Where Bicycles Get Fixed, and Celebrated
Free Friday tool shops help rubber meet the road
By Anna Webster (COM’10). Video by Robin Berghaus
In the video above, Gina Daniel (CAS’10) learns from Alex Boyd (COM’11) how to give her bike a tune-up at the BU Bikes Tool Shop.
BU Bikes was created for — and by — people like Greg Hum.
Hum (CAS’10) once spent three days biking from Boston to New York. Closer to campus, watching the Commonwealth Avenue Improvement Project progress, he hoped against hope for more bike racks. When Boston’s first bike lane opened in August 2008 on none other than Comm Ave, he decided it was time to give bikers a voice.
The next month Hum, with help from Galen Mook (UNI’09) and Jacqueline Gutbrod (CAS’09), created a new student club, BU Bikes, to spread the biking Gospel and help get more riders on the road.
“Many people do not see the difference between biking in the city and biking in a park,” he says. And that is a mistake.
On Fridays, the BU Bikes Tool Shop, held in the Women’s Resource Center, is crammed with people coming to fix their bikes, crash on couches (as opposed to asphalt), ask questions, or just mingle.
What’s the best way to get rust off a bike chain? How often should you fill your tires? What are the best bike routes in Boston? What about the cheapest place for bike helmets or used bikes? Answers to these questions can be heard ricocheting through the shop, provided by a handful of BU Bikes members.
One of them, Alex Boyd (CAS’10), props a bike on a stand and spins the tires, looking for wobble. Most Fridays his fingers are tinged with grease from hanging out at the tool shop performing free tune-ups that would cost $50 at a commercial shop. Boyd, who works at REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) when he’s not out riding, can construct a bike from parts, rebuilding Terminator-style. While experts like Boyd are available for consultation, BU Bikes preaches a do-it-yourself mantra, offering tools and tips to get two-wheelers back on the road.
BU bikers figure that one $60 monthly T pass can cover bike products like a pump, chain grease, and new brake cables that can last for years. What’s more, they argue, bikes save time; Hum figures a trip that might take 40 minutes by T can be cut down to 15 minutes by bike. “I’ve got to the point where I can’t walk three blocks,” Boyd says. “It’s too slow.”
BU Bikes hosts group rides on the bikes they help maintain (and bikes they don’t). This year members have visited the Museum of Science and the Arnold Arboretum. Boyd lugs speakers for accompanying music, and Mook leads with a beat on his custom “drum bike.” Riders of any level are welcome to join the pack.
After tweaking and fine-tuning, it’s time to hit the road. A group ride begins today, Friday, October 16, at 3 p.m. at Marsh Plaza. A schedule of BU Bikes events is available here. The Tool Shop is located in the Women’s Resource Center, GSU lower level, 775 Commonwealth Ave. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. every Friday.
This article first appeared in BU Today on October 16, 2009.