The Cambrian

Getting ‘bike kitchen’ cooking

There’s a new resource in town for experienced North Coast bicyclists and those who would like to be: The Cambria Bike Kitchen, sponsored and run by the Slabtown Rollers Cycling Club at 1602 Main St.

Other people may think a bike kitchen sounds like a source of lunch and snacks for cyclists, but what this cooperative cooks up is bicycle help and camaraderie in an assisted-service repair shop, sort of a used-parts bike shop plus workshop commons plus casual training center.

Resident and touring cyclists can come together to share work space, tools and bicycle information, to recycle parts and bikes, plan cycling advocacy, enjoy mingling with like-minded people and get friendly instructions on fixing bike problems themselves. 

Ever since Cambria Bicycle Outfitter (CBO) moved its last Cambria shop to Paso Robles, if a North Coast youngster’s bike got a flat tire, bent spoke or broken chain, getting that bike fixed meant taking it to an out-of-town repair shop.

Now, at the nonprofit Cambria Bike Kitchen, volunteers will teach youngsters and other riders how to do those repairs and restorations themselves. What’s more, the kitchen provides the work-shop space and tools.

A slight donation — perhaps $5 for three hours or all afternoon, according to Kitchen Director Jim Pitton — will be requested for use of the shop and equipment, but that request could be waived, especially for youngsters.

Customers also can buy new and used parts, order others to be delivered to the kitchen and even purchase reasonably priced refurbished bikes.

The Cambria Bike Kitchen is in the former CBO facility on Main Street, courtesy of entrepreneur Clay Akey, who is providing the space rent-free to start out with, according to Jim Aaron. New parts for sale will come from CBO.

Enthusiasts are encouraged to participate as volunteers (many skills are needed soon, from experienced bicycle mechanics and sales experts to computer types, carpenters, and graphic artists who can create signs).

People also can donate certain accessories, bikes and parts for rehabbing, although there are some restrictions on what the kitchen can accept.

The Cambria kitchen, which has nonprofit status under the umbrella of the Cambria Community Council, is modeled after a successful predecessor on Pacific Street in San Luis Obispo, sponsored by the SLO County Bicycle Coalition.

Sometimes called bicycle cooperatives or community bike shops, the nonprofit service concept may have begun some time ago in Austria and have sprung up in many areas of the U.S.

Plans are also in the works for a bike museum, which would focus on the evolution of the mountain bike.

The Cambria kitchen also plans to offer bicycle clinics at which cyclists can learn how to repair their own flat tires, straighten frames and perform general bicycle maintenance. Bicycle safety will be emphasized, and clinics will include tips on bicycle touring, riding with groups and in traffic. Kitchen volunteers also plan to work closely with area schools.

The Rollers’ future goals include developing cycling programs for school-age bicycle riders, helping to develop bicycle trails throughout town and providing a bike valet for Cambria Farmers Market on Fridays, to encourage locals to “ride their bikes to the market and help cut down on the traffic jam,” Pitton said. The ultimate goal is to have “more people ride their bikes to do local errands and thus reduce vehicular traffic and air pollution.”

The kitchen gladly accepts donations of most used bikes and parts. Funds from the sale of those parts and refurbished bikes will go toward replenishing the shop’s stock of supplies.

Pitton said volunteers can expect to help others work on their bikes; solicite donations of bikes and parts; refurbish donated bikes; sell refurbished bikes (perhaps on and parts on; helping maintain the building, inside and out; helping set up a break room (donations are needed, including a microwave, espresso machine and refrigerator); create signage; donate tools; help develop cycling programs for school-age bicyclists; work on trails; and help develop the bike valet service.

Bike Kitchen orientation

An orientation for the new Cambria Bike Kitchen starts at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, at 1602 Main St. Anyone who’d like to volunteer or is just interested is welcome.

Bike kitchen hours are, for now, set for 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Sundays. As volunteers are trained, the shop could be open more often. For details, call 927-9033 (first) or 909-9050.