A Wrenching Experience
The volunteer mechanics who maintain Cascade's massive fleet of 800 bikes are the unsung heroes of our school-based education programs, ensuring that schoolchildren get to ride bicycles that are finely tuned, oiled up and ready to go.
A half dozen people are wrenching on bikes mounted on repair stands in the workshop behind Cascade's headquarters in Magnuson Park. A volunteer work party is underway, and Max Burton circles the room giving instructions on how to adjust derailleurs, fix brakes and swap out cables.
Burton's title is bicycle technical specialist, which essentially means he is the head mechanic who oversees the maintenance of Cascade's giant bike fleet of about 800 bicycles that are used in the organization's school-based programs and the Major Taylor Project. Maintaining 800 bicycles is a huge undertaking that would not be possible if people did not donate their time. "We couldn't do this without our volunteers," Burton says.
Volunteers find the experience highly enriching, Burton says. "They learn a valuable skill that they can use to fix their own or their families' bicycles. Some people come in knowing only how to put air in a tire, and after a year of volunteering they know how to completely build up a bike from a frame." The volunteers also make friends and become part of a community, the Cascade family, says Burton, pictured below.
Volunteers range in age from their 20s to their 70s, and they earn credits toward Cascade rides and events such as Seattle to Portland that allow them to reduce or eliminate their entrance fee. About 20 people make up the core of Burton's volunteer mechanic team. Maintenance parties are held about three days per week, some during the afternoon and others in the evening. Cascade provides free food and drinks during work parties, and Burton often cranks music to keep the atmosphere fun..
"It's nice being around so many good people who are passionate about bicycling and who are helping to bring that joy to kids," says Burton, who started as a volunteer with Cascade before being hired part-time and then full-time in 2019.
Want to join the party and learn some wrenching skills?