Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 11:55 am | Fair 60º


Bici Centro On a Roll as Bike-Repair Workshops Gain Traction

The Montecito Street nonprofit group is gearing up to expand its programs, in which volunteers help others maintain their bicycles

It’s dusk on a Thursday evening, but the Bici Centro workshop on East Montecito Street is alive with activity as volunteers and cyclists work together to repair bicycles before the shop closes.

It’s probably the only location of its kind on the South Coast, as volunteers show cyclists how to repair their bikes, many used for commuting to and from jobs, and then pay only for any parts needing to be replaced — although the shop accepts donations. It’s a workshop lined with gears of all sizes, wheels, chains and just about any kind of part a cyclist might need to make a repair.

Since it opened in 2007, many tires already have been patched, brakes repaired and chains oiled for the greater good of Santa Barbara’s bicycle commuters.

The group still operates its open workshops for the community, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Thursday and from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays.

But it’s also expanding to include new classes, such as a youth-only workshop from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays. A Spanish-only workshop also is under way, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Wednesday, because nearly half of the cyclists who come to open shops during the week are Spanish-speaking.

At the helm of all the new programming is the organization’s director, Ed France, who is trying to come up with system to train volunteers on the different projects.

Volunteers are at the core of Bici Centro’s mission. As a joint project with the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, the nonprofit organization depends largely on the efforts of volunteers who help others maintain their bikes and keep a low-cost form of transportation available.

France said the group gets many volunteers through the eight-week course, which teaches participants how to repair and maintain their bikes. “Most everyone who starts as a volunteer is not an experienced mechanic,” he said.

The $80 course happens once a season, and the next one will begin in January. Participants also can pay $15 for each class if they want to attend only one of two classes.

The group has more than 80 volunteers. France said many of them are retirees or 20-somethings who are taking classes or holding their first jobs. A core volunteer will put in an average of six to 10 hours a week, he said.

Volunteer Wilson Hubbel helps Alec Larson and Luke Ming work on a bicycle at a Bici Centro workstation.
Volunteer Wilson Hubbel helps Alec Larson and Luke Ming work on a bicycle at a Bici Centro workstation. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

“It ebbs and flows every month,” France said of the number, adding that the group always welcomes new volunteers. Would-be volunteers are encouraged to attend a volunteer night from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Tuesday to get acquainted. “It’s volunteers only, so it’s a more relaxed atmosphere,” he said.

The expanded classes aren’t the only new projects the group has under way.

Bici Centro organized a bike valet in conjunction with concerts at the Santa Barbara Bowl this summer. It helped alleviate downtown traffic, and tips earned from the valet went back into operating costs for the organization.

“Every show we got more people than the last,” France said. “We actually earned a lot of money.”

The group is planning to work with the venue again, and a host of other outreach events are planned, including popping up in a few local schools next year.

The shop even sells the bikes that are donated, and usually at a stellar price. France said the group is always in need of tools and nice bikes that could be used as commuter cycles and for parts.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >