle-themed, merchandise: hand pressed cards, messenger bags, t-shirts and even jewelry made from bicycle chains. Partnering with local entrepreneurs promotes both environmental living, as they use mainly reused and recycled materials, and local economic development.
Proceeding further into the shop past a kitchenette there is a fully stocked library, wifi hotspot and lounge space. A full catalogue can be found on BikeSauce’s website of the magazines and books that are mainly about, you guessed it, bicycles and include topics like the history of bikes, bicycle culture and maintenance.
In the back room you'll likely find more amateur mechanics at work on their bicycles. The walls are lined with tools and the ceiling with bike parts. Missing a part? There is no shortage at BikeSauce. If you can’t find what you need upstairs, one can always check the basement as it too is lined wall to wall with bicycles, parts and many odds and ends.
The elbow grease Sauciers expend is not limited to just instructing and assisting with repairs in the shop. Cycling advocacy and education are also huge objectives in BikeSauce’s mission. Their web site serves as a point of contact for those interested in cycling events and issues taking place on Toronto streets. Their electronic newsletter, also available on the site or through their listserv, is full of valuable information and notices of upcoming meetings and seminars to help educate BikeSauce followers on cycling skills.
St-Amour told me how they keep this amazing space open and their cause running. “The shop is 100% volunteer and donation driven,” says St-Amour. With 20 to 30 volunteers putting in hours on any given week, resources are scarce. But what they lack in funding, they make up for in enthusiasm. The volunteers make everyone feel welcome. “We’ll see anyone come in from road bikers to hipsters,” says St-Amour. “It’s especially great for anyone living in the East end,” she notes of the convenience of the space for their local clientele, “this way they don’t have to push a broken bicycle over the bridge to a repair shop downtown.” This appreciation is obvious, both in the physical store space and in its virtual space as BikeSauce is almost at 600 likes on Facebook.
When asked what they hoped for in BikeSauce’s future St-Amour saw a welcoming and inviting space “filled with all sorts of cyclists and community members.” From my visit, it looks like they are well on their way.
Bikesauce is located at:
235 Broadview Ave