Need to breathe life into your old bike? Get along to a Cycle Jam!

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CycleJam – an initiative supported by Pedal Power, is a group of Canberrans working together to promote bicycle maintenance skills and to give cyclists a hands-on experience in bicycle maintenance. They run a number of workshops where participants fix their own bike with guidance, tools and parts that CycleJam makes available for free. Pedal Power spoke to Jac Steiner of CycleJam to find out more…

What exactly is CycleJam?

Hey, thanks for asking! CycleJam is a free Canberra resource for fixing and maintaining bicycles. At Jams, bicycle tools and kindness combine to keep bikes rolling. We’re kind of like a library for bicycle maintenance. We have lots of specialty tools, parts, and educational resources all of which can be used at Jams for free. At CycleJam, all “Jammers” are in it together, helping each other to find solutions. Those of us with more experience are around to offer support to those who don’t know a wheel from a wingnut. Most Jammers come with absolutely no experience. On the other hand, if you are skilled up already, feel free to take advantage of our shared tool collection, parts and space and we’ll try to keep out of your hair. Our focus is on sustainability and empowerment. We have lots of second-hand parts that can help keep your bike happy, but you’ve got to scavenge through the spares yourself. Whenever there’s the option to repair something, we’ll encourage you to do that. Most of all, when you come to CycleJam you are deciding to try and fix your bike for yourself. We’ve got plenty of help and guidance to offer, but ideally the only hands that work on your bike are your own!

Why did you decide to set Cycle Jam up?

Community bicycle workshops have been around for decades! They have always been a great way for improving the longevity of a bicycle. My first community bicycle workshop was Neighborhood Bike Works in Philadelphia. It was several years ago, I knew nothing about bicycle maintenance and in fact I didn’t even own a bike at the time. The workshop got me rolling, helped me focus on critical maintenance issues and helped me sort out exactly what to look for in a bicycle. My work commute used to be a chore, but doing it on a well-tuned bicycle made it an absolute treat. When I made the shift to biking to work I became a happier person. Just like the first community workshop I attended, CycleJam is trying to knock down barriers to ridership. If your bike is a pleasure to ride, you’ll be more likely to hop on it.

Community bicycle workshops help people have a better day, and CycleJam does this for Canberrans.  Canberra has great cycle infrastructure, a big bicycling community, skilled mechanics, terrific terrain and wonderfully dry weather. What was missing, that other cities all across Australia and the world at large have, is a great community resource for encouraging bike maintenance. Now it has CycleJam.

What are CycleJams like?

Jams can be a little chaotic, but are usually a lot of fun. People rock up and often don’t see what’s causing their troubles. One of the most common pitfalls must be the simple “brake adjust”. Don’t get me wrong, this can be simple; I adjust mine all the time and it takes me a couple minutes. But when someone shows up with a bike that’s received no love in a long time… before we can think about a brake adjust we have to check that a wheel is straight. Or better yet, that the wheel is in the frame correctly! Not that this is bad; it’s great, it’s what CycleJam is all about. Helping you see the big picture, take responsibility for your bicycle and stay happy and safe. CycleJam can’t help you “fix” your bike in less time than a skilled mechanic can do the same work. In fact, it will most likely take you longer, but you will learn so much more and rightfully feel proud!

Do you need mechanic experience to come to a Cycle Jam?

A couple of words of caution. Sometimes people roll up to a Jam with just a few minutes to spare, or kids in tow. While this is ok, it’s hard to have a rewarding experience if you’re feeling rushed or distracted. Arriving at a Jam when you’ve left something in the oven would be a pretty silly move. Additionally, while CycleJam welcomes all learning styles and peoples, we do not abide machismo. If you care to share your knowledge and skills, do it with words, not by removing a tool from someone’s hands.

What about the future of Cycle Jam?

CycleJam should provide everyone with equal opportunities to learn more about their bicycles; no one should have to miss out. Since March 2013, we’ve had at least one Jam per week and worked with over 200 Jammers. Over the past several months, we have averaged over 10 participants a week… and it’s the middle of winter! With the improving weather, and greater publicity, we’re looking to increase our Wednesday hours to help meet demand. But CycleJam is run by volunteers, so it’s a balance between the time we have to offer and the demands of the community. Some local bike experts contribute time, like Doug Thompson, Stan and Joel from Monkey Wrench Cycles and Tsutsumi Nozomu. We’ve also got Peter and Emilio who help out a tonne. I’d love to be able to increase our reach to include a broader subset of Canberrans. We’ll be commencing programming in partnership with the Ted Noffs foundation in September, we’re focusing our Dickson Library partnership to target families over summer holidays and we’ve been looking for ways to reach out to elderly communities. Keeping CycleJam rolling is pretty time consuming.

We receive tremendous support from our participants, who share tools and parts freely. Additionally, we have partnerships with some great Canberra organisations. CycleJam is an initiative supported by Pedal Power ACT and that helps cover our public liability and supports the philosophy of Pedal Power. Canberra Environment Centre. Dickson Library and Gorman House Markets all freely provide venues for our use. The Recyclery helps us source second-hand parts. We’ve jammed with several other groups, such as the Food Co-op and “rip publishing” and try to never turn down an invitation.

How can people get involved in Cycle Jam?

Come to a Jam, immediately. CycleJam is an all-inclusive group. Check out CycleJam.org and fb.cyclejam.org to see what we get up to. We’ve got a map and calendar of events on our website and the events are on the Pedal Power calendar as well.

We meet every Wednesday from 4-6 at the Canberra Environment Centre’s bike workshop. On the first Saturday of every month, you can find us at the Gorman House Markets (which is also a great spot for brunch). Once a month we hold a Jam inside Dickson Library, which was recently ranked as the ACT’s favourite library according to the Australian Library and Information Association. If you need help finding CycleJam or have questions, contact us at jam@cyclejam.org or call Jac at 0478199886.

 

 

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