If you’re familiar with our other website, BikeCommuters.com, then you’ll be familiar with some of the community service projects that I’ve been doing. Back in the Fall of 2012 I got some help from Planet Bike, they donated a huge box of bicycle lights, bells, and locks for me to give away to some of the homeless folks in Santa Ana, Ca. that used their bicycles as their main mode of transportation. From that experience I invited other companies to join my effort because I felt that it was very rewarding and a valuable lesson giving back to the community. Then around Christmas time, Planet Bike sent another box of donations and James Thomas from Serfas came out with a huge bag full of product that he wanted to give away. You should have heard some of the stories that people would tell us on how having a light could help them not get hit…again. Yes, many of the people we met back in 2012 talked about getting hit multiple times by cars or how their bikes got stolen.
While I was out there, I had asked some of the people we helped out what else they needed. Some said tubes, patch kits and even seats. They needed basic things that you and I would often times take for granted. But I also noticed that many of the bikes they had were in disrepair. Some bikes had bent wheels, brakes that didn’t work and most just needed lube on their bike. With that in mind, I came up with the Mobile Bicycle Repair Unit. I joined Operation Feed the Homeless 2 Sundays ago and got to work on fixing bicycles. I was pretty overwhelmed on how many people needed help once they found out my service was free.
After my first experience in fixing bicycles, I wanted to share it with others. I then put it out on Facebook, sent emails to my local ride group and solicited people to come and join me the following Sunday to come back out to Santa Ana, Ca. to service more bicycles. I wanted to form a small team so we can take care of more bicycles while we were out there. I actually had quite the response from people wanting to help. Some were riding buddies, others were readers of both sites. But since it was a bit of a late notice, many couldn’t make it but promised to be there the next time I coordinated the effort.
However, I was every encouraged to have my friends, The Moe and Artie-The One Man DH Party by my side on that Sunday. We had a total of 3 work stands busy the whole time. I started losing count on how many bicycles we serviced. At one point, we had a homeless man come up to us wanting to see if we can fix the brakes on his walker.
Art’s thoughts from Sunday.
This weekend RL asked me if I would like to help him repair bikes for the homeless over in Santa Ana. RL had did this the weekend before and said that he had a great response to this need and that the help would be appreciated, I agreed and when I got there RL and our other buddy The Moe were already set up with there bike stands and tools.
We were busy right off the bat and I couldn’t believe how many homeless people that rely on their bikes as there main mode of transportation were in need of tune-ups, parts, flat repairs, and any other basic thing they may need to travel. This is an amazing need for the homeless and I it felt good to help those who are in need.
The one thing that would have been great to do is be able to have replaced some of the most basic parts like brake pads, chains, and cables. I felt bad sending someone on there way knowing they had a bike that wasn’t 100% safe. It was amazing that some of the bikes we repaired were running at all.
This is an amazing service to do and all that we helped were so glad to have us there you couldn’t help but feel good. I have been involved in the cycling industry in one form or the other and this is a genuine need and I look forward to helping RL when I can with this feel good operation.
One of the things that we were doing was getting these bikes back on the road. Some of them were really bad condition that the only thing we could do was to lube their chains and check their brakes. This bike came to us because the owner said his chain was skipping. Upon closer inspection, his whole chain was rusted out and seized. Though, you and I would probably just replace the whole drive train, the owner didn’t have that luxury nor did we have parts to give him. So The Moe and I went to work on this bike by applying a liberal amount of lube, degreaser, then lube again. Then I had to take 2 pairs of pliers and try to get each chain to start moving again. This was no easy task. Eventually I got each link to start moving again and got the bike pedaling. Not as smooth as I would have liked, but 5 times better than before.
We had a pretty good day, you would not believe how many people thanked us. In fact, one person I helped out the previous week came up to me to express how grateful he is to me for fixing his bike. On another occasion while we were all busy fixing bikes, a man comes up and says, “Wow! This is such a great idea! Who came up with this? This does so much more for people than just simply giving them a plate of food to eat. This ultimately gets them from one place to another, you’re helping people maintain their livelihood!”
Even as we were leaving, people still thanked us for what we did for them. I’d like to invite our readers who are in the SoCal area to join us next time we head out. All you need is basic bicycle mechanical skills, a workstand and a desire to help. The plan is to do this at least once a month to coincide with the efforts of Operation Feed the Homeless. I’ll be posting at least 1-2 weeks prior to the date we’ll be heading out on MtnBikeRiders.com and BikeCommuters.com as well as our fanpages. It really is a great opportunity to give back, I guarantee your experience will be rewarding.
You could also help by donating parts such as brake/shifter cable/housing, brake pads, grips, tires tubes and other things that you may have on your spare parts bins that you no longer need. You could also donate funds so we can go out and purchase some of the items ourselves. We’d love to get companies involved by donating hard parts so we can be more effective in our efforts. Feel free to comment or contact us directly email@example.com.