Weekender Ride

On N Williams, free bike help and advice

Posted by on March 16th, 2010 at 10:14 am

Free bike help and advice on N. Williams-2

Just another sign of life on N. Williams Ave.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Bike-oriented development on N. Williams Avenue isn’t reserved for bricks and mortar businesses. Yesterday while biking home I met Dan Sloan, a man who is offering free bike repairs and advice to anyone that stops by. His business consists of a hand-painted sandwich board sign, a bike repair stand, and some tools.

Do you work for tips? I asked. “No, although I took some Skittles one time.” Sloan says he’s written off the workaday world and just wants to do something good for people — perhaps in exchange for something good in return. “Everyone’s time is worth the same as everyone else’s… If everyone just did something they were good at for others… I mean, $15 to adjust a headset, that’s like two hours of work at a job you hate for a lot of people.”

Free bike help and advice on N. Williams-6

Dan Sloan, happy to help.

Besides his sign, which reads, “Free Bike Help and Advice,” Sloan’s main marketing tool is the big smile he flashes at the steady stream of bikes rolling by. In the few minutes I was there, he got a lot of thumbs-ups and appreciative yells.

Sloan says he plans to stay at that spot, adjacent to a vacant lot just north of Cook Street, during the evening commutes. “This is a good location,” he says, “lots of traffic.”

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Ron March 16, 2010 at 10:26 am

    There are good people everywhere. Thanks Dan for making my day.

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  • K'Tesh March 16, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Thanks for doing something for others Dan!

    All The Best!

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  • s.mirk March 16, 2010 at 10:50 am

    yay for Dan Sloan!

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  • Noah Genda March 16, 2010 at 11:14 am

    I have posted some questions on Craigslist before for general info on bike maintenance and without fail Dan was always one of the people that responded, good dude. I hope this works out for him. Thanks for helping the bike community Dan!

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  • Breesa March 16, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Dan is also one of the Community Cycling Center’s champion volunteers. He helped organize food donations and musicians for the 2009 Holiday Bike Drive *and* he formatted all the kids’ portraits. We are so lucky to have him.

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  • Jason Boone March 16, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Way to go Dan! This is awesome because I have been way overcharged at the other shop on Williams.

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  • Paul Tay March 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Taking notes in Tulsa.

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  • Matthew March 16, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Persons like Dan are the reason why Portland is the best place to live in the Country!!! My opinion anyways…

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  • Steve B. March 16, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Way to go, Dan! I think I may have seen Dan on the eastbank esplanade awhile back, doing the same thing. This is yet another thing that demonstrates what’s possible when we break out of our car culture. Talking to strangers = awesome, Helping strangers = unicorn awesome.

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  • kim March 16, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Yay Dan, you are awesome!

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  • Yeoh March 16, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I wish Dan had been at 12th & Couch at 3:00 PM yesterday, when I left work and found I had a flat 🙂 Great work, Dan!

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  • Nick V March 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Steve #9,

    I’m pretty sure I saw Dan on the esplanade too within the last few weeks. I must admit that the cynic in me saw the sign from a distance for free bike help and wondered if it was for real. As I approached him, we nodded to each other and he looked legit.

    Thanks Dan! And next time I’ll at least stop and say hi!

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 16, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Yes, Dan was on the Esplanade prior to setting up on Williams… but he said there wasn’t enough traffic on the Esplanade so he moved.

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  • frictionshifter March 16, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Although Dan must obviously be a good person, with a kind heart and altruistic intentions, I am afraid that his message might be interpreted that those who earn decent/honest livings working on bicycles are less ethical?

    I.E. I think this type of thing might be interpreted as saying: “Bike repair should be free; those who charge for same are unethical”??????????????

    It is always astonishing to me the level of support out there against bike shops (mechanics specifically) having the right to collect real/sustainable revenues to support the most magnificent, and virtuous form of transportation on earth………hmm?????

    Why is it that people in the bicycle trade don’t have the right to make decent/sustainable livings………….really, in Portland, a “living wage” is around $23 per hour…………not many bike mechanics making that for sure.

    I find it ironic that Bike Portland ends up being a platform for folks to continually to de-value and maybe even undermine the legitimacy of “for-profit” bicycle service and repair, yet many good/decent local shops advertise here……..

    Finally, how many of free or cheap bicycle service providers that get free press here, actually step up to the plate and financially support this site………………naw, leave it to the ‘corporate giants” to pay the bills…….they will never notice……….

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm


      I don’t think Dan’s “message” should be interpreted like that at all. No one is insinuating that bike repair should be free and that those who charge are “unethical”. People that work in bike shops absolutely have the right to earn a decent living.

