Matt has 13 years of experience providing direct service to homeless and at-risk youth, including 10 years providing direct street outreach. He developed the concept for Full Cycle while building bikes with youth during overnight shifts at a shelter where he worked, and started the program in 2002. Matt loves all types of cycling, but his BMX roots have given him an undeniable love for dirt jumping (he just wears a lot more pads than he used to). Matt considers himself lucky to have been able to combine his love of cycling with his passion for youth work to create a pretty amazing job that he’s proud of. And if you bring him chocolate, he will be your friend.
Rita Van Allen
Originally from Eugene, Oregon, Rita started biking the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul year-round in 2002, car-less and content. She came to Full Cycle in 2010 with a youth worker background and a practical (stubborn) opinion that if her bike breaks she wants to be able to fix it herself. In her current role as Youth Services Manager, she makes sure all of our programming is accessible and relevant to the young people that walk through our doors. She has come to believe that bikes are more than a means of transportation for herself and the young people at the shop, and now embraces a wide range of styles which could even include full suspension, kick stands, derailleurs, fixed gears, rust, fenders, and wide tires. Look out curbs and trails of Minneapolis, she recently mastered the Bunny Hop.
Essie comes to Full Cycle as the brand new classroom instructor, after teaching bike mechanics and adult Learn to Ride classes in the Twin Cities (and briefly in Berlin) since 2011. Growing up in rural Maine, biking became Essie’s ticket to personal freedom when a friend gave her their old mountain bike — a way to get to work, to school, and to friends’ houses, and all the while getting to appreciate the great outdoors. She is passionate about bikes as a way both to gain independence and to be more connected to the people and environment we live with.
Since she received her first tool box as a kid, Valerie has loved to tinker. From old bikes to household appliances, she’d put a wrench or a screwdriver to it — sometimes just to discover what was inside. It is the beauty of learning how something we depend on works and the deep satisfaction of fixing what may be broken that fuels her work as a bike mechanic.
As a young adult, she began to depend on a bicycle as her primary means of transportation, and in her mind she knew she’d have to know everything about that bike, so she took it apart and put it back together again. After successfully working with her own bikes, she took that confidence and offered help to others by volunteering at free bike workshops. Quickly she learned that she loved helping people understand and work on their own bikes, and it was then that she decided to elevate what began as a hobby into a career.
Today, she applies her knowledge and years of experience as a bike mechanic in her new city with humility and a never-ending interest in discovering how life works.