Christian Profeta is a good wrencher. His words, actually.
Profeta is the first-ever mechanic, or “wrencher,” for the student government-led Cascade Bike Rental Program, which was launched earlier this year to increase access for students to affordable, reliable and sustainable transportation, minimizing the campus’ environmental impact.
“I totally jumped on board,” said the 24-year-old, who started work this fall. “I was ecstatic when I found out I was given the position. It’s like building up a bike shop from the bottom up, which is really exciting.”
You can find the affable Profeta, who, yes, does commute to Cascade on a bike from his North Portland home, at the new bicycle shed next to the student government lounge in the Student Center. Under the blaring rhapsody of blues or jazz (his radio in the shed is stuck on the jazz station), you’ll see him pumping tires full of air and doing minor adjustments like gear and brake work and fixing flats, all free of charge. It’s a new concept at PCC so students are adjusting to seeing Profeta and his truing stand.
“We have a lot of traffic and people are Looky Loos,” he said. “They kind of look inside the shed to see what’s going on and once and awhile someone will stop by to ask if I fix bikes.”
The program has about 40 bicycles that are rented out to students for a $15 fee per term. Last January, student leaders worked with the Community Cycling Center, a Northeast Portland-based nonprofit, to purchase the bike rental program’s initial fleet. The bikes are all refurbished and outfitted with lights, fenders, bag racks, helmets, and U-locks. When students are ready, Profeta helps adjust each bike to the renter’s size as well as briefs them on bike safety and maintenance.
“That’s a manageable corral for me,” he said of the number bikes. “Instead of feeling pressured to get all these out fast and say ‘Alright, there you go,’ I’m honing in on making sure each bike is safe for the student. I do all these safety inspections and test ride every bike before hand.”
Perry Eising, a United Bicycle Institute certified mechanic, runs the program, overseeing the bike checkout.
“It is a huge benefit to have someone in the shed who is available to work on both rental bikes and on students’ own rides, and his enthusiasm for the project is infectious,” ” Eising said. “Students who we have spoken to informally about their rental bikes are telling us that they love the program, and almost everyone I talk to (students, faculty, and staff) are extremely enthusiastic and amazed at the price we are offering this service for.”
Profeta is not a newcomer to the truing wheel. He worked at bike shops in Hollywood, Calif., and Portland for years. He spent time at a community college in San Diego studying art before moving north to be with friends. But he’s back to studying fine art along with psychology, sociology and math at the Cascade Campus. In Portland, he said he has no complaints and likes how the city has embraced his one-man band gig, appearing at hot spots all over the city (he plays the kick drum, guitar, hi-hat and sings all at once).
“I thought it was a really cool and sweet city to live in,” said Profeta, who wants to transfer to Portland State University.
With a resident mechanic in the house at Cascade, are there any words to live by for students who rent the bikes?
“Yeah, always lock your bike up even if your going inside a building for a few minutes,” he warned. “Don’t ride your bike with a flat tire; please don’t do that. And, just because you’re a cyclist, don’t think you always have the right of way. Be careful. Don’t blow by stop signs thinking you won’t get creamed by a semi-truck.”
For more information, contact Perry Eising, Cascade Bike Program coordinator, at (971) 722-5114 or firstname.lastname@example.org