Do you know how to ride a bike? Who doesn’t? But can you fix your bike? Like almost everyone, when it’s time for necessary repairs, many are puzzled by the challenge.
That’s where Cris DiOrio comes in. For the fourth summer in a row, this Shelter Island native has opened the doors to his Bike Shed welcoming bicyclists of all ages and skill levels to use the shop, and learn to repair their own bikes at no cost.
“I don’t fix anyone’s bike for them,” he said, emphasizing how important it is for people to know how to maintain their rides.
His enthusiasm for both riding bicycles as a form of transportation and having the skills to fix them comes mostly from his time spent living in New Orleans, where he used a bike to get around. But when it was stolen, he decided to build one with the help of friends using recycled parts. He then started volunteering at a local bike shop, learning many of the same ideas he bases the Bike Shed on. “I think people should learn as many of the basic skills needed to maintain or produce things they use on a regular basis. Knowledge should be free,” he said.
Which is why he has transformed his grandfather’s old carpenter’s shed into a bicycle repair wonderland, full of spare parts, seats, handlebars, tires — and fifteen or so bikes hanging on the wall that need fixing, “for people who don’t have a bike,” he said. “If you fix it, it’s yours,” though he warned “you may have to buy a few parts that I don’t have at Piccozzi’s.” Everything — the spare parts and old bikes — is recycled, coming mostly from the dump or people donating them to the Shed.
According to Cris, most repairs are relatively easy to fix. The most common ones? “Brakes, flats, and problems with gears,” he said.
He sees the Bike Shed as an opportunity to share this knowledge about a form of transportation “many people use, but don’t know how to maintain themselves,” and a way to recirculate still functional bicycles that would otherwise become trash or scrap metal.
“Then there are the no-brainers,” he said. “Riding a bicycle is fun, healthy, and better for the environment.”
The Bike Shed, at 15 Sylvan Road, is the last house on the left — the Shed itself is behind the driveway on the right. Open every Thursday in August from 4 to 7 p.m., the Shed has a shop’s worth of tools that anyone is welcome to come use and repair their bikes.
“It’s time consuming,” the bike guru said of the process. “But totally worth it.”