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Location: 3961 East Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, CA MAP

Volunteer days are back, in a new format! They're the second and fourth Saturdays, on a smaller scale. See our Eventbrite site at bikex.eventbrite.com for details and to RSVP. Grab your spot and join in on the wrenching for good! See the event calendar for more events and volunteer days.

Donate bicycles and parts by appointment. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and details of what you have. We have specific drop-off times on Wednesday and Friday and other times by special arrangement. We'll let you know if we have a need for your items and get you drop-off details.

The Silicon Valley Bicycle Exchange is a Section 501c(3) non-profit organization.

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It's been too long since we've featured a volunteer, but hopefully, this one is worth the wait. Read about one of our regular high school volunteers, with a unique life story.

Our weekday afternoon volunteers have quietly become one of our biggest sources of volunteer hours (even if the busy students don't always log their hours). And one volunteer who you'll find at the shop after school most days is Fernando Pacheco Cotos. Fernando is a local Gunn High School student from Peru who has been volunteering with us for almost a year. Bikes and BikeX have had a big impact on his life. He's also a recipient of one of our bike donations. Read on to learn about Fernando and his BikeX experience.


Who is Fernando?

I was born in Chimbote, Peru, a small city seven hours away from Lima. When I was around four years old I moved to Lima, the capital of Peru with my family. It was a hard start, without any support my parents were able to raise me and my younger brother correctly with lots of hard work. When I used to live in Peru I moved a lot, to different houses, different schools, and different friends. 

During 2020 and the pandemic, my parents talked to us and as a family we decided to leave everything back, everything we achieved and all our family to come to the U.S. and try to be successful.

So around February 2021, I came to the U.S. with my family and we landed in Palo Alto. Currently, I am a Junior at Gunn High School who loves bikes, ceramics, and gardening and my family. I am trying to refine my English skills but this did not impede meeting amazing people here. 

I would consider myself a bike fanatic, I know I am still in the learning process but I love to bike around Palo Alto and constantly interact with new bike products and learn about bike mechanics. 

How did you get involved in BikeX?

I heard about BikeX at Gunn, in my high school there is essentially an extension of the Bicycle Exchange called the Gunn BikeX Bike Club started by my classmate Shree. I heard about it and I was interested in it but I did not think how enlightening this would be for myself and how much it would help me in life. 

What keeps you coming back?

I try to go to BikeX every day I can right after school. Unfortunately as a high school student sometimes I just cannot go because of school. 

What keeps me motivated to volunteer is the people I met there. The environment is really friendly and supportive of learning. Volunteers and peers are interesting people, kind and really good mentors. 

Also, I like the feeling that all my hours and work are going to help other people. As a person who came without anything to the U.S., I know how hard it is to adapt as a kid or teenager, I know some people have to walk to school during the first days as I did, but I am happy thinking that I can make other people’s life easier and happier with a fresh, refurbished bike. 

You’ve worked on a number of different bikes. Which bike stands out as the most memorable, or your favorite?

Fernando Pacheco Cotos helping us make our 2022 bike donation goal.
Fernando Pacheco Cotos helping us make our 2022 bike donation goal.

I don't have a favorite bike, I always like to work on miscellaneous projects, they are fun and really mind-working. However I think that there is a cream color Bridgestone mountain bike that we're turning into a gravel bike that I really like, I have not finished it yet but when done it will be an enormous satisfaction and happiness. 

What’s your favorite bike tool?

I really love Allen wrenches. I always carry a small set with me. They are really versatile tools, all bikes need Allen wrenches to make some adjustments. 

What is your background in cycling? And on wrenching on bikes?

My background related to bikes is pretty short. During the pandemic, my parents bought a bike for my brother and me. It was my first time learning how to bike and I got really interested and I loved biking since then. Also, last year I bought two really cheap bikes intending to resell them and make some profit to help my parents save some money. As part of this, I was “forced” to learn how to repair those bikes, and then without realizing I found my favorite hobby. 

How is biking different here compared to Peru? 

Where I used to live and I think the whole country, in general, is not what we can call a “bike friendly” place. The main reason why I never learned how to bike until 2020 was because Peru does not have bike lanes. Traffic in a big city like Lima is also a problem, I was always scared of cars and also getting my bike stolen. But here in Palo Alto having a bike feels amazing. Bike lanes everywhere, less traffic, lots of pretty green areas, and lots of cyclists!

I can go everywhere on my bike, to school, to friends' houses or even visit beautiful natural preserves around here. I feel like Palo Alto is the best place to bike, have fun and enjoy cycling in general. 

What can you share about your personal or family bike collection? 

I tried to put my family on the road. I repaired a Raleigh Clubman for my younger brother, is a pretty well-maintained bike, which he absolutely loves. For my collection, I used to have a Koga Miyata GrandRacer which was too big for me and sadly I had to let it go, that bike was my first road bike, with a Shimano Tiagra and Zipp 101 wheels. I kept the wheels and groupset to try to make a bike project in the future. My current favorite one is a titanium gravel/cyclocross bike, an Airborne Carpe Diem with the unique Gavenalle shifters. This bike has a pretty story that I think represents the values of SVBE. 

I bought a gravel bike I found in the Facebook Marketplace, a pretty Scott Speedster equipped with Shimano GRX and hydraulics disc brakes. The bike was too small for me but the price seemed to be too good. As a teenager, I did not think about any factors beyond price and condition in buying a second-hand bike. As soon as I showed the bike to the SVBE, Andrew checked the bike in BikeIndex and found that sadly it was a stolen bike, I briefly lost all the money I made for months but I gave the bike to the owner because it was the right thing to do. After this incident, Andrew Yee offered me one of his personal bikes, it was the last donation of the very successful 2022, the donation 1035. And the owner ended up giving me some of my money back!

I did not have the words to describe how happy I was, with some parts and clothes from Andrew, the bike was ready to ride. This bike means everything to me now, is the bike that also opened the doors to cycle further and also told me how amazing the SVBE staff is. 

What have you learned since volunteering with SVBE? 

I have learned almost every single thing I know about bikes and cycling at BikeX. I have also learned how to properly heat leftover pizza! 

What's been the most interesting problem to deal with?

Any problem is interesting to me, sometimes I know the answer and sometimes I end up learning something new. 

What’s your favorite bike ride, local or otherwise?

I love doing the Portola Valley loop, and gravel riding all around Shoreline. But I also love every single casual ride I do. Even to go to school every morning, sometimes I even race with my brother to see who sprints faster to school. 

Thank you, Fernando, for all that you do!