After years operating out of a cramped and dank subterranean cave, U of T's Bikechain moves to surface-level new digs.
Bikechain, University of Toronto's student-run, DIY bike repair shop, has been offering excellent service to the U of T population since it opened its doors in 2005. The shop provides free use of bike tools and repair stands, with staff and volunteer bike mechanics on hand to assist with fix-it jobs, from flat repair to wheel truing to hub overhaul.
One of a handful of DIY bike repair shops in the city, Bikechain's valuable and well-used service had one major drawback: access. For most of the past 8 years, the shop was located in a dingy and cramped basement room in the Centre for International Experience (formerly the International Student Centre). This meant that it was difficult to find, tricky to access, and space was limited. Over the years, the small space was becoming more of a problem as the service grew in popularity. Bikechain shop coordinator Kelly Bray tells us that potential users consistently had to be turned away.
This problem was recently solved. On Friday, November 8, Bikechain celebrated the grand opening of its long awaited larger and upgraded space in the North Borden building, where the shop had relocated late this past summer.
The new space is large, bright, airy and above ground. The space boasts a welcoming foyer with reception desk and lounge/waiting area in the front, and 3 tool boards with 6 repair stands on the shop floor in the back.
Bikechain joins a number of other student organizations located in the North Borden Building at 563 Spadina Crescent, right across from the GSU Pub. Property manager Steve Barratt welcomes Bikechain as the new tenant in what was formerly a storage room for old mechanical equipment, noting they are helping to bring a pleasant and lively vibe to the area.
In partnership with the Sustainability Office and the property management, the new Bikechain space was upgraded with some light renovations, including a fresh paint job, and the installation of a new ventilation system and energy efficient overhead LED lighting. The space is offered to Bikechain for a token annual rent of one dollar.
The success of Bikechain is due in large part to the dedication of many volunteers and staff coordinators over the years. Former coordinator and current board member (as well as highschool mechanical instructor) Toby Bowers, was instrumental in securing the new location, and upgrading from a space that the service had long ago outgrown
Already back in 2011, a determined Bowers set to work promoting and advocating for Bikechain around the University to whoever would listen, emphasizing the value the service provides, and outlining best-case-scenario spatial needs in the search for a new home.
At the grand opening on Friday, it clearly felt well worth the efforts to realize a much-needed and well-deserved upgrade. At last count (earlier this year) Bikechain had passed the 20,000-users-served mark, and since the move to the new space, Bray estimates shop visits are up by around one-third.
Along with a ceremonial ribbon cutting, guests at the grand opening were treated to morning refreshments, a social with other Bikechain users, friends and fans, and entertainment in the form of a flat repair competition.
Minutes after the event ended, most of the repair stands were already occupied with the bikes of cyclists tuning up, repairing, and making road-worthy their trusty steeds. To accommodate increasing demand, Bikechain has recently implemented an online booking system, as well as text messaging service that alerts next-in-line status to waiting visitors, neat!
Congrats Bikechain on the new digs!
Text and photos by Matt Talsma
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