Learn by Doing at Bikes del Pueblo

Get your bike back on the road with a little help from your friends.

On a cloudy Sunday morning on El Cajon Boulevard in City Heights, Manny Orozco leaned over Marcus Slaughter’s bike, a Giant hybrid, adjusting the rear derailleur, explaining as he went. Derailleur fixed, Manny moved on to other issues he saw on the bike: a sketchy seat post, a loose stem, a questionable brake cable. But rather than fix these glitches himself, Manny handed Marcus the wrench and instructed him.

Learning by doing is the philosophy of Bikes del Pueblo, a volunteer-run organization where anyone can come and learn what it takes to get their bike back on the road with a little effort and less money. Volunteer Matt Pendergraft notes, “It’s all about learning by doing. The DIY ethos is big. We want the tool in the person’s hand as much as possible.” Bikes del Pueblo provides tools, technical assistance, and a shipping container of parts; the “customers” provide the elbow grease.

Waste diversion is another big part of Bikes del Pueblo. The shipping container is full of bikes and parts that could have been headed for the landfill. Some bikes are for sale (very reasonably), but other donated bikes are in a state of disrepair, waiting for a potential rider who wants to put in the hours and come away with both a free bike and a new set of bike-repair skills.

Volunteers will also spend time building up bikes for sale or to keep. Jane Iglesia started volunteering in June 2022 and didn’t know anything about bike repair. After about six months of helping, watching, and learning, she decided to build up a Jamis. “This is my first time building one on my own,” she said as she fixed one of the tires. She’ll use the pink cruiser for her daily commuting around City Heights. 

Nearby, another volunteer talked to a customer about her broken De Rosa road bike as they sifted through a small bin of bottom brackets to find one that would work. “My crank completely fell off,” said Tania Alatorre, who had organized a fundraiser for Bikes del Pueblo before needing their services now. The Oak Park resident was excited to get back on her bike to ride all around San Diego.

Find Bikes del Pueblo on Sundays from 10 am to 3pm at 4050 El Cajon Boulevard (there is parking if you need to drive there). Donations of cash, bikes, and parts are accepted, though with limited space, they can’t accept all used bikes and parts. Time, tires, tubes, and tools, and well as chains and chain lube are always needed.

For more information, visit bikesdelpueblosd.blogspot.com or email them at bi**************@gm***.com.

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Nicki and Jim Miller
Nicki and Jim Miller
Jim and Nicki Miller are editors of Bluedot San Diego and Bluedot Santa Barbara. Jim has been a writer and environmental economist for over 25 years, in the private sector, academia, and public service. Nicki has been creating content and editing for more than 20 years, working at The Washington Post, Martha's Vineyard Magazine, Women's Running Magazine, and San Diego Humane Society. Since they love San Diego's opportunities to be on the water and in the mountains, you may see them cycling along the Silver Strand or hitting the trails in Cuyamaca.
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