Alameda Business Buzz: Changing Gears Bike Shop

Alameda Business Buzz: Changing Gears Bike Shop

Janice Worthen

Changing Gears Bike Shop has operated at Alameda Point since 2006. Photo by Janice Worthen.

With morning and evening commute traffic expected to grow as the Island develops, the pressure is on to get out of the car and onto a bike.

The city has been making efforts to ease this transition that include creating a new bike lane along Shore Line Drive and developing “complete street” plans for Central Avenue. But there’s a nonprofit shop on the Island that’s been working to make the cycling life more accessible since 2006 when two non-profits, Cycles of Change and Alameda Point Collaborative, came together to open it.

Back then the shop was called Cycles of Change APC, but when the Earth Island Institute took over as the shop’s fiscal sponsor in 2010, the name became Changing Gears Bike Shop. Project Director Barry Luck said Changing Gears has been “successfully operating with the same three staff” members since then, and they are adding a “youth staff person” in a few weeks.

Changing Gears has all the bike bells and whistles of a typical bike shop, with a large selection of new and used parts as well as new and used bikes, which come with a 30-day warranty. They also have an “as-is” section of fixer-uppers (minus the warranty, of course), and Changing Gears mechanics offer repairs, adjustments, overhauls and tune-ups for a reasonable price.

But anyone who visits the shop can see that something more, something special, happens here. As mechanics and volunteers interact – sharing stories and advice, working on a bike project together, discussing options with customers – it’s clear that Changing Gears is building a community. Customers are allowed to participate by watching mechanics repair their bikes or doing it themselves for free at one of the community repair stations.

Volunteers can help at the shop in return for credit toward used bikes and parts or to earn community service hours. Luck said that adult volunteers come mostly from the East Bay, especially Oakland and Alameda, and youth volunteers come mostly from Alameda.

The shop also provides on-site job training for those who want more experience with selling and maintaining bikes, and from time to time, Changing Gears also leads or hosts bike field trips, volunteer events and Eagle Scout projects.

Just last weekend, the shop created a buzz in the Bay Area with its second annual Bike Swap Meet. With free admission, a modest vendor fee, a raffle for prizes ranging from messenger bags to new bikes, short BMX races hosted by Bay Area BMXers, food provided by The Dogfather and BBQ@Lux and 39 vendors selling bike parts and a large variety of bikes, this event drew crowds and vendors from across the East Bay.

Maya Bulleit, founder of the Broken Spokes Classic Bicycle Club, had a booth at the event and attended last year’s inaugural swap meet. She said this year’s event was already very busy just an hour in. Broken Spokes, which has been fostering a love of vintage bikes for 20 years, donated one of the bikes for the swap meet’s raffle.

The club hosts Bay Area events for bike lovers. On July 19, Broken Spokes will hold its fourth annual Vintage Bicycle Hop at Alameda’s Forbidden Island, from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.; on August 8 the club will host its family-friendly Bike Expedition and Picnic on Angel Island. More information on the events is available on the club’s Facebook page.

Reaux Flagg, co-director of the nonprofit, volunteer-run Biketopia Community Workshop in Berkeley, had a booth near the raffle table, where her organization offered free bike checkups during the swap meet. She said she heard about the event from Luck; this was her first year at the meet.

Cheryl DeGrasse, one of the key organizers for the swap meet (Kyle Thomas and Sean Tal also served as volunteer organizers), had one of the larger collections at the event. She helped spread the word by plugging the swap meet on social media and posting advertisements all over the Island. From her position at the beginning of the lineup, she stood with the authority of a swap meet guardian.

DeGrasse said she collects bikes from the 1960s and ‘70s and restores bikes that she sends back into the world. She said she learned about Changing Gears while riding around and stopped in to introduce herself to Luck.

Luck said DeGrasse suggested having a swap meet just when he was considering the potential benefits of such an event.

“We wanted to create a fun annual event that would bring people together from throughout the Bay Area,” he said.

Besides providing fun events, affordable bikes, and bike maintenance, the shop offers the valuable service of upcycling old bikes that would otherwise find their way to a landfill, giving “re-cycle” a new meaning. Luck said the shop receives about 1,000 bike donations a year. The most useful items are “bicycles in good shape, especially hybrid, road, 24-inch wheeled mountain bikes, and 20-inch BMX bikes.”

If you would like to donate, volunteer, or learn more about Changing Gears, send them an e-mail at info@changinggearsbikes.org or visit their website.

Around Town

Downtown Alameda: Thai Noodle House of Alameda is now open in its new location. 1700 Park Street; 520-8200. Open 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. Cash only.

Alameda Island Brewing Company has introduced a new brew, an 8.3 percent “Highbrow” double IPA. 1716 Park Street; 217-8885. Open 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

West Alameda: Boba lovers rejoice! There’s another shop opening on the Island where you can get your fix. Sharetea is coming soon to Alameda Landing. 2670 Fifth Street, Suite C.

In case you missed it, Pagano’s Hardware’s new location is now open. 640A Central Avenue. Open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The Fourth Annual Neptune Beach Community Celebration, also known as The JAM at Neptune Beach, is offering six blocks of family fun from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on June 20 and from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. June 21 on Webster Street.

Celebrate the area’s rich history with Eric Kos and Dennis Evanosky at 11 a.m. June 21 as they lead you on a walk back in time to the Neptune Beach amusement park. Buy a gift for Father’s Day from one of the more than 50 arts and crafts vendors, enjoy live music on two stages, pick up a bite to eat at the food pavilion, or get adventurous and try a zip line ride on the Zippin’ Zip Line that will have you whooping (or screaming) from Pacific to Buena Vista. Favorites like the climbing wall, Ferris wheel and giant fun slide will also be returning.

Spirits Alley will keep your spirits high during the event, with wine from Rock Wall Wine Company and beer from Faction Brewing, and the kids can enjoy Alameda Point Craft Soda from Brix Beverage.

Free bike parking will be available in the US Bank parking lot.

Pacific Pinball Museum has three new machines: Drop-A-Card, Kewpie and Dancing Dolls. As if you needed another reason to visit. 1510 Webster Street; 769-1349. Open 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 2 p.m. to midnight Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Alameda South Shore Center is making this summer musical with Summer Beats, a free live music event taking place on July 18 and August 1, 15 and 29 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the center court. Performers include the Sun Kings, Pure Ecstasy, Pride & Joy and California Beach Boys. Wine and raffle tickets will be on sale, with all proceeds going to the Alameda Education Foundation.

The center is also taking steps to reduce water use which includes draining the on-site pond, watering the grass less, and reducing the amount of power washing.

Gelati Pop is coming soon, and with the latest heat wave still simmering in the minds of Bay Area residents, Gelati Pop’s Italian gelato and sorbet popsicles couldn’t have come at a better time. The shop, owned by locals Nicky Do and Stella Phan, will also offer a selection of pastries and sweet tea to cool down those summer days ahead. 2228B South Shore Center.