Summers at the shop are wild.
Wrenches are swinging. Hundreds of bikes are donated. Volunteers sweat it out in our basement workshop while refurbishing and repairing bikes as fast as possible for our clients. Hundreds of bikers get out on the road through our Get A Bike program. Bruce Springsteen blares over the surroundsound speakers. Sometimes four or more different languages are being spoken in the shop at once. Repair slips are written up in a flury of action and get lost. Hundreds of flats get patched. Classes and workshops are happening every evening.
If you walk into Bike Recycle Vermont on a typical summer day, you could easily wonder, "What's even going on in here?!"
Amid all of the chaos, there are magical moments large and small taking place. Kids are learning to ride their bikes in the parking lot. Clients who haven't ridden a bike since childhood are grinning from ear to ear as they pull out of the parking lot onto Riverside Avenue. Customers become volunteers and then become good friends. Get A Bike clients come back months after getting a bike and report that they are 20 pounds lighter and 10 times happier. People start talking about a bike and go on to find common ground, and then social barriers start coming down. Connections are made. Community is built. People are finding a place where they fit in feel part of something bigger.
We don't capture every amazing story that happens in the shop. It's impossible to do so. But we wanted to share a few of our favorite stories from summer 2015 with you:
10. A good deed for Kathy.
9. A tricycle for Russ.
Russ lives in the neighborhood and is recovering from brain cancer and intense chemotherapy treatments. With the help of the Cancer Patient Relief Services at the University of Vermont Medical Center, we built Russ a tricycle with an electric assist that enables him to run errands around town without exhausting himself. With some fresh batteries, he's rolling through the Old North End. Happy riding, Russ!
8. Debbie's bike gets returned.
Debbie has been a friend of the shop the beginning in 2005 and has been volunteering at the shop once a week this summer. When Debbie served in Americorps several years ago, we built her a sweet bike that she rides year-round to this day. When Debbie's bike was stolen out of her driveway last week, we quickly went to work to recover it.
Well, we found Debbie's bike. And we weren't that surprised. After 10 years of being the go-to bike shop for much of our neighborhood, we can get the word out about a stolen bike pretty hard and fast. A neighborhood youth brought the bike back to us and we brough it back to Debbie. Bikes = Connections = Community. We're always happy to return bikes to their rightful owners, and we're ecstatic when we can return bikes to people who have given so much of their time and love to the shop. That's karma, people.
7. That time when Dan made balance bikes for two kids and then they both learned to ride the bikes in the parking lot in 15 minutes so he had to put the bottom brackets back in immediately after taking them out.
Watching a kid learn to ride a bike is like watching a flower bloom. Balance bikes are the best way for kids to exerience the sensation of balancing on two wheels and using forward momentum to stay upright. You can pay hundred of dollars for a nice wooden balance bike. Or you can spend 15 minutes removing the bottom bracket from a kid's bike like we do at Bike Recycle Vermont.
After convincing some parents that balance bikes were superiour to training wheels, Dan went to work removing the bottom brackets from two kids bikes. The kids went outside to test the balance bikes in the parking lot and returned just 15 minutes later to ask for the pedals to be put back on. Dan couldn't believe it. Two flowers bloomed in the parking lot. Really fast.
image from benparsons.com where you can learn how to make your own balance bike
6. Big Mike brings the shops to Demo Derby.
5. Sam takes home the Rainbow Dash Spirit Award at the 127 Hill Climb.
Dan loves riding bikes, and Sam does too. Dan loves Rainbow Dash, and Sam does too.
Earlier this year, Sam got a My Little Pony Bike through our Get a Bike Program. It was Dan's favorite bike in the shop and he told Sam he would give it to her if she learned to ride it without training wheels.
After an hour in the parking lot, Sam was riding away on her My Little Pony bike.
Sam was the only female competitor at this years 127 Hill Climb Challenge. She kicked butt! Like a gracious competitor, Sam let Dan borrow her Rainbow Dash bike so he could race it in the adult-on-kids-bikes heat of the Hill Climb.
For her wonderful spirit and for being such an amazing bike rider, we awarded Sam the Rainbow Dash Wings Spirit Award (RDWSA) at the Hill Climb. With her new wings, Sam matches her bike. And Dan's socks, too.
4. The Multicultural Youth Program Summer Bike Club rides to the Causeway
3. a mechanics class for King Street Center
Knowledge is power. Bikes are, too.
This summer we had the oppotunity to run one of our Bicycle Mechanics 101 classes exclusively for King Street Center youth. The youth learned a lot -- about solving problems, working efficiently, and of course about bikes. By completeing the class the youth earned their own bike that they worked on and refurbished for themselves.
We loved working with King Street Center!
2. Youth Shop every Thursday.
Bike Recycle Vermont has been a de facto youth center during the summers. This was the first year that we set aside a weekly time to focus our energies on teaching youth how to repair and maintain their own bikes by offering Youth Shop.
Youth Shop was a HUGE success. Dozens upon dozens of young people have brought their bikes into the shop, volunteered for one hour, and then worked with a mentor to repair their own bikes. Attendees have left with safer bikes, mechanical know-how, and a sense of contributing to the shop.
1. Every single time someone got a bike.
Our Get A Bike program provides affordable bikes, parts, and repair services to income-eligible Vermonters. We get about 400 people on bikes each year and provide over 1,000 repairs. We try to take a picture of every person who walks out of the shop with a bike, but -- like we said earlier -- sometimes things are moving fast and we miss our chance to capture the magic. But we got a few!
Co-written by Christine Hill, Outreach Director & Dan Hock, Shop Manager