About Our Volunteers
Steve Young came to help us out during the pandemic. Every Tuesday afternoon he tackles a few bike donations in the back room. We interrupt him when a customer comes in with an especially ticklish gear problem. He says he’s been tinkering for as long as he can remember.
“As we were growing up, my three brothers and I were interested in anything with wheels. When we approached our parents about purchasing something we wanted badly, our father would say ‘I won’t buy it for you. But if you want to build it, I’ll help you.’
My first roller was a coaster made from scraps of wood and wheels from an old Radio Flyer wagon. I finally got tired of pulling it back uphill and decided to put a motor on it. I somehow got an old lawn mower running and put it on my coaster. But I got the gearing wrong. It basically shook itself apart.
So I decided to build a scooter for the motor. I had access to scrap metal and an electric welder, but my first attempts at welding were pretty ugly. An old master welder who worked for my father told me his pet chicken could weld better than me! He was a fun teacher and coach. My father thought my scooter was a bit dangerous. So we four boys found an old go cart frame in a junk yard, came up with a used chain saw motor and a transmission from a junk motorcycle. It worked – we proceeded to tear up our gravel driveway.
Meanwhile, I got interested in electrical stuff including building a crystal radio and finding ways to get my brothers to shock themselves. I also got pretty good at changing out the drum rollers on our heavy duty electric dryer which was prone to wear out frequently with laundry from nine people (I also have three sisters).
Later, while working at MIT in 1981 I became interested in Human Powered Vehicles (HPV) and happened to meet an HPV guru, Professor of Engineering David Gordon Wilson. I showed him the recumbent bicycle I had built with used bike parts and a frame welded together of electrical conduit ($5 invested). This was the highlight of my HPV hobby. Prof Wilson invited me to bring my bike to one of his classes to show his students.
Recently I got interested in electric bicycles and bought a kit to convert a regular bike to electric assist. The kit included a 48 volt battery pack, an electronic motor controller, and a 26 inch front wheel with a 1,000 watt motor in the hub. I soon discovered that the torque on the axle overpowered the front fork of my wife’s bicycle causing the wheel to come loose. Luckily I wasn’t going very fast when the wheel fell off. To confirm the problem, I tried again. No way.
Consequently, I decided to build a semi-recumbent tricycle that would be more stable and get me closer to the ground. I built the frame using an automotive exhaust pipe welded to the rear section of a twelve speed bike. I designed and fabricated metal parts in my work shop using common hand tools. Local shops welded the parts together. I acquired scrap bike frames and used parts from Williamsport Bicycle Recycle.”
Debbie Decker has volunteered for over two years. She’s a woman of many talents. On Tuesdays she rarely has a chance to sit down!
Debbie learned to use tools as a kid. “My dad taught me a lot. He always fixed things around the house, and I grew up helping him. I didn’t ride that much as a kid, but now I love riding the rail trails and bike paths in the city. So the bike shop is a great place to learn how to use basic tools as well as specialized bike tools. There are people around that can teach you how to fix your bike and keep it in good running condition.”
Since she started, Debbie’s bike mechanic skills have steadily improved. Attaching training wheels or a kick stand came pretty easily. She’s learning from our mechanic how to attack some trickier issues with the brakes. The shop’s full of things to inspire creative ideas. Last winter she put together a stationary bike.
When Abbey Davids first came into the shop several years ago, she wanted to fix up her bike so that she could do some bike camping on the Pine Creek Rail Trail. It didn’t take long for her to move beyond basics. Now she’s become our master of an especially tough job —-wheel truing.
Abbey’s story is like that of many women. She loved the feel of being on a bike and taught herself to ride. But repairing was considered “a man’s job.”
“I grew up in a rural area that didn’t have a lot of safe areas to ride a bike. My mother took me to a flat development to practice on a small bike with training wheels, but we only went once and I wasn’t allowed to use it myself. She bought me a scooter to use on the cul-de-sac with the nearby neighbors, but they all used bicycles without training wheels. So against parental rule, I dragged the now rusted bike with bent training wheels and no air in the tires to a small hill in the back yard and taught myself to balance. Eventually, I learned to stay upright. My favorite gift that Christmas was a grown-up bike with gears and no training wheels. It even had air in the tires. Who knew that would make it easier to ride?
As an adult, my favorite aspect of riding is that I temporarily don’t feel like an adult. The wind in my face feels like the kind of freedom only an 8 year-old sneaking a toy she isn’t supposed to play with to a secluded spot so she can master it and ultimately say ‘I told you so.’ It’s still a pause button from the rest of the world and all of the noise and chores. It provides a different ‘I told you so’ as an adult. I was misdiagnosed and in and out of the hospital for two years before Graves Disease was identified. After the surgery, the shock of two years of near constant high anxiety to deep depression took a huge toll on every aspect of my life. Walking, then riding my bike around the River Walk has been the ‘I told you so’ I needed to say to myself. Hope, much like happiness, isn’t something to be found. You have to make it yourself. I made mine riding further than I thought I could in a day and not giving up when challenges to my mobility made everything more difficult.
My riding goal is to travel the Pine Creek Rail Trail with camping gear in a trailer behind me. I should probably learn how to cook with a campfire. Which one is poison oak again? Can you fix holes in your tent with duct tape? Long term goal perhaps, but if I taught myself to balance going down a hill riding the rims I have no doubt I’ll get there eventually. One area I am better prepared in, thanks to the Bicycle Recycle, is basic repairs. Should minor mishaps happen on my journey, I have a chance to either make a quick fix or figure out what is causing the problem.
