Visit Darren at The Recyclery at 7628 North Paulina in
1) How/when did you get into cycling as a profession?
I initially got involved in a volunteer capacity with a bicycle collective in Portland called the Bike Farm. I was able to hone my mechanical skills, learn more about bikes, and help manage the non-hierarchical organization. When I moved to Chicago, I was looking for a way to make bicycles a profession in such a way that I could pursue a more educational/community-oriented approach to the industry. I was introduced to The Recyclery by a good friend who was involved with the shop for years and shortly after started working as a mechanic/open shop host/instructor/program developer/collective member. It's an ideal job for me because I can turn wrenches to satisfy my need to produce a physical product and also work on creating an engaging and diverse community atmosphere in the shop.
2) How does your organization directly benefit cyclists?
We offer a community shop for cyclists of all economic brackets. The Recyclery is a place you can come to work on your bike in a fun relaxed atmosphere and give a sliding scale donation for your shop time. We offer buckets and buckets (literally) of used parts, affordable bikes, and volunteering opportunities, which double as informal bike maintenance lessons and practice.
3) Do you specialize in a certain type of cycling?
Our shop is centered on the bicycle as a tool for urban transit. "Do it yourself" cycling might be the best way to describe it. Whether you want to know how to maintain your bike out of economic necessity or because you want to be able to hold your own on a cross-country bike tour, The Recylery is a good spot for you. We are welcoming to all kinds of cycle-people. We love to see a diverse crowd in the shop.
4) What are your "must-have" items for cycling (this could be a tool, an accessory, a food, etc.)
Racks and panniers allow me to make my bike a utility vehicle. I can't live without them. Also, a handlebar bag. Pretty much the more carrying capacity I have the better. Burritos help, too.
5) What do you see as the biggest area of opportunity in your niche market?
Engaging people in a community. We live in a world that can be very isolating. Cycling attracts people that are generous, sharing, and community minded. We want to bridge the gap between college grads who think cycling is cool because its "eco" and people that are embarrassed to be riding a bike because it doesn't fit the consumerist model of power that is so present in our culture. Promoting safer, tighter communities is definitely our aim and our shop can be a place to stage that transformation.
6) How do you think the cycling community has changed in the last year or two?
It's hard for me to gauge how the community has changed because I've lived in three very different cycling cities in the last three years. I moved from Los Angeles's vibrant, defiant, and tight knit cycling community, to Portland where cycling is so comfortable and omnipresent that many people don't feel the need to fight for it or rally around it. Chicago sits somewhere in the middle of these extremes. I worry that cyclists are becoming weary of the effort it takes to live a bike-centered lifestyle in the city. I've always been drawn to cycling for the people. Cycling communities somehow seem to draw consistently awesome and inspiring folks. I hope to expand this phenomenon.
7) If you could go on a bike ride with anyone (living or dead), who would it be?'
My friend Reid Lustig! He is a good friend who I taught a bike class and played music with in Portland. He's one of the most adventurous people I know! He is currently riding his bike through Mexico exploring and checking out bike culture in that fine country. I would like to have a free month and some free money to go down and ride with him for a while.