      As for your assertion that BikePortland is a “platform for folks to de-value/undermine for profit bike service and repair” wow. I don’t know how to respond to that other than saying I absolutely disagree with you. If people make comments saying they aren’t satisfied with their experience at a local shop, that is up to them (as long as they do it without being mean or rude). You might also recall that I’ve done many stories where the major shops in town have been featured and commenters have given them accolades.

      As for advertising. I don’t care who advertises where. I look at things from their value as interesting news items.. i don’t care where they come from! If the “corporate giants” you refer to don’t want to “pay the bills” than they’re free to stop advertising here. That’s their choice…but I think they understand that our community is stronger and better served when there is a diverse range of choices out there. It’s about the tide rising all the boats right?

      Thanks for your comment.

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  • Ron March 16, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Hey Friction…,
    Maybe you’re reading too much into the comments? Maybe people just want to feel good about something and if Dan had been giving out free ice cream to cyclists many of the same things would have been said. Nobody is saying bike mechanics shouldn’t earn a living wage. It would seem that Dan is a bit of a free spirit without a lot of overhead so to speak so to look at this situation as anything other than an anomoly is a mistake in my opinion.
    Best regards,

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  • el timito March 16, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I support bike mechanics getting paid a living wage. I also support cafe employees being paid decently.

    But I’m still in favor of Breakfast on the Bridges handing out coffee and pastry, just for a smile.

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  • Yeoh March 16, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Frictionshifter, I’m afraid you have terribly misinterpreted Dan and Bike Portland in shining a spotlight on him. Sorry to say, but chip shoulder much? Dan appears to be simply a good hearted person giving back and hoping others will do the same in whatever way they choose. I for one, will not go out of my way to find Dan and have him do a bottom bracket rebuild for me, just because it would be too inconvenient. But if I come upon him and find my headset loose, hell yeah I’ll pull over and hope to have a nice chat with him.

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  • frictionshifter March 16, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Chip on shoulder? probably. I just get tired of the contingent (hopefully smaller than I think) of bike folks that feel that since bikes are efficient and inexpensive the cost to have SOMEONE ELSE service them should be cheap or free.

    Dan said:
    “I mean, $15 to adjust a headset, that’s like two hours of work at a job you hate for a lot of people.”

    That statement could pretty easily be interpreted as de-valuing a professional mechanic’s expertise……..in the field of mechanics it’s not just pure time that is for sale, but expertise, judgment, and, finally, the ownership of liability.

    Certainly the folks with true financial need who depend on bikes should absolutely have help options for little to no cost which I happily support.

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  • wsbob March 16, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Seems to me like a gesture of good karma, part of a philosophical, spiritual journey as old as time. It’s doubtful he’s going to put all the vitally needed bike mechanics in town out of business or make them look like rip off artists because he’s doing this thing for free.

    Also note, the guy being helped with repair in the top photo…wearing the huge backpack…good guess is this might be a homeless person. Not exactly a person that’s going to be dropping his rig off to worked by a mechanic at the bike shop.

    frictionshifter, your line about what a living wage is in Portland got a laugh out me. $23 bucks an hour? That’s knucking futz. Sure…it’d be nice if everyone in Portland was making that amount of money, minimum.

    Food on the table, roof overhead, and clothes on the back is a living many people achieve on quite a bit less than $23/hr.

    Professional bike repair done at a shop is already not exactly cheap. Make it expensive, and what happens? Bikes become a less attractive transportation option.

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  • Dan March 16, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Hey everyone. Thanks for all your kind words and appreciative/affirmative statements. If you see me out there feel free to stop and hang out for a minute. Until then!

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  • Huggybear March 16, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Great fill good story. Almost made it without neg. comments.

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  • ben March 16, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    dan is a good dude.
    i see this as him embracing portland.
    as ali g once said, “toh-uh respeCK!”

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  • Andrew March 16, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Thank you Frictionshifter.

    I am in nearly full agreement with your analysis.

    I appreciate anyone doing “good”, but I am uncomfortable with someone I don’t know, who may or may not have enough experience working on someones bike for which they depend on for safety.

    I also find it personally annoying when someone’s financial privilege gives them the ability to not have to worry about money, or getting paid. Gee that must be great.

    Hey all, look for me on I205 tomorrow I’ll be doing free brake jobs. I only have a hammer, but hey that is the kind of spirit that makes Portland great.

    God, I can’t wait to move out of this town.

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  • natallica March 17, 2010 at 2:27 am

    LMAO at andrew!

    “God, I can’t wait to move out of this town”

    yea, doesn’t it suck that there are people out there offering to help others for free, and if you uncomfortable with that you don’t even have to stop?

