With an arsenal of wrenches, cable cutters, bottom bracket tools, tire levers and helmets to give out, four young riders from The Community Bicycle Center in Biddeford set out on their first mobile repair ride.
Matt Berkins, 11, hauled the tool trailer behind his bike on the four-mile 90-degree ride from the bike center to Rotary Park.
“I learned how to fix bikes here,” he said, as he explained the ABCs of bike maintenance while he checked each one: “air, brakes, chain.”
The trailer will serve as interim tool-transport until they receive their custom mobile repair unit, due any day now, from Portland, Ore.
“We’re calling it the Bike Doctor program for now,” said Bronwyn Potthoff, the center’s director of resource development.
“It’s going to have a sound system like an ice cream truck so kids will be able to hear it and get their bike fixed at their front door.”
The grant-funded program will teach kids the ABCs of bike maintenance and will service bikes around the neighborhood in hopes of outreach and education, said Community Bicycle Center founder Andy Greif.
The center is a nonprofit youth development program that uses bicycle riding and maintenance experiences to help kids develop life and vocational skills.
“They’re coming here and getting individual attention from volunteers, they’re observing, problem solving, getting to know their learning style, and working through frustrations,” Greif said. The center, he said, is designed to be an outlet for kids with behavioral or learning challenges, or ones that don’t have the funds or parental support to do other activities.
Kids can use the bike center for free and even work toward a bike with the Earn-a-Bike program.
Last year, the three CBC staff members and 154 volunteers worked with 355 children, going on bike rides, fixing bikes, promoting bike transportation.
Thirty-five kids even did the Trek Across Maine, clad in yellow CBC uniforms depicting an adult and a child arm reaching for the same bike wrench.
Matt has been coming to the shop for over a year. A biker in all seasons, he even studded his tires so he could ride through the winter.
Kiersten Hauschild, 11, has already decided she wants to work for the center when she is old enough.
“It’s really fun and I like helping other kids with their bikes,” she said.
Once at Rotary Park, she stepped off the back of a tandem bike to hand out flyers for the mobile repair program with Program Director Andrew Burnell.
Meanwhile, head mechanic Woody Worthley, 21, and Matt set up shop and started working on their bikes to demonstrate repairs.
The mobile bike brigade of four spent the afternoon raising awareness for the program without finding any bikes to fix. But Burnell said he thinks they will be fixing plenty of bikes by the end of summer, once the word of the mobile repair unit spreads.
The Bike Doctor rides are scheduled tentatively for 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer.
Staff Writer Colleen Stewart can be contacted at 791-6355 or at: [email protected]