The Golden Wrench

A blog about bicycle repair and maintenance by the mechanics at Freewheel Bike.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why Volunteer?

My dad was a bike mechanic, so that implies a few things. First, I always had a couple of bikes because my dad was a bike mechanic. I learned that no one bike does it all, and that you don't take your nice bike out in the mud unless you want to spend the time to clean it. So my nice BMX bike stayed in the house most of the time, while my beater bike experienced unspeakable horrors at the hands of a kid who hadn't developed a caution reflex yet.

Second, my bikes always ran correctly because my dad was a bike mechanic. I never had to worry that something was going to fall off unless I broke it. When I grabbed my brake lever, I did so in confidence. When I broke stuff, I got lectured; when I wore stuff out, no lecture.

Third, I rode used, hand-me-down junk a lot of the time because my dad was a bike mechanic. Aside from my nice BMX bike which I didn't ride much, I rode junk that other people were giving away. I rode a Schwinn Scrambler that my dad took out of a scrap pile and welded back together, and I even had a wheel built around a Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub so we could go "trail riding" on BMX bikes. This was before we even knew mountain bikes existed!

All of these experiences I see as advantages in my current role as a mechanic at Freewheel, and that's why I see the value in giving back. Being a bike mechanic is an honorable profession, as well as a gift that we can use to help people who can't do what we can do.

But not everyone has the same experiences. Many kids might never know the privilege and responsibility of owning their own bikes. Meanwhile, kids' bikes hang unused in garages or end up as scrap because either they've been outgrown or nobody wants to invest the resources to fix them.

Right now at the Midtown Bike Center, we have a bunch of kids' bikes that need some love from qualified mechanics. Some of them are in need of more than merely filling the tires and wiping down: loose hubs, loose headsets, crooked handlebars, wheels out of true, and structural failure that only trained eyes will catch.

The program is called FreeBikes4Kids and you can follow any of these links to see the volunteer page.

If you're a competent wrench, your skills and example are truly needed!