Shifting Gears Welcomes New General Manager

Matt Hanson

Matt Hanson

Shifting Gears is pleased to announce that Matthew Hanson has accepted the position of General Manager for the Summer of 2014!  Matt brings with him a wealth of non-profit experience and a heart for the folks we serve.  You may know him from his work at Evergreen or more recently Schoolcraft.  We saw him in action this weekend as Dillon Engel, our long term chief mechanic, oriented him to the shop, and a crew of six of us started a long overdue cleanup and reorganization.  This is going to be a great summer for Shifting Gears!

The process of getting our house in order will require that we close the shop until Saturday July 12.  At that time we should have a good supply of bikes to go out on a first come first served basis.  If you have an urgent need or wish to arrange for donation drop off please call our new number 766-2465 and leave a message.  We will do our best to serve you.  Stay tuned for exciting changes as we work to increase and improve our services to low income cyclists in Bemidji.

And don’t forget Loop the Lake this Saturday.  You may register on site Saturday morning.  Shifting Gears will be at the start to air up your tires and lube your chains.  See you there!


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Nice Ride is coming to town!!

Nice Ride

First glimpse of the Nice Ride bike to be deployed here in Bemidji!  I love the colors!

To the tune of Santa Claus is Coming to Town:

You’d better gear up
You’re going to fly
Strap on your helmet
I’m telling you why,
Nice Ride bikes are coming to town!

You’ll ride them to your workplace.
You’ll ride them to the park,
Their lights will guide you safely home
If you can’t get there by dark.

Oh, your basket is full
Of needed supplies
pedaling home your smile is wide,
Nice Ride Bikes are coming to town!

Yes, folks, Nice Ride MN  is bringing bike share to Bemidji Minnesota! This spring a fleet of 100 specially designed bikes will be deployed in our Fair City for use by commuters and tourists, shoppers, and those of us who just want to enjoy a little exercise and fresh air in our beautiful town. The program will feature low rental rates for locals, convenient locations, and multiple drop of sites. The bikes are awesome. These 3 speed beauties are equipped with lights, a bell, and a rugged basket that can handle a whole bag of groceries. The chain is fully enclosed to minimize maintenance and prevent those black “chain kisses” on your ankle. Seat is fully adjustable. If you want a sneak preview of the bike come out for The Night We Light on Friday November 29th (see the home page for details).   We will have a prototype bike on display (it will be in the parade).  It will be available for test rides after the parade and other times during the holiday season.   Santa knows that when it comes to bikes Bemidji is never naughty, and always NICE!


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Shifting Gears Clelbrates 10 Years with Open House

Sunday August 19th we all had a great time with food, bike blenders, stickers and buttons!  Thanks to all who came, made cash and bike donations, and volunteered to make the event a success.

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Traffic 101 Adult Cycling Educational Opportunity

Traffic 101, a 9 hour cycling course for adults, is being offered in Bemidji this week!  Learn how to ride in traffic with confidence, learn how to do basic maintenance on your own bike, learn how to handle your bike with confidence in any situation and much more.  See the home page for more details.

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First Bike Clinic of the Year!

Dan, Marie, and Pastor Bob at the first bike clinic in Cass Lake

Alex with his new helmet

Saturday March 24th we held the first Shifting Gears clinic of 2012 in Cass Lake.  We are very excited about the new Peoples Church Site.  Located at the corner of 2nd Street and Balsam, there is a large garage with a paved apron right on the street.  Lots of storage space and work space inside and out.  Perfect for throwing up the stands and getting to work.  We were very fortunate to receive a generous donation of used bikes from the Concordia Language Villages so we had plenty of bikes and parts to give away.

Harold's new wheels





Dan DeVault rode in on his  Raleigh DL-1 pulling his home-made trailer with tools and pump attached.  So cool!  Wish I had gotten a picture.  I came from Bemidji on my trusty yellow recumbent fully loaded with tools, the banner, and other sundry items for the day.  We met at the church at 1pm, got the stands up and the tools out just in time to meet our first customers.  Marie Lowry and her son Alex came by.  Alex has outgrown his bike and Marie was in need of a bike to try to keep up with her energetic kids.  We didn’t have one that fit him on Saturday but found one this week and delivered it  today.  Now they can get out and enjoy the spring weather. Harold needed a bike to get around the town so we fixed him up a fine set of wheels.  The chilly wind didn’t keep the kids away.  We were busy for several hours oiling chains, airing tires, and fixing flats.  Dan has earned his stripes!  We were busy.  A fun day and only the first of many more come this summer.

Alex and his cool Diamondback!

