Watch These Teen Bike Mechanics React to Their Cover For Our Latest Issue

·2 min read

From Bicycling

The Community Bike Works students on our latest cover are top-notch mechanics—check out their favorite repairs. They also exemplify the power of bikes, as their CBW programs also teach them the leadership and life skills to excel in school and prepare for adulthood.

The organization was inspired by a letter from an 80-year-old Allentown resident to local bike shop owner Stefan Goslawski. They passed on an article about a bike mechanics program for young people in Indianapolis and thought that such a program would be a great way to reach out to local kids. Stefan agreed, and Community Bike Works opened in 1994. The first Earn a Bike class during the summer of 1995 attracted about 50 kids to repair donated used bikes. Now more than 500 participate in CBW programs at its three eastern Pennsylvania locations every year.

“Once kids are with us, we try to find ways to keep them involved in a broader range of programs, whether that’s our cycling program or our youth leadership program,” says Kim Schaffer, CBW’s executive director. That includes an Earn a Book reading program that also offers homework tutoring. At 12, students can lead lessons, and at 14 they can apply for the paid apprentice program. There are group rides in warmer months on local trails. And each shop offers drop-in hours after school for students to wrench, learn, or just hang out.

Photo credit: Trevor Raab
Photo credit: Trevor Raab

While there are similar organizations across the country, CBW’s Junior Earn a Bike program is the only one for kids as young as 7 and 8 years old. The 12-week curriculum focuses on the three Rs of Community Bike Works: Reading, Riding, and Wrenching. Children learn how to ride their bikes, and what cycling can mean to people, all with a foundation of social and emotional learning.

When those kids turn 9, they are encouraged to join the Earn a Bike program for kids 9 years old and up, which also lasts for 12 weeks. The cornerstone of this curriculum is bike repair and safety, including reading and understanding a bike manual and using tools. They learn communication skills, how to work as a team, and to persevere when faced with challenges. Picking out the bike of their dreams from the donated stock is an exciting experience, but spending three months learning about how every part of your bike works and then riding it off into freedom is practically transcendent.

“They get the satisfaction of turning a broken bike into one that works, one that they earn, and one that they get to take out and ride,” says Kim.

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