San Jose bike shop targets Silicon Valley's underserved, combines cycling with humanitarianism

For many in the Bay Area, a bicycle – not a car – is their primary mode of transportation. A recently opened South Bay shop combines a love for cycling, education, and humanitarianism. 

Tucked behind the iconic muffler shop in Downtown San Jose, sits a new non-profit rounding into shape.

“What we do is take donated bicycles and refurbish them. And for every one we sell in our shop, we give one away,” said Cindy Ahola, co-founder and COO of Community Cycles of California.

She and co-founder Collin Bruce said back in 2017, they wanted to serve those most underserved by Silicon Valley’s roaring economy. Thousands of underemployed and homeless people routinely use bicycles as their main mode of transportation. But finding funds to buy or repair a bike when money is tight, or nonexistent, can be impossible. 

Community cycle, once operating out of cramped quarters on the east side of town, recently moved into this renovated warehouse space blocks from the SAP Center. The curious have been coming by to learn how the new place on the block is connecting cyclists with social providers, and two wheeled pedal-powered rides.

“Bikes, getting people to jobs, getting people to services,” said Michelle Kalish, a volunteer for the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association. “You’ve got case work or social work. If it’s close, they can take a bike.”

While community cycle helps the needy and the less fortunate get bicycles, it’s the other program that they’re involved in that really has the potential to change lives.

“There’s lots of programs around that give you different sets of education, but we really wanted to give people a chance to get a living-wage job. Well over-qualified for minimum wage,” said Bruce, who also serves as the non-profits CEO.

To that end, the Community Cycles of California will operate a 12-month training program teaching how to operate this shop, or any small business. Everything from ordering and tracking inventory, to balancing the books.

“We also have lots of volunteers in the different areas that are more than willing to give their time – retired people and things like that – they’re more than willing to come and share their expertise,” said Bruce.

Community Cycles already has volunteers doing bike repairs, and those folks could work themselves into full-time jobs. If this concept has legs, there could be more feet matched to pedals in a place that’s definitely not your father’s bike shop.