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Pedal Revolution/Box Dog Bikes

Ever-soaring gas prices, exhausting quests for parking and the promise of sunshine are a few motivators for swooping on a bicycle if you don't already have one in your possession. If you need further inspiration, local non-profit Pedal Revolution and worker-owned collective Box Dog Bicycles have your cruising and commuting needs covered. Whether searching for some obscure foreign bicycle part, a vintage two-wheeler to add to your collection, or a smooth-running workhorse to get you from one side of town to another, these shops offer a variety of products and services suitable for the novice bicyclist, the seasoned cross-country cyclist and everyone in between.

By Jialin Luh

At 21st and South Van Ness, Pedal Revolution occupies a brightly painted warehouse space with bicycles jutting out of the front of the building. Here you can find shiny revitalized used bikes alongside brand new ones in mouth-watering colors and a wide range of sizes. But this organization does not merely carry the standard bike store goods; it is a full service bicycle shop and non-profit vocational training program for homeless and transitional at-risk youth.

Young people between the ages of 14 and 21 are recruited and encouraged to apply at Pedal Revolutions by youth outreach coordinators from Golden Gate Community, Inc. (GGCI), a non-profit company devoted to transforming the lives of at-risk youth and young adults through jobs, training, housing and communities of support. Those who make it through the job application process receive training for six months in the store as an intern, learning the ins and outs of merchandising, customer service, mechanics and inventory management. Recently, Pedal Revolutions began selling bicycles online, generating another learning opportunity for participants in the program: e-commerce.

The warehouse is pleasant and inviting, with young people working in the large repair area and assisting customers with parts and vehicle selection. Vibrantly painted murals bring the industrial space to life and the location is perfect for taking a bicycle out for a test ride. Shoppers will find new bikes by KHS and Fuji in a variety of styles. Fuji manufactures smaller road bike frames that are harder to come by, making Pedal Revolution a popular destination for petite female riders.

Used road, hybrid, cruiser and track bikes are for the most part donated and repaired by the interns. The cycling community also generously donates helmets, shoes and parts galore. If the community shows love to Pedal Revolutions, so too the non-profit gives back, providing free in-store classes every other Sunday. These drop-in classes are taught by head mechanic Libby Freeman and have included topics such as getting a wheel on and off and fixing a flat. Adding to the community feel is the Membership Bench. For $30 per year, members can come use the bench and tools and get free help from the store mechanics during operating hours.

Pedal Revolutions offers a "No-Lemon" guarantee on used bikes and three months of basic free service (i.e. cable, wheel & brake adjustments). New bike frames come with a lifetime guarantee, one year on parts, and one year free basic service. With prices from $80, Pedal Revolution makes owning a bike affordable and attractive for riders with a variety of budgets. In addition, they carry accessories for bicycle beautification in the form of lights, colorful grip tapes, baskets, messenger bags and even a fabulously painted banana seat. This is also a great place to pick up maps for bike routes in San Francisco as well as tours for neighboring cities, and instructions in roadside bike repair.

In 1994 Pedal Revolutions began as a youth drop-in center of non-profit Youth Industries. Today it is one of GGCI's Social Enterprises, helping young people recovering from homelessness, addiction and poverty get back on their feet. When you shop here, you are also contributing to their bright futures.

A brighter future was what former bike messengers Angel Lowrey and Dan Thomases hoped to bring to the space that used to be "Ye Olde Bike Shop" when they bought it last November. Popularly known as Biketeria, the old shop sold used bikes for eight years before former employee Thomases and friend Lowrey saw an opportunity to improve customer experience and service while participating in the co-op movement.

Six months later, Box Dog Bikes is a co-op with five owners (three former Biketeria employees) who pride themselves on offering a more customer-friendly shop that is better organized. The small repair area that used to intimidate "non-hardcore" cyclists up front was expanded and moved to the back, and vintage/modern parts are neatly placed and labeled in well-thought-out sections.

All bikes here are full on personality and flair. They may not possess that gleaming "new" look, but count on one-of-a-kind gems. A red collectible Bufalo made in Mexico rings in at $350. One of the first mass-produced bikes, a 1920s Hawthorne costs $500. There are also vintage tandems, vintage track bikes and all sorts of other collectibles.

If you need to replace an old pedal, odd-sized bolts, gears, or items that are no longer made, try Box Dog Bikes. Also a great destination for hand-made bicycling accessories like messenger bags by San Franciscan Chris Buchanan and seat covers. Here you can find a BMX for $60, a hand-painted cruiser with glitter grips for $80 and so much more. Neatly labeled bins of brakes, pedals and cranks make it easy for customers to rummage through.

Repairs run upwards of $5, which covers one brake adjustment. Turnaround time ranges from same-day to three days max. If you are a do-it-yourself type, there is a "stand and repair" area consisting of bench and tools. The first ten minutes is free and afterwards $5 per hour, $10 per day and $30 for a half-year.

Box Dog rocked the block with neighboring store Needles & Pens and Low Gallery in April for the 14th Street Freak Out, a block party of sorts with live music and art. Be on the lookout for a similar event coming up to fundraise for bicyclists riding across the country and in South East Asia for women's rights.

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