July 14, 2020

Winnipeg
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Opinion

Wheelie good fun

Birds of a feather fix bikes together

Aaron Maciejko, a volunteer at Orioles Bike Cage, a community bicycle shop that helps people repair and maintain their bicycles, works on a bike. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Aaron Maciejko, a volunteer at Orioles Bike Cage, a community bicycle shop that helps people repair and maintain their bicycles, works on a bike. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

Gregory Allan wants you to get on your bike and ride, and he and the other volunteers at Orioles Bike Cage will help make it happen.

Located at 444 Burnell St., just north of St. Matthews Avenue, Orioles Bike Cage is a community bike repair shop. Its mission is to make cycling and bicycle repair knowledge accessible to all, and to remove barriers people face in keeping their bikes in working order.

"I love working with the public. I love sharing knowledge. I love teaching people," says Allan, who has volunteered at the shop for 10 years.

"I really, really like bikes. I think they’re amazing machines," the 31-year-old adds. "I love the community vibe we get at Orioles. Those feel-good community vibes for me are really important."

Community members can visit the shop every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Maciejko and Charles Pearce (right), another volunteer, keep busy in the shop packed with bikes for repair. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)</p></p>

Maciejko and Charles Pearce (right), another volunteer, keep busy in the shop packed with bikes for repair. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

The workshop space provides shared tool access and recycled bike parts, as well as repair advice from volunteers.

There is no cost for the service, but pay-what-you-can financial donations, donations of bike parts or in-kind labour are encouraged.

For Aaron Maciejko, volunteering at the shop stems from a passion for social justice.

"Orioles allows people to get transportation at an affordable price and empowers them to take charge in their lives," says Maciejko, 41. "That’s important."

Maciejko first got involved at the shop seven years ago when he was getting into bike polo, a sport adapted from horse polo and played on bicycles.

He has fond memories of building his first bike using a frame and spare parts he found at the shop.

(Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)</p></p>

(Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

"I was looking for something I could use specifically for bike polo," he says. "I’ve since gone on to build a number of other bikes."

Charles Pearce started volunteering at the Bike Cage in 2012 and says the community there keeps him coming back.

"It’s very friendly," says Pearce, 39. "It’s a good way to meet people."

In addition to volunteering at the shop, Pearce has also been involved with Meals on Wheels.

He enjoys volunteering because giving back to the community is important to him.

"It’s always good to offer help when people need it," he says. "If everybody (were) just completely closed off, it’d be a pretty boring world."

“Orioles allows people to get transportation at an affordable price and empowers them to take charge in their lives,” says Maciejko. “That’s important.” (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)</p></p>

“Orioles allows people to get transportation at an affordable price and empowers them to take charge in their lives,” says Maciejko. “That’s important.” (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

More volunteers are needed to help at Orioles, Allan says. No experience as a bike mechanic is required to volunteer.

"There’s a lengthy list of things we need done in the shop," he says. "Cutting up rags, sorting parts, finding holes in tubes, dealing with scrap metal and scrap rubber, separating aluminum from steel, and on and on it goes."

Greeters are also being sought who will help welcome and orient community members who visit the shop, as well as people who are willing to represent the shop at special events.

"Running the shop takes so many different roles and tasks," he says.

A volunteer orientation is set for Saturday, July 18. Anyone interested can email oriolesbikecage@gmail.com.

Whether you want to volunteer or just need help with your bike, Pearce invites folks to support Orioles Bike Cage.

"I’d encourage everybody to come out," he says. "If you want to learn to fix your bicycle and all that, we’ll definitely show you how."

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

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