It was September 3rd, 2017 at 9:07am. I rode my bike down Brookland Park Blvd and passed the stop light, the sound of birds could still be heard that morning.  I saw stray cats playing in the alley.  As I turned onto Overbrook I felt nervous because I had never been to this building or this program before.

I saw no bike rack so I pushed my bike up to the door.  I turned the handle but it did not open.  I thought it was closed.  I banged on the door and then Rob, a resident of the neighborhood, came and opened it.  Then the middle aged white man said “Welcome to Joe’s Bike Shop.”

Rob told me about a program that he offers called “Build a Bike, Get a Bike”.  Which meant that if I built a bike for someone else, I could get a bike for me.  I was excited about building my own bike.   If I did that, I could become a bike tech!  I joined the program because I wanted to learn how to fix up a bike from scratch.

I felt much lighter.  I pushed my bike down into the basement of the Historic All Souls Presbyterian Church and I saw the bike rims handing from the ceiling, rows of bikes lined up and lots of tools on the wall and a large bike stand and I got excited. The poster of Albert Einstein riding a beach cruiser made me smile.

I was given an apron and a badge that said, “Associate Tech.”  I felt like part of the family, at least a little bit.

Then Daniel and Jackson arrived.  Daniel is a young twenty-something African American man. He is a professional body builder and trainer and I love being around him. Jackson is only a year older than me at age 15 – I thought he was cool and chill.  He became my only white friend.  I learned that this was Jackson’s second year in the program.

Daniel then taught us how to overhaul a wheel. Even Daniel struggled to get the lock nut off.  I started to laugh.  He then sprayed the oil on the nut…still would not budge.  Then he gave up and grabbed a different wheel.

When I got my first bike, it was hard.  But I overhauled the wheels and changed the innertubes in the tires and then I had to oil up the chain and the ball bearings, then I had to replace the brakes.  But eventually, I had a fully functioning bike!

It has been four months, I am now a fully bike tech and I am very happy. Every since I have been working at Joe’s bike shop, my experiences has been extraordinary.  I have built a bond with the team at Joe’s Bike shop and they are like brothers to me.  Rob is a hero to me.  Without him, I would not be where I am right now.  I would not have an opportunity at my age to learn these skills. I have completed one of my childhood dreams to work at a bike shop.