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Desert Beauty in February

After only a week at home, Electra, my black New World Tourist, and I flew to Tucson for a week-long educational program, part of my fellowship in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona.  I’ll post a little later about the joys (immense) and challenges (tiny) of traveling with a folding bicycle, but right now I’ll just share some photos of the desert in February.  With a little extra time on both ends of the program I had plenty of time to enjoy cycling and Tucson is a very bike friendly town.  (Will post later on this too).

The Saguaro National Park has two locations on the outskirts of Tucson, Electra and I took in the eastern one.  The ride out there and the 8 mile loop inside the park are very popular bike routes.  We saw cyclist of all stripes, from recumbents to mountain bikes, to serious roadies.  Sabino canyon was another day’s ride.  I love the rides out into the foothills as the trappings of the city disappear and the emerges desert in all its stark beauty.  The canyon has a narrow paved road about 9 miles long.  Much of the work done to make the canyon accessible was done by the WPA and the CCC during the 1930’s and ’40s.  A reminder of the enduring benefits of those taxpayer funded, public projects.  Due to the condition of the roads and the operation of a shuttle cyclists use of the road is limited to certain days and hours.  I missed the opportunity this trip but hope to do it next year.  I contented myself with a shuttle pass that enabled go deep into the canyon and spend my time hiking along the river.  Some of my favorite passages in Isaiah talk about water in the desert.  The sound of running water is always healing to me, but to hear it, see it, and bathe my feet in it surrounded by rocks, sand, and cactus under the hot Arizona sun was profoundly spiritual.  I sat on rocks and put my hands into the mortars carved into them by ancient Native Americans to grind their corn, watched a noisy duck make its way downstream,  marveled at the age of saguaro cacti, hundreds of years old backlit by the setting sun.  The pictures only hint at the deep beauty here.  West of town is Starr Pass, a beautiful stretch of desert, well worth the climbing.  Unfortunately marred by the Marriott and a massive most unnaturally green golf course.

If you are traveling to Tucson check out the Roadrunner Hostel.  I stayed several nights there.  $20 for the dorm, $40 for a private room.  Friendly staff, cooking facilities, free breakfast, internet, and lots of interesting people to talk to.  Location is fabulous, right on the edge of dowtown.  I was able to walk to theatre to take in a superb production of The Great Gatsby by the Arizona Stage Company.

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Cycling back in time

Still in Vermont and yesterday the temperature topped 40 degrees.  Brownie and I set out to retrace rides I used to do over 40 years ago when I first started getting places by bicycle. 

We moved to Vermont when I was 7 years old.  My folks built a new house in Hullcrest, one of the developments that sprang up in the 60’s to house workers moving into jobs at IBM and General Electric.  It was there I learned to ride my mother’s old single speed JC Higgins bicycle (couldn’t wait to get rid of it, would love to have it now!)  I  spent hours riding around and around the circle made by Birch Road and Pinehurst Drive always chased by the local dogs.  On one memorable ride there were at least 6 of them and the very smallest took a nip out of my ankle. 

I was 13 when I got my first real job at the University of Vermont in the laboratory of Dr. William Meyer.  My job was to clean the animal room and keep genetic records for the mouse colony.  I was thrilled, but my parents weren’t, especially when it came to getting me there and back.  So I declared I would get there on my own power, on my bike.

I had a green Columbia Tourist by that time.  Three speed Shimano hub with twist shfter and an odometer.  The problem with the commute to UVM was traffic.  Hullcrest opens out on Route 7, a busy major highway without the bike lanes it has today.  The solution was to hoist the bike over the barbed wire fence into the pasture that bordered our back yard.  Walk it through the field,  hoist it over the fence on the other side and ride the 6 1/2 miles on Spear Street to the lab.  The first trip, I and my bike got tangled up in an electric fence.  Fortunately an alternate exit site was not electrified and the commute became routine.  A couple of years of saving and I was able to replace the Columbia with a blue Atala 10 speed.  Cost me $109 and boy could I fly.  Much easier to get over the barbed wire fences but I still ended up with lots of nicks and scratches:  both me and the bike.  When we moved to Charlotte the commute increased to 14 miles each way but I got to ride all the way, no cow pie or electric fence adventures.

Yesterday I set out from Charlotte on Mt Philo road.  There are several ways to get up to Spear Street, each of them involves a major climb.  I chose Webster Road to try out the new protected bike path.  Nice, but not practical for commuters; to stay on it you must cross the road half way up.  Then it ends at the steepest part of the climb requiring that you cross the road again to finish and be positioned at the stop sign for the left turn onto Spear Street.  Spear Street used to be narrow, no shoulder at all with very little traffic, a few farmhouses, and gorgeous views of Lake Champlain.  Now there are reasonable bike lanes, lots more traffic, huge expensive houses, and solar arrays.  The electricity and barbed wire has been replaced by a white wood fence and I don’t know how long its been since there was a cow in the field.  What hasn’t changed is the amazing vista of Lake Champlain.  There is now an Overlook Park with a parking lot, picnic tables, and benches.

