On the Magic of Bikes and the Alchemy of the Community Shop Model
It’s safe to say that two passions—all things cycling and new challenges—make Dominic Clark, Bici Centro’s new Program Manager, the perfect fit for Bici Santa Barbara. Plus, there’s his profound respect for SBBIKE/Bici and the community bike shop model.
Clark was first exposed to that model while at UCSB in the ’90s through the Associated Students Bike Shop. After learning to rebuild a tacoed wheel, he was hooked. Here was a model that supported and encouraged all types of bicyclists, providing them the resources to keep riding. “There’s a magic to bikes that goes beyond practicality,” he says. “And it’s absolutely the most practical form of transportation, which adds to that. They’re fun, they’re efficient, they’re cheap, and anyone can do it.”
“There’s a magic to bikes that goes beyond practicality. And it’s absolutely the most practical form of transportation, which adds to that. They’re fun, they’re efficient, they’re cheap, and anyone can do it.”
Bikes have long worked their magic in Clark’s life. He rode with UCSB’s cycling team and has since become a “road biking nut.” While living in Ventura and working at UCSB, he rode part way a few days a week (completing the commute by bus from Carpinteria). One day, he paused at the bus stop just long enough to text his boss that he’d be late and finished the commute by bike—from then on prolonging “the best part of my day.” Clark pedicabbed “back in the Wild West days” (pre-current SB City regulations), road raced, and track raced for Metal Mountain Bike Shop’s team. He humbly calls himself “the weakest link” on a team that won a state championship with team pursuit, including one future Pan-American champion.
Clark’s favorite bike memory was descending the Dolomites in the rain. He was riding from Chamonix, France, to Venice, Italy, raising money for the Kennedy’s Disease Association. It was the hardest week of cycling he’d ever done (much to his fellow cyclists’ chagrin and his delight). The day started out in the 90s. Midway through it, there was a hailstorm. During the triumphant descent, Clark flew down the mountain—so thrilled and confident he rode six kilometers past the hotel at 9:30 at night in the fog and had to be chased down. “It was the feeling of knowing that I was capable of doing that—of pushing through my fears and relying on my skills, like the feeling when you first learn to ride bike,” he recalls.
That’s where the magic comes in. “This thing that doesn’t stand on its own, through a combo of physics and your body, can fly. It’s doing something you’re not supposed to be doing. You’re not supposed to go to the Dolomites and race down hairpin turns and feel good about it, but I did.”
It makes sense, then that, upon finding himself back in Santa Barbara, Clark also found SBBIKE and the position at Bici. “I’m realizing every day how great the fit it is,” he says. “It’s just a wonderful organization. Every single person who works here is here because they love cycling. It’s a pleasure to be on such a solid and dedicated team.”
Clark will apply his love of challenges to Bici Centro “by taking this incredibly successful idea and helping to make it better or even just by being part of keeping it going. That’s challenging,” he says, “thrilling really. It’s an incredible resource to the community.”
One way Clark plans to shake things up is Lightspeed, a new point-of-sale system that will allow the shop to better track inventory and streamline the ordering process. He aims to ensure staff and volunteers spend less time on logistics, so they can focus on teaching people and helping them find their next new used bike. In the same vein, he plans to streamline the donation and receiving processes, with the ultimate goal of more used bikes tested, refurbished, and ready for sale. For Clark, this is about the shop pulling its weight. “The community is incredibly generous with donations. We owe it to the community to make sure the shop stands on its own—to make sure it will be here forever.
“We’re alchemists,” he adds. “We take junk and make it a bicycle.” That and the team are what make him thrilled to be a part of SBBIKE. “This organization focuses on your strengths and enables you to be a part of it,” he explains. “Everyone in the community is good at something. I’m still kind of pinching myself to be a part of something like this,” he says, adding, “If more of the world was like this, what a better place it would be.”
Clark’s message to the community: “It’s important for people to ride for whatever reason they ride—whether that’s for leisure, to get there, or a combination of reasons. If they ever need any help, that’s what we’re here for—to keep them pedaling.”
“We're alchemists. We take junk and make it a bicycle.”