Velotecha to employ youths being helped by Macdonald Youth Services

Plenty to like about storing people’s bikes

AS colder weather looms, a new bike storage facility is opening — one that doubles as an employment program for youth in care.

Through Velotecha, up to 150 bikes will be stored, repaired and maintained during the winter. Winnipeggers can choose from packages offering varying levels of maintenance, to be performed by teenagers and young adults through Macdonald Youth Services.

“We really put... (the) pedal to the metal this summer,” Nicole Barry, the non-profit’s chief financial officer, said of starting the project.

The WRENCH, a charity that builds and repairs bikes, has been training eight people on bike mechanics since August for the venture. A new cohort will join soon.

Cyclists can choose a basic package, which includes storage and tire inflation, for $55.99. Prices increase for those who want more in-depth fixes, like part replacements, realignments and brake adjustments.

Organizers will collect bikes curbside beginning Monday. Pick up will continue into November, if space is still available, Barry said.

“We want people to use their bikes if the weather’s nice, but we also have a limited capacity,” she said.

Velotecha staff will deliver owners their rides in April. The bikes’ seasonal home remains private for safety reasons, Barry said.

“The beauty of a bike storage program is that it solves a lot of problems,” said Kate Sjoberg, executive director of The WRENCH.

More people have turned to cycling as a pandemic-era hobby, to combat climate change and for health reasons, Sjoberg said. But, many Winnipeggers end their two-wheel adventures when the temperature drops.

Velotecha will assist people who don’t have room to store their bikes, Sjoberg said. And, it will allay the tune-up backlogs cyclists face in the spring.

“It’s really hard to find a shop that will fix your bike in the springtime,” Sjoberg said. “(Also), training kids to be bike mechanics in the spring, when there’s a rush happening, is not a great way to learn.”

The youths who Velotecha will employ have participated in Macdonald Youth Services’s life skills programs and were chosen by staff.

“They’ve been really consistent and really awesome to be around,” Sjoberg said. “We have a lot of confidence in their ability to do great work.”

Many kids using Macdonald Youth Services don’t get the same access to jobs others do, according to Barry.

“Most of us have gotten help or were even handed our first job,” she said. “That’s what we’re trying to provide them... We’re kind of giving them a shot at real, meaningful work.”

Macdonald Youth Services plans to expand Velotecha next year: it wants a bike lab where Winnipeggers can buy refurbished bikes or get their own repaired.

The hub will likely be at 175 Mayfair Ave., the non-profit’s location, and will potentially employ this winter’s mechanics- in-training. Then, Macdonald Youth Services can invite a new group to work at the storage site next fall.

Velotecha’s current staff could also work for The WRENCH post-storage season.

“There is a need for bike mechanics in the city,” Sjoberg said. “We’re interested in this particular cohort, if anyone is interested in working with The WRENCH following it, and they’re the right candidate.”

Canada is “not hitting the mark” to support youth transitioning from care, in terms of ensuring they have liveable incomes and communities where they’re safe, Sjoberg said.

“We know that many other organizations and people in the city are interested in creating that safety and those communities of support for kids,” Sjoberg said. “This is a small contribution to that.”

More information about the program can be found at