Thursday, April 24, 2008

West Town Bikes

In preparing for this trip, I have been amazed by the number of resources that there are for cyclists planning a self-supported tour. From the websites and blogs of cyclists who have already toured to established non-profit organizations devoted to bike touring, there is a wealth of information available. Connecting with some of the folks running these organizations and websites has been inspiring.

I met some of these inspirational people on Wednesday night. While searching for a bike maintenance class that I could take before I leave, I learned of West Town Bikes, a Chicago non-profit organization that promotes biking through educational workshops for both underprivileged kids and the community at large. Volunteers teach classes ranging from bike basics to building a bike from scratch. Last night was the basics -- how to repair flats, tune brakes and maintain the chain. Both the students and the bikes in attendance were diverse. The students were young, middle aged, and older; experienced bikers and biking newbies. Our bikes included a thirty year old Schwin, a state of the art racing bike, and a fair number of Treks.

The class took place in a well-outfitted workshop, stocked through donations, grants, and second-hand sales. Mike, our instructor, had an easy-going manner that still managed to convey his enthusaism for biking. Anyone who owns twelve bikes must be enthusiastic about biking. The photo above is next to the workshop's only entrance off an alley near the intersection of North and Western. You know you're close when you see the free air. If you live in Chicago and you're interested in learning more about your bike, I highly recommend checking out this great organization.

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