Philippe’s Bicycle Repair occupies a modest little house on Wood Street.
The front yard is filled with many bike parts, but they are not strewn about as one might expect; rather, they are arranged – designed to catch the eye and imaginations of those who pass by. Inside, Philippe Leblond, the owner, builds and repairs bicycles.
Leblond was born and raised in Vancouver to francophone parents. He learned to speak both French and English from an early age and he also learned that he had a natural gift for fixing machines. “I always liked to get my hands dirty,” he says.
He started studying physics at UBC, but after a couple of years he transferred to a mechanical-design program, at BCIT, and found what he was looking for. “I was excited because I got to play with a lot of different toys,” says Leblond. During this time he also fixed bikes for a bit of extra money.
Upon graduation, Leblond was thrust into the job market at a time when jobs were scarce. “There was a recession in the early 90s and when I finished there was no work [in Vancouver].” Leblond applied for a job as a bike mechanic in the Yukon and soon he was twisting wrenches North of 60.
Two years later, in 1994, Leblond made a permanent move to the Yukon. Shortly thereafter, he bought a trailer and began traveling around the territory. The sight of Leblond’s mobile bike-repair shop became commonplace in many Yukon Communities.
“They are certainly colourful,” Leblond says of the towns he visited. But he also concedes, with a slight note of melancholy in his voice, that the territory has changed and modernized a lot since he moved here.
So, why does he stay in the Yukon?
Leblond gives a predictable answer: he loves nature, but then he goes on to say something that you might not expect from such a mechanically minded individual. “There’s a big artistic community and lots of culture for a town this size.”
Leblond admits he was not always so interested in arts and culture.
“I was pretty left-brained before I got up here,” he says.
The left side of the brain is associated with analytic thinking. But as many Yukoners will attest, there is something about this territory that kicks the right brain – associated with creativity – into high gear.
A closer examination of Leblond’s shop reveals many works of art.
There are homemade clocks constructed out of whatever material seemed to be handy, and black raven silhouette’s made out of metal. On the pumphouse, next to Shipyards Park, you can see the silhouette of a paddlewheeler, another of Leblond’s creations.
He has also built some giant mosquitoes. The wings are made of wire and when one looks closely it becomes apparent that the body of the mosquitoes are made from bicycle chain links.
This tells you a lot about Leblond: as far as he is concerned, there is art in machinery – and there is also machinery in art.