After-school program teaches teens how to fix, ‘win a bike’
At Phoenix Bikes, a nonprofit bike shop and education center, students learn their ABCs. This represents the air, brakes and chain of the basic mechanics of the bicycle.
Phoenix Bikes sells bikes to the public from its business in Arlington, Virginia. But it also teaches teenagers how to repair bicycles.
Most students in Phoenix begin with its after-school “win a bike” program, at middle and high schools in and around Arlington County. Once a week over a 12-week period, students learn repair techniques. They learn to use tools, repair punctures, align the wheels, and adjust brakes and gears. The first lesson is to disassemble the bike or strip it of its basic structure, the Frame. By doing this they learn all the parts of a bike.
For the first few weeks, they work in small groups to repair a bicycle donated to the store. Bikes often have missing or damaged parts.
The finished bike is then donated to someone in need in the community. Phoenix Bikes manager Emily Gage said the store is partnering with several local organizations to donate the bikes. Some bikes went to Afghan refugees resettled in the area.
During the last four weeks of the program, students come to the workshop to work on one of the donated bikes which they can then take home free of charge.
Anthony Jimenez-Galindo is a student at nearby Wakefield High School. He just finished his bike. He said it wasn’t in good shape at first, but it was the kind of bike he was looking for and could be turned into something better. He said there were no brakes, no front tire and there was no chain or cassette, which controls the gears.
“It was junky but it looked good, that’s really my only reason behind it. It was a really nice bike and… I was willing to go the extra mile to fix it.
Jimenez-Galindo said he joined the program to work better with his hands and fix things.
“And also because I wanted to learn how to fix and fix a bike. And so far, I’m learning pretty well.
Wakefield student Owen Spiegel spoke about what happened to fix his bike, as he put the finishing touches on it.
“Well, when I started the bike I wanted to test, see how everything worked. So first I wanted to see how the brakes worked – the brakes didn’t work at first.
Other than that I went to put the pedals on first to test the gears and the gears seem to be working fine. Then putting the brakes on – that was the hardest part. I had to fully reattach that brake, and then I had to adjust that brake so that, you know, it actually works.
Phoenix Bikes is training 300 to 400 young people this year. Phoenix communications coordinator Emily Rippy said the classes were fun and allowed students to learn with their hands after sitting in class all day at school. Gage added that bicycles are interesting for teenagers, especially because they are a means of transport and freedom. Learning to fix a bike can also be fun challengeshe says.
“It’s complex enough to be challenging and to feel really useful when they figure out the skills, but simple enough for a teenager to learn. So that’s just the right level of challenge.
Some students who complete the 12-week program take an advanced level bicycle mechanics course. Some race bikes for the store race team. And others stay to volunteer at the store and fix more bikes to donate. The current Phoenix store manager, Noe Cuadra, was a student who won a bicycle in high school. Other full-time workers in Phoenix have also completed the Win-a-Bike program.
Jimenez-Galindo said he hopes to return to the store to fix bikes for the community and continue learning.
What is his favorite part of the experience?
“Just, the joy, the satisfaction that I get once it’s done. That now it’s completely over, and it’s actually a bike instead of what used to be a dissect of one.”
I am Dan Novak.
Dan Novak wrote this story for VOA Learning English.
words in this story
teenager — not a young person between 12 and 19 years old
adjust -v. change something in a minor way to make it work better
align — v. to change something so that it matches, adapts or is in line with something else
equipment — nm a wheel in a machine that has teeth
Frame — nm the basic support structure of something
challenge -not. a test of strength or skill, a difficult task to do
dissect — not. the outside of something from which the inside has been removed