The basement of 1712 Jefferson St. is home to the popular and upcoming spot in Duluth – the Bike Cave. Located in the Dorothy Day House, the Bike Cave, an extension of the Loaves and Fishes community, brings in volunteers from all around the city to help others build their own bicycles.
One of those volunteers is UMD student Blake Romenesko. He started out just like most of the others – curious and in serious need of a bike.
“I first came to the bike cave because I needed a bike,” said Romenesko. “I moved to Duluth and I had this horrible bike, I rode it for like a year, and then I heard of these bike caves and I kind of just came down here and I was like ‘I need a bike’ and I just kind of got sucked in into learning bits here and there. I had no mechanic skills before.”
The Bike Cave receives hundreds and hundreds of bike parts for no cost at all.
“Everything is donated,” said Romenesko. “We get people to donate things, especially in the spring. We have connections with other bike collectives especially in the cities. Also sometimes we will go to the dump and find some and things like that.”
But getting your own free bike from this dingy, dark basement isn’t easy. It requires hours of volunteering and hard work, what they like to call “sweat equity”. If you want a bike, you have to earn it.
“We definitely want to exchange for skills,” said Romenesko. “If you have mechanical skills, fix someone’s bike or fix up some bikes and donate them. If you don’t have those skills you can bake cookies, play some music; there’s different things you can do. Everyone has different talents, so they can use their talents to contribute to the community.”
Becoming a volunteer doesn’t require paperwork or experience; all you need is the willingness to learn and the passion to help others.
“In the summer time, there’s usually a whole backyard full of people, and there’s a smaller ratio of volunteers to people with bikes. And then in the winter there’s definitely more volunteers."
Once you’ve completed your masterpiece on wheels, the Bike Cave will allow you to take home the bike you’ve put all your hard work and effort into; no cost and no gimmicks. But before you leave, they need to induct you onto their wall of fame.
“Whenever people take home a bike, we try and get a picture of them with their bike to show how many people take home their bikes that they build,” said Romenesko.
The only way to get the full experience of bike parts heaven is to check it out yourself. The Bike Cave is currently open Thursday nights and Saturday afternoons.