I first came to the Bicycle Recycle after I tried to fix the brakes myself from YouTube videos. Only a slight disaster, I used the wrong cable, got bits backwards, duct taped what didn’t stay and accidentally got other metal pieces wedged in places they shouldn’t be. Don’t ask me to fix your derailleur, but I know what I did wrong with my brakes and I’m miles from where I was when I first walked in.
The aspect of being at the Bicycle Recycle that is my favorite is learning to work with tools. The door to my father’s workshop was closed. ‘Girls don’t work with tools.’ Peeking around the corner didn’t teach me how to use any of them. Trying to follow directions to put shelves together in college was not successful. Thank God that Walmart takes back boxes that have missing or broken parts. When I learn to fix different parts and they actually work like they’re supposed to, the same 8 year old, ‘I told you so’ starts to smile. It’s a challenge because I’m out of my element, but I’m grateful for the opportunity and the practice.
I’m glad to be a part of a cause that connects the community with bicycles and education. I don’t have a car. My bike is my transportation. Knowing basic repairs gives me more self-sufficiency.”
Her story is an example of how our shop serves the community. Abbey’s one of our regulars now. We’re happy that she continues learning with all of us.
One evening in the summer of 2015, Tegan Hartman came into the shop. We were in our first location, an area just behind our present shop. She surveyed the chaotic piles of bikes, boxes of unsorted tools, told us about her bikes and experience with a non-profit. The next evening she came in and volunteered. A stroke of good fortune for the bike shop! She’s been with us ever since.
Like many of our volunteers, riding a bike has been a part of her life for a long time. But not just one style.
“I started riding bikes with my brother and neighbors, as a kid. We rode up and down the dirt road by my house, into the woods and all around the neighborhood almost every day, when we weren’t in school. I mostly stopped riding bikes for a few years, as I got busier with school and other hobbies, but got back into it more seriously around 2012 when a friend of mine helped me restore and build a nice vintage bike for riding around town. Since then I have also acquired a gravel bike, and built myself mountain bike, so I have one for every occasion!”
As we learned more about running a community bike shop, Tegan helped us move along. Her knowledge of parts – head sets, derailleurs, bottom brackets – helped customers understand repair work, Later she worked with us on the difficult job of just keeping track of things, of organizing a bike shop that works for volunteers and customers.
“I got involved with non-profits when I joined the local roller derby league and helped run it for a few years. After getting out of that I wanted to find something new, so I started volunteering at the Bicycle Recycle. I’ve been at the Bicycle Recycle for almost 7 years, and have enjoyed every minute of it. I managed the shop for a few years, and now I just come in during the off-times to help organize, do inventory, help with some of the social media and keep the website running smoothly.”
Her work in managing the marketing is crucial part of our success. When we reopened in April 2020, we changed our hours to accommodate the pandemic and the increased need for used bikes. The Kay Leo Project created an excellent website, www.williamsportbicyclerecycle.org. Tegan maintains the site, which includes the managing the inventory so that we keep a current listing of bikes for sale. She also expanded the social media. And, she continues in her “managerial” style, keeping us in order on her regular visits. When we come in and things are organized and ready to go, we know Tegan has been there.
Mike came into the shop in early 2020, just before the pandemic. He looked around, made a few comments, and we talked for a short time. We instantly knew he was a good fit for us. He’s been our chief mechanic ever since.
Mike seems to be able to fix anything mechanical. He also has the skills that fit our mission. He works with customers, teaching them about their bike as the repair proceeds. He’s been a rider for years and will talk with a person to help them select just the right bike from our inventory or help them find parts to build a unique bike. He’ll handle quick fixes, and during busy times, demonstrates multitasking in action. He can answer a question about a bike whose owner is standing by the desk at the same time he continues adjusting a brake while the owner learns to understand the problem and the solution.
Mike also is generous with information for our volunteers. He can look at a bicycle to see behind the obvious problems, find the place where the many tiny pieces need to fit together, and – this is the real skill – find replacements in our used parts departments.
Dan has been a key in the rejuvenation of our shop. His carpentry and planning skills were essential for the expansion of the shop in the last several years. He is amazing in his ability to find tools and equipment that add to our capabilities. He
also performs an essential service in taking unusable bikes and parts to Stamens for recycling.
When you call on the phone or visit our website, you will come in contact with Louisa. She is the center of the human side of our enterprise.
She engages with our volunteers to show how much we appreciate what they do. She reaches out to schools, scout groups, bike clubs, and other non-profits that serve the needy to make them aware of how the shop can help meet their transportation and bike maintenance needs. She then coordinates the delivery of these services.
She coordinates our efforts to make our area safer and more accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians.
Williamsport Bicycle Recycle is more than fixing and selling bikes.
David shares the responsibilities of managing the shop and planning for its future. In addition, for many years he has advocated for safer better biking and walking, activities that make cities more livable for residents and more interesting for tourists.
Growing up, he explored the many places the family lived. Once he and a friend biked the entire length of Manhattan and back to Governors Island. But his interest in repairing bikes didn’t begin until his wife gave him a full set of Park Tools and a repair stand for Christmas. This followed many years of riding a trail in the middle of nowhere and hearing cries of “David! Help! Something sounds funny on my bike!”
Ten years ago when his old car died, he took the big step. No second car. In his chartreuse jacket and bike helmet, he can be spotted on his e-bike doing errands downtown and going back and forth from the Pajama Factory
In the shop, David can usually be found working from the new work station, bending over to examine a broken derailer, or helping a neighborhood kid fix a flat tire.