We decided to skip the column on The Broke Girl’s Guide to: Transportation, as it would have consisted of two words: “Walk,” and “bike.” The former is quite self-explanatory, but the latter is a bit more complicated and can become a pricey hobby for the inexperienced. Whether you’re already out riding a rusty set of wheels or have a set in storage that needs a bit of TLC, rest assured that tender bike love and care can be done on the cheap if you’re willing to put in some elbow grease.
For cycling amateurs, DIY repair shops are hands down the cheapest, and in our opinion, the most fun way to repair and maintain your bike. Don’t expect a quick and easy fix as you, yes you, will be expected to do the majority of the grunt work. But in return you’ll be rewarded with the satisfaction of having fixed your own bike, and will hopefully have learned something, too. Here are a few DIY bike repair centres in the city:
Our favourite part about Bike Pirates is their trans- and women- only Sundays (12pm to 6pm), where the fairer sex can get down and dirty with bike repairs without feeling intimidated. We visited on a recent Sunday with a gear shifter problem, and while the volunteer staffer didn’t know how to fix it off the bat, she helped us to look up the solution in their library, and together we repaired it in no time. New parts are sold at a fair price, while used parts (and your use of their services) are paid for by a Pay What You Can system. They suggest you consider the parts you used, how much help you got, and how long you spent in the shop when making your donation.
Community Bicycle Network
This non-profit has been running for an impressive 20 years, and is big on promoting affordable bike maintenance in an environmentally-friendly way—which often means fixing up old bikes that were headed to the dump, or at least using their parts. Use of the space—which includes bike stands and all the necessary tools—costs $12 an hour, with the cost of any new bike parts you’ve used on top. If you need an expert’s help for your repair, that will run you another $60 an hour, but they do note that most repairs can be done in less time.
U of T has a great DIY non-profit setup on the St. George campus that is staffed with friendly mechanics and volunteers. The shop is funded through U of T student levies, but non-students are welcome to use the services through a Pay What You Can system. And an added bonus for U of T students: you can rent a bike for up to a week at a time for free! The shop does get quite busy, with a five-bike limit at a time, so we recommend you make an appointment by phone or email beforehand.
For those of you located out in the East end, this will be your go-to place for DIY bike repairs. They’re new to the biz, celebrating their one-year anniversary just last November, but they’re by no means lacking in service or expertise. They also hold other great events like rides, repair clinics, and movie nights. An added bonus is that their graffiti-covered garage door is pretty bad-ass, if we do say so.
Remember that all of these great institutions are largely volunteer-run and donation funded, so enjoy the services respectfully and consider giving back to the shop if you had a good experience. Happy riding!