I started volunteering for Open Roads Bicycle Program about two years ago. I had recently rediscovered bicycling after a 35 year break from the hobby. As a kid my brothers and I were always building bicycles from all sorts of parts we would find around town. We liked to build BMX bikes from Schwinn Stingrays and ride them on a dirt track we made across the street from our house. After I got my drivers license and my 1964 VW bug, I lost interest in bikes all together.
Many years later I was driving home from Bell’s and discovered a Schwinn Varsity sitting on the side of the road with a free sign on it. I immediately stopped and threw the bike in the back of my (much newer) VW. It didn’t take long before I had a big collection of bikes again. I organize a vintage bicycle show in Kalamazoo in the Fall. This year will be the 6th annual. This is where I met Ethan Alexander. He suggested that I should become a volunteer at Open Roads Bicycle Program. It took me about a year to think it over. To this day I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Working with Open Roads has been very rewarding in more ways than one. I always feel like I’m learning as much as the kids are or maybe even more. It has really helped me to improve my social skills and be more accepting of people who have different life styles from my own.
The staff is a very friendly and extremely cool group of people. I have developed many great friendships through the program finding a lot of common interests aside from cycling, although cycling is usually our main focus. During the off season (winter) we spend a lot of time fixing up bikes for the sales floor and doing small project around the shop to help orga- nize and improve the work flow. Things have really changed a lot at Open Roads in the past two years. Both the shop and the programs have really grown and matured quite a bit. In the summer months we run programs called Fixapaloozas. These programs involve going into neighborhoods and showing kids how to repair bicycles on the spot, all while making small talk to see how life is going. These are a great opportunity for others to volunteer and learn about the programs. They are also a great introduction for kids to other programs and opportunities offer by Open Roads such as Earn a Bike, Youth Board positions and shop Apprenticeships.
It seems like we never have enough time to fix all the bikes and of course some are not as simple to repair and may require a visit to the shop. The repairs done on the Fixapaloozas are very simple and can easily be carried out by anyone with the most basic mechanical skills. The repairs consist of mostly tires and cables for the brakes and gears. Of course there is always help available from our more experienced bicycle mechanics. At the end of each Fixapalooza we’re all treated to pizza and juice. I’m looking forward to another busy season with the Open Roads crew. It’s just a great way to end a hot summer day!
- Guest post written by Ludwig Betz, Open Roads Volunteer
Posts Provided By:
Erin Denay, Executive Director - In Coordination with: Open Roads staff and board members, youth and parents, and dedicated program partners