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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

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Readers Blog: Animated Milwaukee

Bike School at the Milwaukee Bicycle Collective

A month ago I didn't know the difference between a derailler and a spoke, and I had no reason to learn how to patch a tire because I had somehow been lucky enough to avoid any stray pokey things that litter the streets of Milwaukee (I'm still amazed), but after a few visits to Milwaukee's Bicycle Co-Op on 29th and Clyborne I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of things.

I only recently got into the idea of biking as much as possible up to as early as a year ago. I started on a mountain bike that I had dragged up from my parents house in Iowa and, shortly thereafter, graduated to a road bike thanks to the generous holiday gift from my girlfriend. After a hard ride through the rest of the winter, my Raleigh Capri 10 speed was feeling the effects of all the sand, salt, dirt, and grime that had accumulated over those grueling months. By the time Spring rolled around I thought the worst was over and a hose down was all it needed.

Because of this general lack of knowledge of anything with wheels I found myself in need of bicycle related assistance. But instead of taking it to a bike shop and getting a run-down of everything that needed to be replaced, I wanted to take a proactive step towards learning what I should be doing to keep things in working condition, rather than buy and replace every few seasons.

That's when I remembered visiting the Bike Collective a couple years earlier. A group of us unceremoniously stopped by and we picked up some basic information, but it had all but seeped out of my brain making room for City of Heroes stats, typeface examples, and dog training techniques.

According to their website, the Milwaukee Bicycle Collective is made up of individuals committed to providing a publically accessible bicycle resource center - a place where bike repair and bike construction can happen in a creative and supportive atmosphere at an affordable cost.

When I first arrived it was a little awkward. The people there were polite, but eyeing me suspiciously and questioning my motives. I can understand this to a degree. The Bicycle Co-Op helps people fix, build, and supply information about bikes with little monetary incentive and in the short time I've been visiting, I've seen my fair share of those who would like to take advantage of this. In order to be nice to everybody, sometimes you gotta be a little mean. But I stood my ground, as my intentions were pure. I wanted to fix my bike and I wanted to learn how to do it.

Since then I've learned that bikes are both deceptively simple and complex. Often realigning one thing means realigning the rest of the bike. But once you have the basic principles down, you can just about troubleshoot the rest of the machine. In the brief time I've been joining the co-op I've managed to:

-Replace my breaks
-Stop them from squeaking
-Replace the cable housing
-Adjust my handle bars
-Tighten my fork
-True (straighten) my wheels
-Replace my rear derailer
-Adjust my rear and front derailer
-Ditch both the derailers and convert to a 1 Speed
-"Break," shorten, and replace my chain.
-Adjust my fenders
-Patch my tires (Actually, it'd be patching the tube inside the tires).
-Tighten a leaking valve.

And seriously, what more do you need to know? Well, probably quite a bit, but that covers a lot of ground in general maintenance. If you would like to get involved with Milwaukee's Bicycle Collective, which could be anything from donating your old bicycles, making a monetary contribution, helping organize paperwork, or even going in to get your hands dirty you can call, send an e-mail, or stop by during their hours of operation. More information can be found at the link below.

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