GearinUp01

Gearin’ Up Bicycles

Whenever possible I prefer to patronize socially responsible businesses that have a purpose, especially when that purpose is local.  And on this ride I not only found such a business, but one that fits right into my lunchtime pursuit of going for a daily bike ride.  On my lunch break today Julius, my orange recumbent bike, and I went to Gearin’ Up Bicycles, which is very conveniently located just off The Metropolitan Branch Trail at 314 Randolph Place (MAP) in northeast D.C.’s Eckington neighborhood.

Gearin’ Up Bicycles is a fairly new bike shop in D.C., having only been around for about three years. They began in the spring of 2012 by working with youths on bicycles at the city’s Boys and Girls Club.  Around that same time they also began talking about opening a nonprofit community used bike shop in downtown D.C.  By the fall of that year they had developed a business plan and web site, as well as marketing and fundraising strategies.  And by summer of the following year they opened the shop as a non-profit (501(c)(3)) organization.

The main purpose of Gearin’ Up Bicycles is to create career development opportunities and teach essential workplace skills to kids as well as adults from underserved communities.  Along the way they also teach the participants about cycling as a healthy and affordable means of transportation.  One of the ways they do this is through the Earn-A-Bike course which is a six to eight week course that teaches the participant about essential bicycle repair and maintenance.  It begins with the participant selecting a used bicycle to refurbish. Then each week they learn about different parts of the bike and how to make necessary repairs to the bike they are refurbishing. By the end of the course, the participant gets to take home their newly refurbished bike, along with all of the knowledge and skills they accumulated while building up their new bike.

Services available at Gearin’ Up Bicycles include providing repairs from their experienced mechanics and trainees, or open shop nights during which customers can do their own repairs. And if you’re not sure how to fix something their knowledgeable staff and volunteers can answer your questions, or even lend a hand. The shop also offers general safety and repair classes which cover a range of topics, from changing a tire to bike commuting basics. They also sell affordable used bikes, all of which are donated used bikes which are reconditioned as part of their development program.

During today’s visit to the shop I met a couple of members of the staff.  Mike Rosenberg greeted me and showed me around the shop while he told me a little about what they do there.  I later learned that Mike is an avid rider, and not only has several years of experience working in different bike shops, but a degree in social work as well.  Then on my way out I also met Sterling Stone.  As I was leaving Sterling was just arriving back at the shop and had stopped for a moment outside the front door where I had parked Julius. He was taking a look at Julius, which is always a good conversation starter. So we talked for a few minutes before I left.  There seemed something familiar about him, and I found out later that like myself, Sterling had not ridden a bike since his youth, but returned to riding again as an adult.  And also like me, after he starting again he hasn’t stopped riding since.  Sterling also has more than a dozen years’ experience working with underserved youth.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, or a bike shop by it’s store front.  Gearin’ Up Bicycles isn’t in a fancy location with an unnecessarily expensive appearance.  But what it might lack in aesthetics it more than makes up for in friendly, customer-oriented service, as I experienced with Mike and Sterling on my initial visit today.  And the lack of wasteful use of resources on the shop’s appearance also translates into lower overhead and the ability to focus on affordability for more people.  But most of all the purpose behind the shop makes me glad that any money spent there, or donations made to the program, contribute to such a worthwhile purpose.  Almost instantly today, Gearin’ Up Bicycles became not only one of my favorite bike shops in D.C., but one of my favorites businesses of any kind in the city.  I’ll be going back again soon.

GearinUp02     GearinUp01a     GearinUp03
[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s