Our summer intern, Halla, is doing a story series highlighting the awesome C4C staff. This is her first story in the series.
Jeff Lathrop (PGPs: he/him), Cycles for Change’s Service and Retail Manager, and Jesus Suarez Gurrola (PGPs: he/him/bro), Cycles for Change’s Retail Mechanic, didn’t get along when they started working together. Jeff didn’t like the way Jesus did things. But a lot has changed over three years of “bro-ing out” in Cycles for Change’s retail shop, where they spend about half of their time spinning wrenches and the other half interacting with customers.
Jeff, a local guy who went to St. Paul’s Central High School and studied music business at St. Paul’s McNally Smith College of Music, bought a bike during college because he needed a convenient and inexpensive way to get around. He quickly realized that his bike would fit better if he made a few adjustments, so he added riser bars and a shorter stem. He said, “If you’re interested in learning, you seek out more and more.” His interest led him to Cycles for Change, a “cool as hell” place he could go to get the tools he needed and continue tinkering.
Jesus’ adventure with bikes budded when he started riding at the age of six, but he really got into bikes while working at a shop during high school. In his hometown of Jerez, a city in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, he worked on beat-up kid bikes and learned the creativity and innovation necessary to fix bikes that have seen better days. “I kept showing up to the shop and eating their food, and they finally gave me a job,” he said. He later moved to California, and then joined his older sister in Minnesota where he attended diesel technician school and started working at Cycles for Change.
Nowadays, the two admit to being good friends. They buy each other meals, joke about their bromance, and ride together on the weekends with their co-worker Jacob (the St. Paul Shop Programs Coordinator). In fact, the two mechanics each have over 15 bicycles of their own. Jesus collects old school BMX bikes, and also rides a mountain bike and a crosstrek (and even dabbles in unicycle riding). Jeff’s broad array of bikes includes a low rider, a BMX, two fat-tire bikes, and two road bikes. Their skills are in high demand, and both mechanics are perpetually busy, so the last bikes that get worked on are their own. By having multiple bikes, they can be sure one of them is ready to grab when they want to shred the streets or trails.
Their forever curious mentality helps them to have fun at work. Jeff says, “If you put me in a dungeon with a radio and a bunch of tools and bikes, I’ll be a happy person forever.” In addition to bicycle mechanics, Jeff values the regular interactions he has with the community he lives in and works with. He appreciates the autonomy available to him as manager of the retail shop, and explains the potential and opportunity he sees within Cycles for Change’s work. “We’re growing,” he said. “It’s not without pain, but [every year] we’re doing a little better and a little bigger. I’d like to see increased organization and increased sustainability, growth of the retail shop and open shop, and access to more resources for moving forward as a community cycling center.” Jesus strives to set Cycles for Change apart from other bike shops that may come across as snobby, and makes sure to ask all customers clarifying questions so he can effectively give people the information they need.
No matter how one spins it, the expertise and care that lies within Cycles for Change’s retail staff is evident. They have the kind of knowledge one can’t get from a book, and they’re an integral part of the way Cycles for Change is tightening its spokes within the Twin Cities community. Jeff and Jesus will keep retailing, repairing, and doing the good work.