Street Level Cycles

It is 9am.
Interstate 880 at the University onramp is backed up.
Morning traffic roars as drivers jockey for position.
This snarl of overpasses is the bane of many a Bay Area commute.

Nestled right amongst the motorized chaos is a low, red-boarded workshop. Two snakes of metal piping flank the entrance. Bike racks. Guardians of a two-wheeled sanctuary in this most unlikely of places.

Entering Street Level Cycles, the first thing I notice are the bones. Rafters packed with wheels of all sizes.

Forks of every flavor strung like ornaments on the wall. Shelf after shelf of components waiting to give new life to two-wheeled steeds.

Youth mechanic Akira searches for the perfect component for a bicycle rebuild.

No matter what kind of bike you ride, chances are Street Level has the parts to keep it rolling.

Street Level mechanics have refurbished countless steeds, saving them from the junk heap.

Every fix requires the proper tool: sometimes a fine tuning spoke wrench, others a hammer.

reduce reuse

You won’t find any “new” bicycles here. The mechanics at Street Level specialize in giving a second—or sometimes third—life to machines once consigned to the garage or dumpster.

Looking past the counter, I notice that some of the mechanics aren’t old enough to brave the interstate just outside. These are members of the youth mechanic training program. For many in the surrounding neighborhood, it is their first real job.

Neil, the head of Street Level, is managing the crew of mechanics.
He introduces me to new wrench Akira, a student at nearby Berkeley High.

Akira’s task today is refurbishing a vintage steel road bike. Bubblegum pink paint. Downtube shifters. Straight out of Breaking Away.

A Day At The Shop

turning pages

During a break in the work, Akira and I talk about what this job means to him. He likes working with his hands. Building something. Serving his community.

Once rebuilt, this bike will hit the sale rack, eventually helping another member of Akira’s community get to work. Or school.
Or just to pick up groceries. 

It will cost a fraction of the price of a new bicycle. It will keep two more wheels out of the dumpster.

If the Street Level crew have their way, four more wheels off that interstate.