Impact Community

A Bike Shop Expansion Long In The Making Takes Shape At The Crucible

By Cathy Niland | 12.10.2020

The Crucible Bike Shop has long been the community outreach arm of The Crucible. It serves West Oakland youth through our Earn-A-Bike program and supports the West Oakland community at large with free bike maintenance during our Bike Fix-A-Thons. Regular classes and camps allow adults and youth students to learn skills in welding and mechanics with opportunities for creative exploration in their designs. 

But for all of its impact, the Bike Shop’s small physical space has long prevented it from growing into the powerhouse staff and faculty wanted it to become.

bike shop expansion

Maliq works with a student in our previous Bike Shop location.

Until recently, the Bike Shop occupied a small section of the North-East corner of the studio, tucked behind MIG and TIG Welding, and divided by a major thoroughfare for our forklift. Much of the Bike Shop’s storage was vertical and haphazardly organized due to lack of space, causing faculty and students to use valuable instruction time for search and rescue missions of parts.

“Remembering where something was or trying to find a certain part was always a challenge—it wasn’t even about remembering if we actually had the parts. It was hard to really get things done.”

-Maliq Nathaniel, Lead Studio Manager and Bike Shop faculty member

Reimagining the Bike Shop has been a longtime dream, but between community programming and classes, it was difficult to find time to reorganize, let alone move the shop. That is until the pandemic hit.

An unexpected opportunity for the Bike Shop

In March, all classes and programming halted for almost four months amid COVID restrictions. Summer camps followed in a limited capacity and the Bike Shop remained fairly quiet. “Not having Earn-A-Bike running, not having Fix-A-Thons, not having eight or ten people in the shop—suddenly we could talk about actually organizing and optimizing the space,” said Bike Shop Department Head Jared May. 

Toward the end of the summer, Maliq began dismantling the shop for relocation to our Train Bay, just around the corner with a tall ceiling and ample storage. “It’s wild that the Bike Shop hasn’t always lived there!” remarked Alyssa Stone, Director of Programs.

Now that dream is almost a reality. With the help of studio staff, Jared and Maliq have organized hundreds—if not thousands—of parts, built new shelving and storage, and created a dedicated tire organization system. While it still has a ways to go, it’s already making an impact. 

“We’ve gotten a lot out of it already,” said Jared. “We’ve been doing more walk-ins and fixing bikes from around the neighborhood. I am happy to be doing that again. Especially in times like these, I want to make sure we can provide that service.” Maliq added, “I hope we can help more, be more consistent with the help, and be able to open our doors to other communities.”

bike shop expansion

Bike Shop Department Head, Jared May shares a color coded system for organizing spare parts in the new bike shop.

What does an expanded Bike Shop look like going forward?

The new Shop will provide more students with a larger and better-organized space to work, with personal workstations available and easier access to needed tools and supplies. With support, The Crucible plans to build deeper entrepreneurship programs, encourage the reuse and refurbishing of discarded objects, and empower community members with greater access to personal transportation.

When you know how to fix your own stuff, you don’t have to rely on other people. There’s this attitude like, ‘Oh, yeah, I can do that’ that’s deeply empowering, and it affects the rest of your life, too. It’s really important for young people, and super important for marginalized youth.

-Vita Wells, a longtime supporter of the Bike Shop and a Crucible Advisory Council Member

Learning technical mechanic skills in the Bike Shop at a young age opens the door to entrepreneurial pathways for Bike Shop students. “The possibility is huge to further grow the youth program and offer opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship,” explains Vita Wells. “The Bike Shop programs are a powerful way to address inequity on multiple levels, ranging from transportation justice to economic justice, to enabling young people to go out and take care of themselves. It’s giving our youth what they need in a big, big way.”

Want to learn more about our Bike Shop programs?

Get to know our signature programs like Earn-A-Bike and our recurring Bike Fix-A-Thons, or find out how you can donate unused bikes to support our Bike Shop.

Keep Reading