This Saturday the skies opened up and let loose a torrent of gray water over Downtown. Despite the momentary monsoon, the slightly waterlogged lot on the corner of 11th and North Miami Avenue was abuzz with music and good vibes. People were celebrating and feeling good, rains be damned. The festivities went off without a hitch for the one year anniversary of the Magic City Bicycle Collective.
MCBC is a non-profit co-op in the heart of Downtown Miami, just across from the Corner bar. They don't sell bikes and they don't sell bike parts -- they help bikers. For a fee of $5 an hour, they will help you fix your cycle and show you how to keep it in top shape. But apart from being handy bike techs, the people at Magic City Bicycle Collective are interested in fostering a vibrant and interconnected cycling community in Miami, and in the past year, they've made amazing strides to doing just that.
Maxwell Kirsner, one of the original founders of Magic City Bicycle Collective, remembers the origins of the organization. "Around 16 months ago, three or four of us were sitting in a bar and we asked ourselves 'You know, why doesn't Miami have a good co-op?' So we took the steps to make it happen. We incorporated and became a 501(c)(3) and we were given the space by the Corner bar, half of one of their warehouse units, and a year later, we're still around, still doing good in the community."
Kirsner has an easy-going, yet professional disposition, a friendliness in his voice that sounds as if he has the business at hand firmly in mind. He's a young guy and he talks to every single person at the party, scores of people eating paper parcels of arroz con pollo, courtesy of Pollo Tropical, and washing them down with Pabst Blue Ribbon, a beer with more social cliches and stereotypes bound to it than I care to start working through. (It's a decent cheap beer, folks -- why must it be the official beer of x, y, or z subculture you feel the urge to take a shit on?)
In this instance, the scene was a bit too diverse to typify as being a wholly composed of any group of Miamians - hipsters, greasers, crunchies, koolkids, or otherwise. The celebration hosted all kinds. There were teenagers with 9/10s of their clothes ripped to rags and grandparents in pale green golf polos pushing strollers. Several people wore full spandex cycling suits and many walked around sporting sneakers that clicked on the asphalt as the metal plates that would soon lock them to their bikes tapped the ground with each step.
At one point, a lean biker in tattoos and cutoff jeans stood on the trophy stand and used it as a makeshift soapbox as he spoke into a megaphone and asked for donations to get AJ out of jail. Apparently, AJ was selling ice cream to riders at Critical Mass and the Miami PD arrested him. He had three different permits, attendees claimed. Somebody started passing around a cup for bond funds and according to Kirsner, AJ was out of the joint by morning.
"I feel fantastic about the past year," said Kirsner. "I feel like we've done so much - I feel like there's so much more we could do, but the community has really supported us and we like to give back for that."
The enthusiasm that resonates in Kirsner's voice when he talks about MCBC was equally palpable amongst the revelers on Saturday. Moreover, the degree to which Magic City Bicycle Collective has become engrained in the Miami cycling community was on display with the number of different organizations and vendors that packed themselves into the little lot in front of the warehouse where the organization has all the parts and frames they work with. From the Miami Bike Scene to Crank Life, over a half dozen shops, vendors, companies, and groups were represented at the party.
"Our main goal has been to teach people how to fix their bikes," Kirsner explained. "To empower people to work with their bikes, which is something a lot of people have an issue with. You know, their bike gets a flat and they don't know what to do with it. It sits in their closet, in their car, on their balcony and they won't ride it cause they don't know how to fix it. And we want to empower people to be able to do that and it feels great to make even a little effect on the community."
While MCBC presents the Miami community with a sort of self-serve business - something unfamiliar to most of those living in these parts - their popularity has ballooned rapidly in the past year. For instance, on Tuesdays, Fyxd 305 comes through with a bunch of their members who tune up their bikes so that they're all ready for the race Fyxd holds on Wednesdays, and it becomes something of a fun weekly hangout for the familiar crew. Community is, in fact, the lifeblood of this organization. Magic City Bicycle Collective runs on donations, both in the forms of money as well as bike parts, and is always looking for volunteers. Apparently, you don't need to know a damn thing (except perhaps how to ride a bike) in order to come work with these cats. They will teach you -- they want to teach you -- so that you can help them teach more Miami riders how to do precisely what it is they love doing.
And as far as Kirsner is concerned, the anniversary celebration went swimmingly. "I think it was spectacular, especially considering the weather," Kirsner noted. "I mean for a solid two hours, it was really bad weather, but people still came out, we still had a great time, but after that, it cleared up, the sun came out and when the sun went down, we had the Gold Sprint. We had a 32-man roster for the race, which I have never seen. Maybe an eight to 16 man race, but never 32, so it was a really good turnout for the race alone. We had a bunch of people, the vendors all showed up on time, it went up quick and it cleaned up quick, and that's a great event for us."
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In the year to come, Kirsner sees "expansion" as one of the main goals for MCBC. "How can we do more for the community?" he asked rhetorically. "How can [we] become a bigger organization, even internally? Strategic partnerships I think will help that out, but overall, everything is going really smoothly so far and that's good to see."
Magic City Bicycle Collective is waiting to help you fix up your bike at 1100 N. Miami Ave, Miami. Their doors are open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 2 to 6 p.m. Visit magiccitybike.com