March 31, 2004

Superlist no. 794

The art of bicycle maintenance
S.F. bike shops show you how to keep your ride in good shape.

By Julie Johnson

IF YOU DREAM of confidently tinkering with your 10-speed or patching a tire halfway up Mount Diablo but don't know Allen from his wrench, this is the town for you. A number of San Francisco's zillion bike shops have classes that will get you up to your elbows in chains and grease. Call to confirm class times and dates and sign up in advance.

Cyclists who haven't ridden since the advent of their driver's license (and anyone else) can attend a free 90-minute "bicycle basics" clinic at American Cyclery. Staffers take attendees through the anatomies of road, mountain, and hybrid bikes; discuss maintenance and trouble-shooting; and close with a flat-repair demo. Clinics are first Tuesdays through September, 7 p.m. Call the day of the clinic to confirm and sign up. 858 Stanyan, S.F. (415) 876-4545, www.americancyclery.com.

The guys at Big Swingin' Cycles say theirs is the shop with "zero attitude" seminars that get laypeople up on bike parlance, how often to pump their tires, and the pros and cons of a stiffer frame. After you're confident you can patch a flat, take the cyclo-cross class and learn to race through mud holes, shoulder the bike while climbing over a fallen redwood, circumvent a steep bank after rounding a corner, and bunny-hop barricades in this sport designed for challenge maniacs. Other clinics help you master such transitions as summer to fall and uphill to downhill. Basic clinics are free. Sign up on the e-mail list for an updated schedule. 2157 Lombard, S.F. (415) 441-6294, www.bigswingincycles.com.

The Bike Hut, whose signature project is a mentorship program for at-risk youth, is Victor Veysey's test model for total revolution, a future of sustainable, solar-powered microbike communities. And until recently, women worked on their freedom rides there in a free workshop. Veysey is out of town until April; call in April for updates. Pier 40, Townsend and Embarcadero, S.F. (415) 543-4335, www.thebikehut.com.

City Cycle offers small, hands-on classes at its two maintenance clinics. The goal of Mark Foose, who teaches the three-hour "Bicycle Basics," is for everyone to leave properly equipped with reference guides and qualified to perform roadside repair. Ian Casey digs deeper into the art of repair with "In-Depth Maintenance for the Home Mechanic," from adjusting the derailleur and overhauling the headset bearing to truing the wheel. In four two-and-a-half-hour sessions, participants learn to solve problems on the fly and leave with grease, brake cables, and other free goodies. City Cycle also offers lectures, athletic training, and organized rides. The basic class, usually held Wednesdays, is $70. The advanced one is $425 and is offered three times a year. 3001 Steiner, S.F. (415) 346-2242, www.citycycle.com.

Give the old Trek an overhaul with 25 years' worth of stockpiled tools at Freewheel, where instructor Heather leads the class in patching, cleaning, installing, cranking, replacing, adjusting, truing, and other verbs performed during a professional tune-up – all in two four-hour sessions. With the $100 class fee, bikers get a half-year membership to Freewheel's four-station community workshop space, where all those venerable tools can be found. Freewheel also offers a wheel-building clinic twice a year. 1920 Hayes, S.F. (415) 752-9195, www.thefreewheel.com.

Newcomers to the world of cycling can get a free bike-repair demonstration at Lombardi Sports. In about 45 minutes, you'll learn to adjust brakes, shift gears appropriately, and fill tires with air when the gas station pump doesn't work. The demo is catered to the audience, so bring questions. Everyone leaves with a free patch kit and/or water bottle. Lombardi also hosts organized weekend rides for beginners. Clinics are usually the first Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. 1600 Jackson, S.F. (415) 771-0600, www.lombardisports.com.

Urban cyclists get a combination of demos and hands-on help at Pedal Revolution, home to experts at refurbishing even the most desperate bikes. Instructor Andrew has crafted a series of 10 free classes, usually every other Sunday, that starts with flat repair and daily bike maintenance and progresses to more complex troubleshooting techniques. A $30 Pedal Rev membership gets you work-space and tool access and supports the shop's training program for at-risk youth. 3085 21st St., S.F. (415) 641-1264, www.pedalrevolution.com.