Amy Fox first got connected with Sharing Wheels more than 15 years ago. She had a beloved Bridgestone MB3 mountain bike that she no longer used (after upgrading to a more modern bike).
She donated her classic bike “reluctantly but with great belief that it would find a new home with someone who really needed it.”
“Connecting unused bikes to people who need wheels,” is a big part of what Sharing Wheels does by refurbishing and repurposing donated bikes.
Since her first bike donation, Amy has taken repair classes at Sharing Wheels, volunteered at our Kid Bike Work Parties, and donated her parent’s beloved tandem to the shop.
She and her husband Brice Howard (a former board president of Sharing Wheels) are yearly financial donors to the organization as well.
”I am inspired to provide bikes to children and adults who need them,” she says. She values our programs that help people work on their own bikes, and that support people who need to bike to get around.
Amy has loved biking since she was a kid. Her first bike was named “Tinkerbell”, complete with a white basket, purple tassels and a white banana seat. Cruising down her dead end street, with tassels dancing from the one speed she went, fast.
After getting in a car crash at age 17, Amy got around solely by bike until she was 25. “Having a bike meant freedom from the anxiety that I had developed around driving a car. It also gave me more confidence in myself, that I could independently get places, just putting my foot on the pedal and pushing.”
We would like to introduce Ed Roos as our new Shop Manager! Ed started with us on staff right after Labor Day, but he first came to Sharing Wheels as a volunteer during our Holiday Kid Bike Work parties last fall.
He then joined a new volunteer training in January and donated his time in our shop and at outreach events every week since.
Ed has been an urban bike commuter for most of his working life. He has also “biked every nook and cranny of Western Washington”, participating in the STP, The Chilly Hilly, RSVP, The Tri Island and many other bike rides in the area.
His recent professional experience was serving as an elementary school principal in Seattle Public Schools. He has since started an education consulting business, which he’ll continue to do on the side.
Like his predecessor Aaron Taht, a big part of Ed’s job is keeping things organized, keeping volunteers busy on useful projects, and keeping customers happy.
Andrew Longstreet continues as our main bike mechanic. Executive Director Christy Cowley is excited to have Ed on staff as a partner in the growth of Sharing Wheels as an organization.
“His past professional experience of leading teams, developing training programs and improving operational efficiency will serve our organization well as we move forward,” she said.
From June 17 to June 30, our Executive Director Christy Cowley embarked on a 14 day, guided ride across France. Starting on the northern Normandy coast at Ouistreham on the English Channel, she rode southwards for approximately 870 miles through the stunning French countryside. Experiencing the Loire Valley, Puy-de-Dome and Provence, she finished the tour near Nice on the Mediterranean Sea.
Her group numbered 24 cyclists with 3 guides, one of which rode with the group and acted as the sweeper to ensure everyone was kept on the correct course. The other two drove the ‘brew vans’, which would meet them at mile 15 and then again after lunch at about mile 55 to provide much needed fuel and liquid throughout the day. In Europe, brew typically implies coffee and tea, not beer. The riders luggage was transported to their accommodations each day, so they didn’t have to worry about lugging it on their bikes.
The ride took place almost exclusively on local roads, with a few miles on paved trails. “We were rarely on roads with much traffic. When cars did pass us, they always gave plenty of room to the cyclists,” Christy recalled. “Traffic didn’t get heavy until the final days as we got closer to Nice. Most of the days we were in very unpopulated areas of France. But even on the heavy traffic days, the drivers were careful to give us space.” They crossed the entire country and not a single car honked or tried to run her off the road!
During her ride, Christy experienced a wide range of temperatures, from heat, cold, rain and even hail. On the final day of riding, there was a serious rain and hail storm so the rider took cover in the tunnels with the cars, whom also took shelter in the tunnels to wait out the storm. 2 hours later they were swimming in the Mediterranean.
Great food and spectacular views
France is renowned for its food, and there was no shortage of good food to eat. Staying away from the fried foods like the french fries, or frites, they dined on Croissants, yogurt, fruit and eggs every morning. “We always looked forward to the lunch stops at local restaurants (provided by the tour) or picnics in the countryside,” Christy said. “I honestly forgot what it felt like to be hungry.”
Christy said that one of the most spectacular days was on day 13 when they rode into the Gorges du Verdon. This stunning gorge is the second largest in the world after the Grand Canyon. They started the ascent near the azure waters of the Lake de Saint Croix and slowly pedaled their way to the top of the gorge. The most beautiful aquamarine Verdon River greeted them at the bottom of the descent, and yes, “I did take a dip to cool down.”
Another standout was the ascent of Mont Ventoux. “The climb was on Day 11 so we had 10 days to fret and chat about it,” Christy said. “It’s a long, slow grind just as advertised, so I just found the (slow) pedal cadence that I could comfortably maintain and tried to enjoy every single moment. Conditions were perfect, low 70s with cloud cover. The descent was a blast!”
Fixing a flat
Asked about a nice detail about the trip, Christy recalled an experience with a flat tire. “At the end of one of the rainy days we were about 5 miles from our hotel and completely drenched. One of the riders got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. Well, almost nowhere. There happened to be one small country house and a lady popped out in her raincoat and umbrella,” Christy said.
“She spoke only French and we spoke only English. At some point as she was speaking (really fast in French) I heard the word ‘garage’. I repeated the word and she turned around and led us into her garage so we could fix the flat out of the rain. It was such a kind gesture and she was happy to watch as we repaired the flat, all the while talking in French and smiling. With the flat repaired, she guided us out of her garage and waved goodbye.”
