dandyARCHIVE: Feel The Wheel

dandyARCHIVE: Feel The Wheel
Story by Steve Brearton and photo by Molly Crealock

~ This article originally appeared in dandyhorse Volume 3, Issue No. 1, Spring 2010 (“Spokes” issue) ~

Spare a thought this spring for your local wrench. Consider how Derek Chadbourne and Brad Annis of The Bike Joint on Harbord Street, east of Ossington Avenue, will spend their first perfect cycling days.

When they arrive at 8 a.m., two or three cyclists will already be waiting outside for repairs that will “just take a minute” (but decidedly don’t). That’s before they spend ten minutes clearing the 25 or so bikes weighing some 1,500-odd pounds from the shop floor to the sidewalk.

Next, they perform triage on the stream of bikes that will pour in all day. They get the occasional “soul crusher”–the seemingly easy fix that turns into a time-sucking disaster, which usually go to Annis. He’s a tinkerer at heart and a mechanical engineering technologist by training. He revels in problem solving and will try to fix bikes other mechanics write off as hopeless.

When Chadbourne opened the shop in 2001, he imagined a community hub where people could get their bikes fixed, learn about cycling activities, engage in advocacy or just shoot the shit.

By that time, the North Bay native had already been involved in almost every aspect of cycling in the city, from working as a bike courier and publishing a cycling ‘zine to serving as the first director of BikeShare and organizing the Cycle Messenger World Championships.

The Bike Joint quickly became the community builder he imagined. Riders often leave the shop without charge for a minor repair – Chadbourne says keeping local riders happy is just good business. As is being respectful. You won’t be judged because you spraypainted your new $3000 road bike gold.

There’s no merchandise to push other than a handful of staples, like lights and inner tubes. It’s the kind of shop where you can get your bike fixed and if you don’t have cash: pay … eventually. One person took three years to settle up. “Everyone has always paid,” notes Chadbourne. “Except two people,” adds Annis.

Working elbow to elbow on adjacent bike stands, the two compete for tools from the giant board that dominates the back wall of the shop. There you’ll find torque wrenches, crank pullers, threadless nut setters, cassette lockring tools and practically anything else that’s made with the distinctive blue of Park Tool.

While Chadbourne and Annis spend most of their time helping out their neighbours and cyclists commuting on Harbord, they also take time to support other causes. In February Chadbourne organized his 8th annual bike ice race at Dufferin Grove Park (proceeds go to Charlie’s Freewheels) and he and Annis will donate their time to work as wrenches for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation’s Friends for Life Bike Rally that travels from Toronto to Montreal in July.

Back in the shop, by mid-afternoon, the breakneck pace starts to wear. The work can be physically and emotionally draining and by 4 p.m., after six-plus hours in a 26 square metre space, muscles ache and minds are numb. Each finished bike, however, brings the promise and relief of a test ride in the sun. With the approaching dinner hour comes another commuter rush and more customers. Every year it gets a bit busier.

By the end of the spring rush the shop will have fixed about 1,000 bikes. It’s hard work, but there are benefits the pair wouldn’t give up for the world. Annis likes to walk past a row of bikes in his ‘hood and count “fixed it, fixed it, fixed it, didn’t fix it, fixed it…”

~ This article originally appeared in dandyhorse Volume 3, Issue No. 1, Spring 2010 (“Spokes” issue) ~

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Related on the dandyBLOG:

Youth Master Mechanics: Charlie’s Freewheels

dandySAFETY #3: Getting around obstructions in the bike lane

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