After enjoying a rest stop at the park I descended to Route 7, and used the bike lanes to make my way to Hullcrest for a look at the old homestead and a spin around the loop before heading back to Charlotte.  Not much changed in that neighborhood. Yes, sometimes you can go back!

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Adirondack mountains across Lake Champlain.

Crazy weather continues in Vermont.  Today the temperature reached 50 degrees.  It was cloudy and rainy for the most part though from time to time the sun found holes and for brief, brilliant moments bathed us in light and shadow.  Brownie and I went to do errands in South Burlington.  Keene Medical Supply had a nice bike rack for parking.  When I expressed my appreciation for it they told me that the city has an ordinance requiring bicycle parking!  Stopped on the way back to my folks’ house to visit grandpa and in Shelburne to pick up a few groceries.  The rain came and went.  Fortunately I drip dry.  Speaking of which check out my back side.  Over 20 miles of wet, gritty, oily, salty riding, and look Ma, no black line!!  No sand on my neck and no wet but.  Brownie has very long and very effective fenders.  Or should I say mudguards.  After all she is of English heritage.  No matter what you call them, all-weather city riding calls for them.  It is worth every ounce of weight to stay warm, dry, and unchaffed.

A clean back! Fenders work.

Champlain Bikeway heading into Shelburne. Share the road!

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Another beautiful Vermont ride.

After a little snow last night the temperature rose into the mid 30’s and by noon the sun came out to flirt with the clouds.  At 3 o’clock I rode the 8.5 miles into town to visit my 101 year old grandfather.  Brownie (the name of my “new” bike) carried me well on this rare and memorable January ride.  I am tempted to say the pictures tell it all but I’d be lying.  They don’t capture the sound of birds, the cool breeze blowing steam from my sweating cheeks, the beating of my heart as I crest a hill.    Or the huffing and puffing that dissolves to a gasp as the day’s last light sprays Mt Mansfield purple.  Get off the computer and go for a ride!!  There is nothing like it.

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The Old Spokes Home, and Winter (??) riding in Vermont

A trip to the Old Spokes Home has been on my list for some time.  (No, I’m not going geriatric quite yet, though retro is fun.)  This small, unique bicycle shop, located in North Burlington, Vermont is part museum, part store, and part can do repair shop.  They relish those jobs that make other shops shudder.  “Can you fix my red 1962 Triumph that was uncool in 1970 so I put drop bars on it and took off the chain guard only now I want to ride it upright while wearing pants and by the way it’s been sitting in my father’s barn for the past 30 years and the Sturmey Archer hub was regularly oiled with 3-in-One and has never been overhauled….”  Actually that is one I’m working on now.  Anyway, I know The Old Spokes Home could handle it because I’ve been there and got to meet the owner Glenn Eames.  You won’t find much carbon in his shop but lots of steel, and a fair amount of rust.   His young staff have lots of patience and a passion for what they are doing.  They have an extensive selection of ready to ride used bikes and If you want a new bike they carry Surly, Jamis, and Salsa among others.  So whether you want to drop a few grand on a Surly Moonlander (I want one of these in the most irrational way…) or a couple of C notes on an old  3 speed this is the place.  At the same time you can see an amazing array of vintage bikes including the largest number of bone shakers I’ve ever seen in one place.  Check out the museum online.

Glenn Eames of The Old Spokes Home

Finding myself unexpectedly here in one of the warmest and most snowless Vermont Januarys on record I was looking for a bike to get some exercise and enjoy the unseasonable weather.  I chose a 1970s Raleigh Sport modified to a 5 speed with rear derailleur.  Wasn’t sure I’d have quite the range I need for the hills with a 3 speed.

My Vermont wheels from the Old Spokes Home

After a night of cold rain today dawned sunny and the temperature quickly rose to almost 40.  It felt more like April than January.  I set out from Charlotte to Shelburne on Mt Philo road.  The south wind blew me into town on my new old wheels.  Its been a couple of weeks since I’ve had the thrill of pedaling two wheels.  The Raleigh did not disappoint me.  New chain, and freewheel with perfectly adjusted bearings, I felt like I was flying.  A few rattles here and there and a bit of rust only add interest to this classic ride.  I stopped for some excellent butternut squash soup at Barkeaters and wandered around the village cemetery enjoying the sunshine.   After that it was up hill and against the

wind back to my parents house.  Blue sky, brown fields, birds, a gorgeous day all the more appreciated on a bicycle!

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