RICHMOND — A year ago, Ella Grace Savage couldn’t really ride a bicycle.

Even so, she went to Richmond’s Youth Bike Rodeo and thanks to a bike with training wheels that was on hand, she got a chance to ride the course laid out by traffic cones in the parking lot of the Richmond Police Department and learn some basic bike safety.

Ella, 8, was back Sunday along with about 75 other kids to ride the course, check out the bouncy castle, get their bicycles checked out for safety and maybe win one of the bikes.

For most of the morning she was on her bike more than off of it, standing out from the crowd in her unicorn bike helmet, complete with ears, horn and mane.

“She wanted to come back,” said Ella’s mother, Theetra Savage.

Every year, Richmond police put on the Youth Bike Rodeo, closing off a bit of High Street at Gardiner Street to accommodate a child-size obstacle course for the kids to ride.

Richmond Police Sgt. James Donnell, who was monitoring the mini-traffic circle on the course, said the bike rodeo gives children a chance to learn to control their bikes and learn road safety, including stopping at stop signs and walking their bikes across crosswalks.

“We do have a lot of kids riding their bikes on streets in town,” said Donnell, who took on organizing the bike rodeo four years ago. “When the weather’s nice, they ride their bikes to school.”

But before any kid could try out the course, Mark Wheeler had to check it out first.

Wheeler, who works for Bath Cycle in Woolwich, was equipped to make basic adjustments to the mechanics of the bikes, adding air to some tires, oiling chains and inspecting brakes and brake pads.

Wheeler is no stranger to bikes. He estimates he has been working on bikes for about 20 years, and he has been riding them for even longer, including a cross-country ride from Bellingham, Washington, to Maine.

“Many of these bikes have poor brake components,” he said. “They’re hard to work with and adjust. The coaster brakes are fine, but the rim brakes are generally not very good.”

The key to getting a good bike is shopping around because they can be gotten for about half the retail price, Wheeler said.

The next stop was the helmet check, where adjustments were made or new helmets were provided.

While Sam Gay had a helmet, the 7-year-old’s bike didn’t pass muster. One of his tires was about ready to blow off the rim. So he ran the course on a borrowed bike.

Donnell said the event couldn’t run without donations from people and businesses, who offered up bike helmets, bikes, and money to buy more bikes.

To give the day a cool factor, Maine Helicopters of Whitefield circled the rodeo before coming to rest in the parking lot of the Public Works building.

And with the Seatbelt Convincer, a device provided by Maine Bureau of Highway Safety that shows what happens during vehicle crashes to people not wearing seat belts, it was an all-around safety day, Donnell said.

“We’ve got neighbors here cooking food,” he said.

Theetra Savage, standing and holding her daughter’s melting ice cream cone, said last year Scott MacMaster, the police chief, took some time to show her daughter how to ride a bike and helped her gain confidence on two wheels. It was a good thing, because she won one of the bikes that was being given away.

On Sunday, Ella entered a drawing for a bike when she completed the obstacle course. Her mother entered the other giveaway.

Within minutes, they learned they both won bikes.

A few minutes later, Ella was looking around for another girl, to give her the bike she had won.

“I wanted to make her a little happy,” Ella said.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

[email protected]