By Alex Wilson | Photos by Viktor Budnik
Sergio Garcia is hoping to spread the word about the Oxnard Bike HUB, a community bike repair shop and second-hand bike store that opened in downtown Oxnard last November, because he knows what a positive impact it has the potential to create.
“There are so many kids that use our resources and come here. They volunteer, they work on their bikes, and it’s really become an important hub for Oxnard youth to fix their bikes and to keep riding around Oxnard,” said Garcia about the facility at 154 East Sixth Street.
Garcia works as Education Programs Coordinator for Bike Ventura County, a nonprofit bicycle advocacy organization that’s been operating a similar Ventura Bike HUB on the Westside for about a dozen years. In addition to the bike shops, BikeVC also organizes community rides, bike rodeos, educational programs for sixth graders in Ventura schools as well as a “Ride Ready” class for adults at the Trek Bicycle Ventura store.
Freedom on Wheels
Garcia, now 26, started working as an advocate for riding bikes while he was still a student at Santa Barbara High School, where he helped create a student-run bike repair shop. He also helped start a bike repair shop on the campus of Santa Barbara City College, and worked for a bicycle advocacy charity in Santa Barbara that’s similar to BikeVC.
He moved to Oxnard from his hometown of Santa Barbara a few years ago with his wife Christina to start a family; they now have 2-year-old son Ronan. Garcia says he’s hoping his son and other kids in Oxnard get a chance to experience the joy and freedom of riding bikes that he felt growing up.
“I really liked the older bikes, you know, steel frame bikes. I liked riding them with my cousins, with my dad,” the biking enthusiast said. “I remember just going on bike rides in the summers and hanging out with my cousins and friends and getting lost in our neighborhood, exploring parts of our town on bikes.”
By the time Garcia was in high school, he saw the sense of comradery bikes could create. “We had the mountain bike riders, we had the road bike riders, you had the track bike riders and it kind of attracted a lot of different people. And that connection was riding bikes and fixing bikes, working on their own bikes. And seeing how a lot of people rely on bicycles as transportation, but also as expression. You can see the art of it, but you can also see the practicality.”
Garcia was hired by BikeVC before the Oxnard Bike HUB opened and helped get it off the ground. He noticed after moving to Oxnard that people can buy bikes at nationwide retailers like Target or REI, but there were no independent bike shops like those in Santa Barbra and Ventura, even though Oxnard is the largest city in Ventura County.
Not only can people get help fixing bikes for just $5 an hour at the Bike HUBs in Oxnard and Ventura — far less than other bike shops charge — parts are sold at the stores at a discount, too. The shops also sell used bikes that have been refurbished by mechanics. Bike donations are one of the ways people support the charity, and they accept bikes in any condition.
Since the Oxnard Bike HUB opened, it’s become far more than just a place to get a bike fixed.
“It’s having that connection to a community member in the space, to share stories. And, you know, you make great friends,” Garcia explained.
The Oxnard Bike HUB also provides a great opportunity to teach kids about riding safely.
“Unfortunately, here in Oxnard, there have been some bicycle-related fatal accidents. And so I think being here in this community and having a space where we have access to youth, we try to educate them on how to ride safely and promote wearing helmets,” said Garcia. “Using lights is very important. The kids are going to ride anyway, so we might as well make it safer for them and give them the resources so they can enjoy riding safely.”
While bicycle safety classes for sixth graders in Ventura have been offered for about a dozen years, Garcia is now hoping to launch a similar program at Oxnard’s public schools. Since he’s bilingual, he also wants to offer bike safety classes in Spanish in the future.
“We want to have a more active community”
Bill Faulkner is an avid cyclist who helps teach the youth and adult classes for BikeVC. Faulkner retired from a 31-year career as a National Park Service Ranger in Boston, Alaska and finally at Channel Islands National Park. He now works with both BikeVC as well the Channel Islands Bicycle Club, where he previously served as a board member and helps organize group rides.
Besides the classes offered for kids during gym class at Ventura’s public middle schools, BikeVC also offers free four-hour bicycle skills classes for adults that are taught at Trek Bicycle Ventura called Ride Ready. The classes are co-sponsored by the City of Ventura.
Faulkner said most adults feel comfortable riding bikes along a bike path that’s separated from car. But when it comes to riding on busy streets, many people find that a bit daunting.
“So the Ride Ready program teaches you how to ride safely in traffic. It teaches you lane position, it teaches you what are the real dangers and what are just the imagined dangers out there,” Faulkner said. “People get mechanical information; they get maintenance and cleaning information; flat repair and just a whole host of things that we push into that small amount of time.”
People who attend the Ride Ready program also receive a $20 store coupon, as well as an entry into a raffle where one of the students wins a brand new bike.
In addition to classroom-style instruction, the Ride Ready program also includes a chance to try out riding on city streets under expert
supervision, and Faulkner hopes it encourages more people to take longer rides or even commute to work safely on a bike.
“There’s higher stress on a busier street,” Faulkner said. “And most of the people, they’re not going to go out there if they’re scared. And so we want to get more people cycling. We want to have a more active community. And I think I want Ventura County to be known for cycling.”
Upcoming Ride Ready classes are set for Feb. 20 and March 11, and people can register on the BikeVC website.
Faulkner hopes people who take the Ride Ready class will be inspired to take up riding more seriously and set a goal of completing what’s known as a century ride topping 100 miles.
Since joining an experienced group of riders like those in the Channel Islands Bicycle Club can be intimidating, and some new riders feel left behind by faster ones, Faulkner is hoping to soon launch another program through the bike club called “Easy Rider” with a slower pace than other group rides they organize.
“People come and we never see them again. And what I want to do is, have something for those people so they will be happy and they will join the club,” Faulkner said. “And I want the club to grow from the 300 members that we have right now to 500, to 1,000 members.”
Bike Ventura County
Oxnard Bike HUB
154 East Sixth Street, Oxnard
Ventura Bike HUB
490 North Ventura Avenue, Ventura