This is an article guest written by a friend and her experience at Bike Kitchen in San Francisco.
I feel like I have been talking about and advocating for this place for years, yet the idea is still an exciting concept to me and I want to share it with you here. My good friend told me about Bike Kitchen and that we could build our own bike here. Neither of us had bikes or wanted to pay an arm and a leg to buy a bike.
I already made the mistake of buying the cheapest bike you can find at Walmart($100 for Burning Man) and then proceeded to burn out my back breaks within one ride down a steep hill and followed that by a risky incident involving a car, a beer, and some attempted ninja move. Let’s just say having a bike with working brakes is a good idea and Walmart is not. This is where the Bike Kitchen fits in.
Volunteering At Bike Kitchen
It’s been a while since I volunteered, but I want to say it costs roughly $40 dollars for new breaks(important!) and a bit of your time to get you quite a bit of knowledge, possibly a new hobby and your very own hot damn made with your own two hands bike (bragging rights included). You can always buy brakes on Amazon for a lot cheaper.
The idea is you volunteer 12 hours of your time in the shop, which usually means helping organize the incoming parts since the Bike Kitchen relies on donations of old bikes and used bike parts. Once you have clocked in those 12 hours you can start working on building your own recycled bike with the guidance of the volunteers that run the place. If you are just looking to tune-up your existing bike they have the option to pay a single day fee. For $6 bucks you can use the facilities (stand, tools, help).
If you volunteer 6 hours you earn the year membership which would normally cost $50.
Volunteer an additional 6 hours for digging rights and start building your own junker bike. Or pay $40 for rights to the digging bin for spare parts.
In total you pay $90 to build a bike or volunteer for 12 hours, you decide.
Now, since this is such an appealing concept, it is obviously pretty popular and you can’t really just waltz in. Usually there is a small line of people wanting to even volunteer so you need to be able to get there early enough to secure a spot (which can be difficult if you are coming from work) and be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind getting grease on. They are open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 6pm and till 9pm but also offer some weekend hours on Saturday between 12pm and 3pm. I, of course could never get there on weekends because I was coming from Oakland and like to sleep in a little too much.
Who runs Bike Kitchen?
The Bike Kitchen is a well-oiled machine run by volunteers who love biking and helping other people get into or stay into the lifestyle by giving the community their free time and knowledge. I’ve even encountered them at Burning Man volunteering their skills at their bike shop on the playa. Out there it is a good idea to come bearing gifts but in the city it is just a good idea to keep in mind their service, be gracious and try and not be too needy. I would also suggest doing a bit of your own research so that when you start building your bike you have an idea of what kind of a bike you are working towards. Such as handle bar style, frame size, tires style, etc.
Building Your Bike
I’m an anomaly and actually did all of my volunteer hours but never built the bike. I know, stupid. However while they preach about all inclusiveness and even offer a female / trans only night I felt that because I wasn’t a pretty lady(I am a lady) I wasn’t getting get quite enough attention to actually complete my bike with the little knowledge I had as a non mechanic. There are a few females that work at the Bike Kitchen, but the majority are men who paid way more attention to my pretty friend and made it kind of awkward for her and I. I guess don’t want to accuse them of anything and will have to chalk-up my not building my bike to my own personal insecurities, which, yes, is lame. Regardless of gender or orientation I would absolutely suggest checking this place out.
Long live the Do It Yourself spirit. Recycle and save. Donate if you have extra parts.
650H Florida St.
San Francisco, CA
Tue – Wed 6pm-9pm
Sat 12pm – 3pm