A sustainable cycle

Bike HUB
Bike HUB aids cyclists in bike repair and education.

Flagstaff is a bike-riding paradise—the town’s dedicated cycling lanes, emphasis on sustainability, and promotion of outdoor activities make it an ideal location for cyclists to commute to class, enjoy some exercise, or just contribute to improving the environment.

However, with Flagstaff’s seasonal weather come a variety of obstacles that these cyclists must face. Rain and snow can wear down and damage everything from wheels to gears to brakes, and ice on the road can lead to dangerous conditions for the unprepared.

Due to these reasons, bike upkeep becomes crucial. Fortunately for Northern Arizona University cyclists, there is the Bike HUB. 

Helping Understand Bicycles

The HUB (Helping Understand Bicycles) is not your average everyday bike maintenance shop—it’s a facility where students can troubleshoot any issues they are experiencing with their bike, and work with volunteers to address and fix them. 

The Bike HUB is the brain child of Samuel Hagler, a sustainable communities master’s student. Incorporating the facility into his thesis, Hagler promotes the use of bicycles on campus and the greater Flagstaff area. An avid cyclist himself, he knew the importance of having a repair facility that educated cyclists on how to maintain their bikes on the campus, in addition to fixing them.

“The Bike HUB is essentially a bicycle cooperative that kind of runs like an educational center about bikes,” Hagler says.

When a student brings their bike in to the Bike HUB, a volunteer will diagnose the issue in the facility’s workshop and formulate a solution for fixing it.  As a result, the student learns more about bike maintenance and repairs themselves.

In return for their services, Bike HUB does not require typical payment—they simply ask their student clients to leave behind  something of equivalent value — such as an extra pedal or seat — or they can volunteer their own time with the HUB.

“Since we’re free, it’s my goal to make sure that we offer more than just maintenance,” Hagler says. “Without an educational component, you risk devaluing people’s appreciation of bicycles.”

A cycling culture

In 2011, Northern Arizona University obtained a silver ranking in bike-friendliness from the League of American Bicyclists, an honor that the city of Flagstaff has held since 2006. However, this recognition wasn’t enough for Hagler.

“One of the reasons we didn’t reach gold level is because we didn’t have a bicycle advocacy spot or maintenance center,” Halger says.  “So now that we have the HUB, this should help bump us up to the gold level.  

The Bike HUB has been hugely beneficial for the community and the culture of local cycling in general, but more importantly, has been a rich and rewarding experience for the students and the volunteers themselves.

“We have students visit who don’t know anything about bikes but want to learn more about it, and we have students who are already very passionate about cycling and want to explore that further,” Hagler says. “Afterwards, the students and volunteers definitely ride more safely, and help other cyclists to do the same. It’s been great for everyone involved.”