    RUN ANDREW!!!!

    Dan, you rock!

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  • Ron March 17, 2010 at 5:49 am

    Andrew: “Hey all, look for me on I205 tomorrow I’ll be doing free brake jobs. I only have a hammer, but hey that is the kind of spirit that makes Portland great.

    God, I can’t wait to move out of this town.”

    Hyperbolic much? You’re comparing a brake job on a car with a brake adjustment (probably the most Dan would have done) on a bike? Sort of a ridiculous analogy.

    Too bad you’re leaving but maybe you’ll be more comfortable in Atlanta or Kentuckistan or wherever. I hear there is a great bike lane there.

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  • Kt March 17, 2010 at 10:25 am

    See, when I read Dan’s quote:

    “I mean, $15 to adjust a headset, that’s like two hours of work at a job you hate for a lot of people.”

    I was thinking, that’s one hour of work behind a computer for some of us, in a cube farm maybe, working with people who drive you crazy.

    I didn’t think that he meant bike mechanics; I highly doubt bike mechanics are paid minimum wage to do the work they do.

    Where did the $23/hr come from? I wish I could make that kind of bank. I work in payroll, in an office with people who sometimes drive me crazy, and I get paid a lot less than $23/hr.

    Anyway: So there’s someone out there who wants to help people keep their bikes in good trim, and wants to do it for free.

    Good. I’m sure he got as tired as I do of hearing those squeaky chains and squealing brakes, and he decided to do something about it.

    Maybe, those actions of his are encouraging people who maybe just started riding for transportation or fun and didn’t know there was something wrong with their bikes. Maybe his actions are keeping people riding who might stop because their bikes are in poor shape.

    Thanks, JM, for giving this guy some legitimacy. I hope he continues his work.

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  • are March 17, 2010 at 11:01 am

    re comment 26, in fairness, in the main article dan does talk about doing a headset adjustment, which does require more than a hammer. the location he has chosen is not far from the bikefarm, where a person can learn to do the work herself.

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  • frictionshifter March 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    The $23 per hour living wage figure is from city of Portland. Living wage is different than “existing” wage, which, if I remember was something around $13 per hour. I believe the higher figure is what it takes for people to have savings and moderate security…..I doubt that is enough for someone to own a home etc.

    Ron says:
    “Hyperbolic much? You’re comparing a brake job on a car with a brake adjustment (probably the most Dan would have done) on a bike? Sort of a ridiculous analogy.”

    Hmm, ridiculous? If Dan, or any mechanic does a faulty brake adjustment on a bike and the human being operating the bike (vehicle) is killed as a result, do you suppose the legal community would sue to a lesser level since it’s “just a bike”???

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  • AaronF March 17, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I watched Dan take a kitten behind a dumpster and eat it.

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  • steve March 17, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    I have seen so many people riding their bicycles with under-inflated tires and actualy thought about doing what Dan is doing…setting up somewhere and offering free air.
    I’d just be happy to help out a fellow bike freak.

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  • John March 17, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Hey folks,

    Dan is a fine fellow – roadside bike repair for free.
    However, some caveats:
    #1 If you receive service from Dan, ethically you should pay that forward with a like minded deed for another soul.
    #2 Most, not all, local shop bike mechanics are under valued and under paid for their considerable expertise. Most shop ‘wrenches’ barely make more that the ‘survival wage’ of $13/hr. quoted above.
    #3 Dan’s admirable service to the bike community could be construed as under-cutting the value of a mechanic. What I find is that shops set quotas and limits on the number of and time spent on repair ticket items for a customer’s bike. Those constraints can and do impact (+ or -) the quality of service rendered at a shop – and that, when service is sub-par, can devalue mechanical service more than Dan’s freebies ever can.
    #4 Last – When you need to get service for your bike, patronize shops where you can speak direct to the person working on your ride. That makes for an effective repair, a better community and promotes the true value in what Dan provides.
    Cheers all – ride safe.
    signed: John, old guy, long time cyclist, United Bicycle Institute Professional Mechanics Course graduate and CCC volunteer.

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  • Mark Allyn March 17, 2010 at 8:17 pm


    Thank you for what you are doing!

    You are what make this community!



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  • matt w March 24, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Hey Dan,

    Just saw you and this article mentioned on Bike Snob NYC.


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  • pedicab advertising April 14, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    I have seen so many people riding their bicycles with under-inflated tires and actually thought about doing what Dan is doing setting up somewhere and offering free air.”Hyperbolic much? You’re comparing a brake job on a car with a brake adjustment (probably the most Dan would have done) on a bike? Sort of a ridiculous analogy.”

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