Featured Volunteer: Sam McDermott

Keeping the mobile repair stand running week after week is a big job, and it all falls to our amazing volunteer mechanics. We thought it might be nice for all the lovely people on the internet to meet these awesome individuals, so this will be the first in a series of Featured Volunteer posts, introducing you to the incredible men and women who will help you fix your bike in rain or shine or wind that blows our tent away.

Sam McDermott

Physics Ph. D. student

What kind of bike(s) do you ride?
Surly Crosscheck; Alien (fixed gear); currently building up a Schwinn Sports Tourer to be a heavy, reliable, bad weather commuter.

How did you get into fixing bicycles?
I got involved through a volunteer organization in Philadelphia much like Common Cycle, called Bike Church. I mostly got into bike repair because I wanted to true my own wheels, then I picked up so much knowledge from folks there that I felt like I could help out by teaching other people myself.

What is your most favorite bike maintenance task?
Wheels – truing, building, repacking hubs, everything.

What is your least favorite bike maintenance task?
Derailleurs – I’m scared any time someone wants me to explain them, because I make it up every time I do.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done on bicycle?
I rode a tandem 20 miles one time with a girl I really liked.


Halfway, or as my dad likes to tell me, it’s all down hill from here. Let’s pick up speed and blast through the goal.

Thank you to all our backers for funding our Mobile Repair Stand Kickstarter!

Right now, everything on the Mobile Repair Stand is borrowed from volunteers.  When we make the Kickstarter goal, we’ll have the money to purchase the tools, tents, and trailers we borrow every week to run the Mobile Repair Stand.

If you are thinking about helping us out, do go to our Kickstarter.  It is as easy as buying something on Amazon, and we’ll love you forever. Really!

Our first bike repair workshop was great!

Last week Common Cycle pulled together our first bike repair workshop. Many thanks to Sic Transit Cycles for letting us use their space for this event. While we march forward on the path to finding a shop of our own help like this is invaluable.

You may not have heard about this workshop in advance: It came together in a hurry and was a test of sorts for us. Thankfully the workshop was a great success and we plan to have more in the future. Next time we’ll get the word out and you can participate.

All told we had about a dozen people and four stands with bikes. Our design was to have the group decide what they wanted to learn. There was an instant consensus: Derailluers!

I learned about derailleurs with Molly and Anika from Eric. We put my bike up on the stand it is as shifty as ever now. One nagging problem I’d had in the middle of my cassette was massaged away by our combined tinkering.

In addition to the help from Sic Transit, a special thanks to Commoners Steve Cain, Sam McDermott, Jimmy Ragget, and Eric Jankowski for teaching the rest of us about how our shifty bits work, and how to adjust them.

Kickstarter Started!

The mobile repair stand has been hugely successful: we love it, and you’ve been telling us you love it, so we’re raising the funds to make it a permanent fixture in our community.  This morning we kicked off our first big fundraiser over at Kickstarter.com.  Kickstarter is a super cool, all-or-nothing way to fund creative projects and we’re very excited that our mobile repair fundraiser was accepted.  So click here to check out the fundraiser, and thank you so much for your support!

Good timing

Yesterday, our first pop-up shelter we can call our own showed up in the mail.  It couldn’t have come at a better time, since it poured while we were at the artisan market today.  In fact, no sooner had the top been strapped onto the EZ-up did the downpour come, and we huddled underneath it with Ryan and Ed and their coffee trike.  By the way, the coffee trike coffee is a life saver on Sundays.  You guys are the best.  You’ll have to forgive me for not getting photos of the mayhem, but immediately afterwards I got Justin admiring Richard’s rack:

I also didn’t get a photo of critical mass celebrity Chris Carlsson who stopped by to chat for a while.  Although, he did get a photo of us, so maybe you can find another picture of the white tent and goofy mechanics on his blog soon.  He has some pretty cool stories, and it just goes to show you that you never know who’s going to show up to the mobile repair stand.

While it was a little disappointing to not have the foresight to get me grinning like an idiot with Chris, I did have the wherewithal to snap this bad boy last night:

Oh yeah, that’s a common cycle spoke card on a bike I don’t recognize at German Park.  Way to show the love!  By the way, reflective clothing and blinky lights are a must-have for the bike ride home from German Park.  There is a lot of beer consumed there, and I’m pretty sure nobody spends the night.

In other news of good times to come, the Bike Maintenance 101 workshop we’ve been talking about for a long time is tentatively scheduled for June 13th at Sic Transit.  Please contact us so we can gauge interest and focus our attention on the skills you want most.

Chains: what goes around, comes around

A few weeks ago, a friendly stranger came by the mobile repair stand with a new chain.  As it turned out, her broken but otherwise quite nice chain was perfectly salvageable with the removal of a link.  This left the new chain without a destination, so she decided to leave it in our parts bin.

Earlier tonight that chain saved the day (night?).  The mobile repair stand, with chain in tow, happened to be in the right place at the right time to get the chain on a bike that needed one badly.

So, thanks friendly stranger!  You earned some major bike karma tonight.

Bikes are freedom

Last night I was listening in on a conversation about the dangers of cycling with cars and was kindof surprised by the range of opinions that were expressed about cycling safety. Ideas from hyper-defensive riding (assume all cars are trying to hit you), to reasoning with drivers a their windows, to mandatory transponders that inform drivers a squishy human is near, and every possible solution inbetween surfaced as a way to keep cyclists safe. All this got me thinking about scary things that keep people off their bikes (cars, thunderstorms, fear of bears in the woods), and it reminded me of a great article I’d just read about why people ride. Click here to read it.

One thing that really hit home in the article was the diversity of cyclists it discussed (commuters, racers, just-plain-crazies, etc), and how for every flavor of cyclist the bike was a freedom enabler.  Be it geographical exploration, self-expression, or just exercise, bikes let people do what they want, how they want.  Anyway, that’s enough analysis from me.  Check out the article, or go ride your bike!