L to R: Jennifer Collins, community outreach coordinator; Becca Dillon, co-founder; Ariel Raymon, co-founder.
(Photos © Jonathan Maus)
Ariel Raymon loved learning how to work on her bike as a member of The Bike Church, a community bike shop based in Santa Cruz, California. She learned how to use tools, enjoyed the non-intimidating atmosphere, saved money on maintenance, and realized that bike repair is something anyone could learn to do.
But when she moved to Portland two years ago, she was surprised nothing like it existed here.
Now, Ariel and her friend Becca Dillon — along with a core team of volunteers — are the force behind Bike Farm, a new bike shop collective that hopes to officially open its doors this December in Northeast Portland.
I recently sat down with Becca, Ariel, and Bike Farm’s community outreach coordinator Jennifer Collins to learn more about what they’re up to.
Back in August, Ariel says she and Becca — who met through mutual friends — started talking about the idea of a collectively run, non-profit, community bike shop. Then, they both started sharing the idea with others at local bike events.
They were both surprised at how things came together after that. “Once we started putting the word out, we quickly formed a base of people that wanted to work on this project,” said Becca.
According to Ariel, the idea seemed to be already brewing. “As soon as I started talking about it, other people wondered, ‘yeah, why isn’t there something like that in Portland?’ so I said we’re working on it, why don’t you join us?”.
Soon, Ariel had a list of interested people on a phone list and says, “I just started calling people and we had our first meeting.”
That was in September and they’ve been meeting every week since. Last week they turned in final documents to their lawyer and their non-profit filing is now officially in progress.
“It shouldn’t be hard for people to ride bikes. If maintenance and expense are discouraging people, than I hope we can help with that.”
–Bike Farm co-founder Becca Dillon
As we chatted over the bustle of a downtown coffee shop, Becca, Ariel, and community outreach coordinator Jennifer Collins, said they are still figuring out many specifics, but they all agree that the Bike Farm will be about promoting bikes and sustainability, involving the community, and making bikes accessible to more people in a supportive and fun environment.
Jennifer — who moved to Portland two years ago from suburban New York — knows about the importance of support and community firsthand. She said it was too dangerous to ride in New York, but now she doesn’t even own a car:
“When I first started riding bikes, none of my friends rode. I was totally on my own…I was taking my bike to shops and spending all this money, but I realized I didn’t need to.”
For Ariel, who moved to Portland just two years ago, Bike Farm is also about creating a welcoming space:
“When I moved here I found most shops to be intimidating for women. It really bothered me that it was so male-dominated. There was no place I could go and feel comfortable except for North Portland Bikeworks once a week for three hours. At the Bike Church, they had four female mechanics.
I just thought it’d be great to have a space that was comfortable for everyone and not just a place to shell out $30 every time something breaks and come away with no knowledge. At the Bike Farm, people can give us less money, and come away with all the knowledge.”
Ariel says a bike repair educational program will be at the core of Bike Farm.
Based on the Bike Church model, their space (a few blocks north of Alberta Street in a detached garage near NE 13th and Roselawn) will be open three days a week.
During open hours, two trained mechanics will be on shift and anyone can stop by and learn how to fix their bike and/or use the shop’s tools to do it themselves. In order to use the shop and get the expert help, memberships will be available for either $20/month or $50/year. If unable to pay, Ariel says the services will be available at a suggested donation of $5 per hour. (If that’s still too steep, Ariel says folks can grab a broom and work off their bill.)
The Bike Farm hopes to become much more than just a place to work on bikes. Other programs they plan to develop are: a women and trans night (at a different day/time than the one at North Portland Bikeworks); a wheelbuilding workshop; a touring class; and a family cycling clinic. The shop will also sell basic supplies like tubes and patch kits.
Co-founder Becca Dillon hopes the people of Bike Farm and the services it provides will help make bikes accessible to more people:
“It shouldn’t be hard for people to ride bikes. If maintenance and expense are discouraging people, than I hope we can help with that…we want to make it easy for everybody.”
Current plans are to open the shop on December 1st, have an open house event on December 8th, and then have a grand opening block party this coming Spring.
To learn more about Bike Farm, make a donation, or just get involved, visit BikeFarm.org.