BIDDEFORD — The motorized ice tricycle may not have been the fleetest custom-made design at the Community Bicycle Center’s Bikes on Ice event on Saturday, but it was the crowd-pleaser.
The modified tricycle propelled by a gas-powered rototiller engine drew a circle of admirers at the Biddeford Ice Arena. The yet-to-be-named vehicle is the invention of Paul Jurgiewich, 14, of Biddeford, who said he had been fiddling around with the idea of motorizing a tricycle for some time.
“I like to think up stuff,” said Jurgiewich.
Jurgiewich’s creation was one of a dozen or so bikes adapted by members of the Community Bicycle Center, an organization designed to empower youths through bicycles and related activities. The 13-year-old center has worked with hundreds of area children to help them learn the fine art of bicycle maintenance and repair, and the importance of physical fitness and bicycle safety.
For some, the attraction is the riding, while others say the tinkering is what draws them to the center’s programs.
Sophia Hibbard, 12, of Windham said she likes both. She took part in a 180-mile bicycle trek over three days last summer but also likes to build bikes.
“I have built five so far, a few for myself and two for my cousins,” said Hibbard.
Center members came up with the idea of the ice races after helping to clear some ice, said Rick LaChance of Biddeford, a board member and one of almost 160 people who volunteer at the nonprofit organization.
“The Community Bicycle Center is about a lot more than getting a bike,” said LaChance.
Last year the center, which has a staff of three, worked with 300 youths who built bikes or took part in bike trips.
It offers programs for free, relying on grants, financial donations and used-bike contributions. The average age of participants is 12.
“At that age bikes are a great vehicle to work with,” said Andy Greif, executive director.
Ken Koehler, president, said the center has become a hothouse for bicycle adaptations such as a stationary bike that powers a blender.
The bike blender provides free smoothies to whoever shows up at the center on Fridays.
“We could lease these blenders out to parties, I am sure,” said Koehler.
Volunteer Ralph Lariviere’s ice bikes were among the innovations at the Saturday races. Lariviere simply removed the front wheel, replacing it with a pole fitted with the bottom of an ice skate.
“I used some of the old skates I had when I was a kid,” said Lariviere.
Parents said the ice races and other Community Bicycle Center activities keep their children busy and give them a sense of belonging.
“They tend to go to the center more than anywhere else. It’s a good outlet,” said Tom Baillargeon.
Baillargeon was on hand to watch Briana, 8, and Jordan, 10, compete in the elementary school division.
Despite the slipping and sliding during the races, contestants insisted that riding a bicycle on ice is easier than it looks.
“There really isn’t a trick to it, other than to start slow,” said Matt Perkins, 12, of Biddeford.
Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: