I spent the weekend training to become a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor (LCI). Despite the slapdash preparation for my presentations, I somehow managed to pass the course. The training was long but our wonderful trainers made it surprisingly enjoyable. It is very reassuring to me that other people take cycling seriously and give of their time to share with others. The Iowa City Bike Library hosted the training. This is part of a larger effort by the Bike Library to put more emphasis on community education.
We have some really interesting tools down at the Iowa City Bike Library. The most interesting were donated by an ex-shop owner. Included in his generous gift are several old Var tools that are really intriguing. Var is a French tool maker and probably the oldest company to make tools specifically for bicycle repair.
Last week, while doing my volunteer duty and repairing the brakes on an old ten speed, I grabbed the Var #02 third hand tool. A third hand tool allows you to clamp the brake pads down on the rim thus freeing up your “two” hands to pull the brake cable and remove the slack.
Until this Var third hand tool showed up, I had always used the spring style third hand tool. They work fine but can be a little awkward. Not so for the Var tool. It has a nice and weighty cast body and makes clamping down the pads for cable adjustment a quick and silky smooth process.
Back in 2004, I had an idea to start a Bike Library here in Iowa City. There wasn’t much in the beginning. We started out with four bikes and a folding table at the local farmers’ market. However, the following year, with much persistence, I was able to convince the City to let us use an old downtown building they owned and used for storage.
The old brick building was home to John Wilson Sporting Goods for decades before it closed in the early 1990s. The City of Iowa City purchased the building sometime in the 1990s with the long-term plan of redeveloping the property. The building is rough with a leaky roof and soft brick, but it is a great location and it has a lot of character. If fact, I’d say much of the success of the Bike Library can be attributed to our great retail location.
Well, this summer we will be moving out of this building. We knew going in that our time here would be short-lived. Honestly, we never dreamed we’d be here this long. The City is about to release a request for proposals to redevelop this property (and a couple of other contiguous lots). So, it looks like we’ll be moving this summer. We have found a new space and it is great – bigger with a high ceiling, and the owner is wonderful and generous! There is even talk by one of the potential developers of the old property to include space in the new building for the Bike Library.
And while I’m happy about the potential of the new opportunities, I can’t help feeling a little mournful about losing this old building. I took our old dog Sally out for a walk this morning (this will probably be Sally’s last summer too… she has an inoperable tumor on her snout) and decided to take a few pictures of the space.
Of course I know the Bike Library is really about the great volunteers – their commitment to the mission and the community they have created. But I will miss this old building. I’ll miss the damp, musty smell. I’ll miss the people lined up on Saturday mornings waiting for a chance to check out a bike. I’ll even miss the leaky roof and the squirrels crawling around in the attic. Yeah, I’m going to miss this place.
“Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.”