Meet Angie: Lead Mechanic at Nice Ride

Share   |  Posted Jul. 16, 2014 by Emily Wade

“It’s not going to be as exciting as you think,” Nice Ride lead mechanic Angie Coe tells me with a modest smile.  Angie is taking a break from the cavernous garage stacked with bikes where she spends her days to chat with me about her work.  The two of us are sitting across a long table at the Birchwood Café, just blocks from Nice Ride headquarters in Seward, and Angie’s warm eyes and calming presence put me instantly at ease.  I respond with a skeptical laugh saying, “I’m sure it is interesting.”  Unsurprisingly, I was right. 

Angie Working In Nice Ride Bike Shop

Green Bikes & Wrenches 

While we wait for our food Angie explains her role as lead mechanic at Nice Ride.  With 1,500 Nice Ride bikes on the streets and an average of around 2,400 rides taken on the green cruisers each summer day, the bikes see their share of wear and tear.  When a bike needs to be repaired Nice Ride users press the red wrench button on each bike dock alerting the operations staff to pick it up and bring it to Angie.  Other bikes find their way back to the office through weekly checks she performs at stations around the cities, or through the operations staff themselves. 

Once in the garage, Angie takes stock of what repairs each bike needs.  The most common problems she sees are flat tires, broken spokes, or other issues with the wheels.  In fact, it’s rare that she sees much else.  Angie tells me the Nice Ride bike’s design accounts for its durability.  With the hub, break cables, and wiring all inside the frame, it takes a lot to damage these otherwise vulnerable components.  “They’re maybe a bit harder to work on because it takes more steps to access these things,” Angie says of the bikes, “but it makes it so they stay in better shape longer.”

That doesn’t mean Angie’s job is easy.  In order to keep enough bikes in circulation, Angie aims to repair about ten Nice Rides a day.  Though the operations staff tries to stay on top of repairs when she’s gone, Angie knows when she takes a day off there will be a backlog of bikes waiting for her the next day.  “I’m pretty much always working on a green bike with some sort of wrench,” Angie laughs.

Building Community Through Bikes

Angie got her start interning as a bike mechanic at a non-profit bike shop called The Hub of Detroit while attending the University of Michigan.  Coming in to the internship with very little mechanical experience, Angie learned how to fix bikes by working with a local soup kitchen to help them start their own bike shop.  “I would learn how to fix a hub and then hurry over and teach people how to fix a hub,” Angie says.  “Teaching is the best way to learn, so that’s how I got my skills.”

Since that time, teaching has always been an important part of Angie’s life.  After working at The Hub of Detroit, she became the director of the shop at Cycles for Change, a similar non-profit bike shop in Saint Paul.  These days Angie gets her teaching in as a member of the local group Grease Rag, which offers rides and open shops to members of the women/trans*/femme community.  She also teaches a bit at Nice Ride.

“People kind of wander in and ask me to help with something so I’ll pause working on a bike and help for a while,” Angie tells me.  Just last week Angie taught one of Nice Ride’s customer service agents to fix a flat and looked on as the director of the Greater Minnesota Program assembled a new bike.  She also trains the operations staff to help her repair bikes as needed.  For Angie, moments like these embody her desire to be a resource to others, empowering a community of more confident cyclists. 

As our waiter brings a black bean burger and savory waffle to the table, Angie tells me she also sees these qualities in Nice Ride and other non-profit bike organizations.  “It’s not just a service, but a resource that is going to stay in the community and is going to be supported by the community—whether that’s sponsors, funds, or membership fees,” she says.  “There are community members supporting these businesses because they want them to stick around, and I think it’s important that they do.”   

1 Previous comment:

(1) On August 5, 2014, Bob Schneider () said:
I want to say thank you Angie for all your hard work so when I ride my Nice Ride bike I will know you made it worry free. Nice work, keep it up.

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