Old Bike, New Life

May 2nd, 2023 by JoAnn Cranson

By Kathy Braginton

I’m old and rusty.  I creak and moan.  I feel deflated, but I know there is still life in me.  The road is a distant memory, but I dream of my wheels on the pavement and the wind rushing through my headset.  Day in and day out, I am dusty and downtrodden.  What opportunities could I provide if I was clean and tuned?  

My owner recently rolled me out of the garage into the bright light of day.  I was slow to move, but eager to see what adventure may await as I was loaded on the bike rack.  He dropped me off at an unfamiliar place, patted my seat, and went on his way.  As I looked around, I felt uneasy and out of place at first, but I soon realized that I was not alone.  Around me were many other bikes, some looked as oppressed as myself while others were not so gloomy.  We were all loaded into a trailer and I was soon dropped off at the home of a nice man.  He took me in his home, lifted me off the ground, and hooked me on his bike stand.  

What came next was truly euphoric!  I was stripped bare.  The dust was slowly and intentionally washed away.  New cables were run, my pads replaced, and all that was old slowly became new again.  My tires were pumped and firm in a way I had not felt in quite some time.  Could my old and rusty frame really have new life?  Could I truly be upcycled to provide a new sense of transportation freedom to a new rider?

Upcycle Bikes refurbishes used adult bikes and provides them to partner organizations serving refugees, shelter clients, and other community members in need of an affordable and accessible transportation option.  The mission of Upcycle Bikes is to make bikes accessible to community members with transportation challenges.

Founded in 2022, Upcycle Bikes all started with one well-meaning bike mechanic with a desire to impact his community in a new way.  Thanks to strong community encouragement and a group of talented and passionate individuals, Upcycle Bikes is now easing transportation challenges across Grand Rapids.  Upcycle Bikes partners with the following organizations for bike distribution:  Bethany Christian Services, AYA Youth Collective, Safe Haven Ministries, and Guiding Light.  Bethany Christian Services says the bike donations from Upcycle Bikes allows refugees to go to work, school, tutoring classes, and other activities without relying on the bus or volunteers for transportation.

Members of the Team Athletic Mentors – Masters West team are collaborating with Upcycle Bikes to assist in building and refurbishing used bikes.  In giving of their time and resources, TAM has as many as 12 members servicing bikes out of their homes.

Averaging 3-4 hours per bike to bring the bikes back into service, TAM volunteers have found it therapeutic in a sense to volunteer their time  and give back to the community.

Other ways the team members have volunteered their time:

  • Upcycle bike drives and bike deliveries.
  • Event volunteers to raise funds for the Upcycle organization.

Upcycle Bikes recently moved into their new home at 800 Monroe Ave NW,  Grand Rapids, MI  49503.  Their new shop will allow Upcycle Bikes and TAM volunteers to collaborate on their efforts to provide more bikes into the community.  Here are a few ways you can get involved with the Upcycle Bikes organization:  volunteer fixing bikes, volunteering at a bike drive, or attending an event. Don’t feel you need to be able to refurbish a bike in order to volunteer.  Do you have an unused bike in your garage?  Bike donations can be made at Upcycle Bikes (by appointment), REI of Grand Rapids, Pedego of Grand Rapids, Alger Bikes, and Aquinas College (Campus Safety).  Monetary donations can be made as well through their website or by sending a check directly to the organization.  Upcycle Bikes is a 501(c)(3), all volunteer, non-profit organization that relies on bike and financial donations to satisfy their mission.

Check out Upcycle Bikes website for more information on upcoming events and how you can give that old bike a new life:  www.upcyclebikes.org.  Follow Upcycle Bikes on social media to keep up to date on all their happenings:  Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin


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