Our goal this spring was to clean and repair 55+ kids bikesin time forsummer.Thanks to dedicated volunteers, we exceeded our goal and donated 64 bikes to low income families through June.
Volunteers Larry and Tony again hosted each of the 16 work parties, with assistance from our staff mechanic Andrew. Many volunteers returned again and again, refurbishing a total of 79 kid bikes that had been donated to us. *
We partnered with other organizations to get the fixed bikes to low income families. Kids got bikes through:
An additional 75 kid bikes donated to us by community members are waiting to be repaired during our Christmas House program that starts in the fall. Until then, a generous Lake Stevens resident who works for Cascade Bicycle Club heard about our need for bike storage and donated her garage.
*The extra “done’ bikes are now for sale to support the shop.
Have extra space in your secure, water-tight garage or shed for kids bikes and a good cause? Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop needs space to store bikes that have been donated for our Christmas House program.
The bikes will be repaired by volunteers this fall and donated to low income families for the holidays.
If you live in Everett and have extra space to store up to 75 kid bikes from now until Dec. 1, Sharing Wheels will pay you up to $100 per month.
Sharing Wheels won’t need access to the bikes until mid-September. Once the fall kids bike program gets rolling, volunteers would need access to the stored bikes about once a week (scheduled in advance).
If you are interested in helping out this community program, please contact Executive Director Christy Cowley at email@example.com
Do you like to learn new things and make children smile? That’s what motivates regular volunteers at Sharing Wheels kid bike repair parties. The events continue on Tuesday and Thursday nights through June, and anyone is welcome to attend – no mechanical experience needed.
Starting from scratch is exactly what first got 71-year-old Gordon Ayars into the shop to help one year ago. “I wanted to experience and remember what it was like to learn something absolutely new to me,” he said.
With shop staff and experienced volunteers to teach him, Gordon has learned about derailleurs, “multitudinous brake systems,” and that 27-inch tires are actually BIGGER than tires marked 27.5 inch. Gordon doesnt bike himself anymore, but he recalls many adventures biking around Snohomish County on an English 8-speed bike that he purchased for $63 in about 1964.
Marysville resident Pete Pias already volunteers in the shop every week working on adult bikes and helping customers. But he loves serving a whole different demographic through the kids bike program. He was in the shop recently when a Ukrainian mom came in with her daughter to pick up a kids bike that volunteers had refurbished. Pete wasn’t sure how much English the family knew, but one thing was clear: “The child was really cute and really happy to get a bike,” Pete says. Pete has fond memories of biking with his family when he grew up in Wisconsin.
Memories of biking everywhere as a kid are the main reason Jeff Austin has been helping at kid bike repair parties since 2021. “I had seen an article in the Everett Herald about the Sharing Wheels holiday bike program,” Jeff says. “The importance of a bike to a kid is still fresh in my memory.” Last year, a Herald story about helping refugee families through our free bike programs included photos of Jeff.
A retired Boeing engineer, Jeff also loves working with his hands. “I’m still fascinated by machines – a bicycle is an extraordinary machine!” he says. “The opportunity to learn is a draw as well. Larry, Tony, Andrew and Lou are all awesome and very knowledgeable instructors. I learn something every time I work in the shop.”
Like many of us, Jeff has fond memories of the various bikes he owned and outgrew as a kid – all Free Spirits (since his dad worked for Sears & Roebuck, which sold them). “The coolest one was red, white and blue with a banana seat,” Jeff recalled.
As the year ends, I want to look back at one of our new, major programs from 2022: Mobile Bike Repair Clinics.
Getting a broken bike to the Sharing Wheels shop for quick repairs can be a challenge for anyone, but especially for someone who lives beyond our neighborhood or has no other mode of transportation. We recognized this and decided to act.
Partnering with the Evergreen and Mariner libraries, churches, and other places where low-income folks might congregate, we set up our pop-up repair stand and offered 15 free bike repairs events in 2022!
Off we went into the community, with two volunteer mechanics, a mobile tool kit, and lots of extra bike parts. And like so many of our in-shop encounters, our services were not limited to free repairs.
One of our very first customers at the Mariner Library clinic was a middle schooler who lived at the homeless shelter across the street and had scheduled his summer day around being first in line at our pop-up repair clinic. He rolled in with a wobbly rear tire just as we were setting up, using both his feet to slow him down, asking if we could fix his bike.
Turned out his bike was hopelessly beyond repair, but we fixed the wheel and did our best with the brakes. We arranged with his mom to deliver a much safer and fully functional bike, as well as a ‘super cool’ skater helmet, from our shop inventory the following week. He was pleased and so were we!
And bikes weren’t the only wheeled form of transportation we fixed. At the First Baptist Church in downtown Everett we repaired 10 walkers (all of which were long overdue for maintenance) while customers enjoyed the church’s Friday night meal service. It felt good to help and see people maneuvering their repaired walkers back to the bus stop with ease.
Of the 79 people we served at our free mobile bike repair clinics this year, these are just a couple examples of the meaningful contributions and impact we have on people and their ability to stay mobile.
And simply none of the repairs could have happened without a grant from The Larson Legacy Foundation or our amazing volunteers who staffed the pop-up repair stand and greeted every customer and their bikes with respect and encouragement. The volunteers’ dedication to our mission, of keeping people and bikes (and now walkers!) moving, allows us to continue to expand our offerings beyond the walls of our shop.
It’s been a privilege to work with our community partners who have helped promote this new program and we can’t wait to double down in 2023 with even more bike repair events around Snohomish County.