Oakland Spokes Bike Lounge: Building a community bike shop

12360131_10153793496709555_7197974143203794247_nOakland Spokes Bike Lounge may just be two months old on Grand Avenue. But sole proprietor Brian Drayton has spent the last six years planning out the community space.

In the last decade alone, more than 15 new bike shops have popped up in Oakland, a city with a fast growing bicycle culture.  But none of them do things like Oakland Spokes Bike Lounge.

Located opposite Lake Merritt with a bicycle lane circling the water, a sign outside Oakland Spokes welcomes passers-by to come in and test ride bicycles all day long. Step inside the store and you can expect to be offered a hot rock to hold after getting out of the chilly Bay Area weather.  And the love at the lounge doesn’t stop there. Customers, or Spokespeople, can come in and enjoy a cup of hot tea or cider on the house any time. And as it’s often said in Oakland, the store’s hours are “hella early” and “hella late”, from 8.30am to 9pm, Mondays to Fridays.12274681_10153749631969555_2682529943314863521_n

“I’ve been planning this for a long time,” said Brian, who has lived in Oakland for over 20 years. “I realized that in order to serve cyclists, I’ve to be there when they’re riding, and that’s when they’re commuting to and from work in the morning and night.”

To make sure he has time to do other stuff like social media outreach and admin duties, Oakland Spokes Bike Lounge is closed on weekdays from 11am to 2pm for appointments like bike fits, and on weekends, they’re open 9am to 5pm.

By Brian’s definition, the Spokes lounge is a community bike shop and one of the ways he makes that happen is by inviting anyone and everyone to become investors. To become an investor, one just has to pick out a product or Spokes project that they believe in and choose how many of the product they would like to purchase for Spokes to sell in-store, or how much they’d like to invest in the project.

“Spokes is all about serving the underserved,” said Brian. “This means getting community input on what they want to see in the shop, whether it’s extra small sized gloves, extra large helmets, more women’s apparel or fingerprint operated locks.”

No other bike shop in Oakland offers a similar investor program, and so far, Oakland Spokes Bike Lounge has received almost $8,000 in investment from cyclists, Oakland lovers, startup supporters and individuals familiar with Brian’s work.

12347622_961670647238096_6405553902618376926_nBrian built his first bike at age 14 when his first bicycle was stolen. He had received a bicycle from his parents for Christmas after going above and beyond his chores for a year. But barely a week after receiving his gift, a bully took his bike and the young man began building them instead.

“I was the $14-dollar bike boy,” said Brian. “Back then, 14-dollars was a lot, and it’s how I taught myself how to put bikes together. That’s not to say that after that I didn’t have to learn about bike mechanics properly, I did.”

The $14-dollar bike boy may now be building $10,000 bikes at his shop today, but his heart remains dedicated to getting anyone and everyone on bikes.

From high-end touring bikes like Co-Motions to adult tricycles and ultra-low step-through bicycles for elders with hip and knee problems, Oakland Spokes Bike Lounge seems to have thought of something for everyone.

Next article: Not feeling well? How about a prescription for an E-bike?

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