A man rolled into the Patchwork Bike Shop and asked Paul, a Bike Shop volunteer, to fix his bike’s front tire. It wasn’t an unusual request. Our Bike Shop volunteers see a lot of busted tires, bent rims, and leaky tubes. A lot can happen to a tire that’s rolling along for miles and miles, getting its owner all across town and wherever they need to go.
Things got a little more unusual when Paul looked more closely at the bad tire. It wasn’t quite round and it felt much too hard. Paul slid a tire lever into the bead of the tire in order to remove the faulty tube. Nothing happened. He used more force, and suddenly a dirty piece of fabric popped out from where the tube should have been.
Paul started to pull and pull and pull. Like a magician pulling an endless string of scarves out of his hat, Paul pulled a long rope of clothing out of the bike tire. Clearly, the man had tried his best to fix his bike using the materials he had on hand. He had rolled and stuffed an assortment of clothing inside the tire in the hope that it would function enough like an air-filled tube for the bike to roll. It didn’t.
Many of us enjoy the luxury of owning a car. We might have a bicycle in our garage that we ride for fun or for exercise or because we choose to use a cleaner form of transportation to get to and from work. If one of our bike tubes needs to be replaced, we hop in our car and drive 20 minutes across town to get the parts and tools we need. Sure, it takes a little time and the construction on the Lloyd Expressway might slow us down, but we’re done with it relatively soon and are on with our day.
Our Bike Shop customers do not enjoy that luxury. The other side of town is so distant it might as well be two states away, especially when their only form of transportation, their bike, is broken and unable to transport them there. Assuming they would have the money to get the parts and tools they would need from a discount store, not everyone who rides a bike actually knows how to repair it.
Having a Bike Shop staffed by trustworthy mechanics is essential in helping our guests keep their primary transportation in safe, working condition. The Bike Shop is open Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8:30-noon. It provides refurbished bikes to people who need them for transportation and completes repairs that allow existing bike owners to keep their means of transportation roadworthy. Last year we provided 94 refurbished adult bikes to new owners. We gave away 10 bikes as rewards in the Arts & Smarts program. We did 364 repairs for walk in clients. Our Bike Shop volunteers contributed 550 hours of their time.