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Bicycle activist teaches free bike repair
Middlebury College student Cris DiOrio, 22, a Shelter Island High School grad, has a goal for Shelter Island: get more people using bicycles.
“Especially on Shelter Island,” he said. “It is feasible here.”
He works toward this goal by helping people keep their bikes on the road. His Bike Shed at his family’s place at 15 Sylvan Road is a community bike project started last summer, where he and sometimes his friends teach people, for free, how to fix their own bicycles. He made it clear: “I don’t fix bikes.” He is, however, very happy to teach willing students how to fix flat tires, sticking gears and other problems so that their bikes won’t sit in a basement or garage.
Beginning on July 2, the Bike Shed will be open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturdays 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Saturday hours, he said, may be moved later in the day so that he can go to the new Shelter Island Farmer’s Market, which he supports. Those interested in fixing bicycles may stop by during his hours, and those looking to donate bicycles can drop them off at the shed at any time.
Mr. DiOrio gives away for free bikes he has collected from the dump, or from people who drop bikes off. There were 10 in his shed early this week, ready to be repaired and donated. The receiver of the bike must be willing to learn how to maintain it, he said, because it’s important to know how. “With a few basic tools and patches, you can fix anything,” he said.
The public is invited to stop by to learn to tighten brakes or true a bent rim, among other repairs. Mr. DiOrio will provide the tools for almost all basic repairs and many advanced repairs as well. He has a limited amount of recycled parts available at no cost.
The Bike Shed does have a donation jar on the work bench, which he said has about $60 in it that he collected last year and uses for oil, patches and grease. The Bike Shed does not sell parts and will not repair your bicycle for you, he said. For residents looking for that, he said the closest place to go to is Piccozzi’s.
Mr. DiOrio can be seen with a milk crate strapped to his bike at the local IGA getting his groceries. He also uses his bike when he goes out to local restaurants and bars. He hopes more residents switch to their bikes for basic transportation, he said. He wants to reduce the amount of petroleum-dependent vehicles on the earth. In addition, he said, “I have this skill as a bike mechanic, and I enjoy teaching people.”
Mr. DiOrio learned his skill through what he calls a series of unfortunate events, including a bad bike that he used to commute to work. He once road his bike from Princeton, New Jersey to New Orleans. There he found a place where he learned how to build a bike. He became a volunteer there. His learning and volunteering continued when he became actively involved in a similar place in Middlebury, Vermont.
Mr. DiOrio has just returned for the summer from school, through which he recently spent two semesters abroad in Mexico. He is getting the Bike Shed ready with new tools for which he is grateful to his parents for buying. He is also planning on offering a four-week basic mechanics class with topics including tires, brakes, gears and chain maintenance.
The Bike Shed is located at the last house on the left on Sylvan Road on West Neck, on the right side of the driveway. Mr. DiOrio can be reached at email@example.com or at 903-1261. The Bike Shed also has a Facebook page and a blog.