Spent the afternoon today at the Bike Dump, a free, volunteer run bike repair workshop. I fixed my bike up in a jiffy (all I needed from last year was a tweak on my seat, it kept tipping forward) but O's old bike (not all that old, I bought it at the start of last summer) is in a woeful state. One of the crank rods was bent, the crank itself was cracked, his seat is tippy and dangerous too, his back tire is bent, the gears don't really work and the brakes work too well.
O put about 3 hours into fixing the bike up well enough to ride today, while I did a quick snack shop at Sun Wah, a nearby Chinese grocery store (and one of my favorite places ever.) It didn't really work out too well for him, he and the Bike Dump volunteer got a new crank and rod on, but neglected to check the attachment hole before putting it all together, so O wound up riding home on a pedals that were at a 45 degree angle (or 135 degree angle, if you look at it the other way) rather than the standard, usable, 90 degrees. I thought he was going to throw the bike by the end of our ride home.
No big deal, though, since the Bike Dump has frames and cannibalized parts to put together a new bike for him later in the week. He needs a bigger bike than he's got right now, he's not freakishly big (6'2"), but his current bike, which has the largest mountain bike frame available (26") looks like a clown bike when he's on it right now. He's picked out another 26" frame, but it's a very sturdy ten speed frame, and with any luck, he'll be able to find a seat with a very, very long post next week, either at the Dump, or at a bike supply shop (we may have to pony up the dough for a new part), so it'll be more comfortable to ride.
The Bike Dump is part of an a loose anarchist collective that includes Mondragon, the Emma Goldman Grassroots centre, and Food not Bombs. And what a beautiful example of anarchism in action it is. The space is run by volunteers, runs on donations of both cash and supplies, there are volunteers available to help fix or build bikes, from mechanical experts, to people who've just learned how to change a tire and are eager to teach someone else their new skill. Tools and supplies are organized in freecycled bins and milk boxes, no one is in charge, everyone reminds everyone to put things back where they belong, jumps in to help out with a particularly frustrating repair.
I've had a few discussions over on MDC about the connection between unschooling and the punk anarchist DIY ethic, and this place was such a great example of the open sharing of skills, labour and supplies that I think typifies both worlds at their best.