Knuckle busting, (re)cycling style

Yesterday, Bugman and I showed up at the springtime Recycle Your Cycles event, along with several other members of the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club. RYC has been running for eight years now, thanks to a partnership between Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful and Nebraska Public Power District (the event has been held on their property), and is in a transition phase, with NPPD stepping out next year and WNBC stepping in.

The purposes of the event are to:

  1. Refurbish used bicycles and donate them to people in the community who could use a set of wheels to get around.
  2. Divert recyclable parts of old bicycles out of the landfill. Materials from non-functional bicycles could be recycled, or repurposed into art projects. See here for a post I wrote about how some of the bikes collected in previous years turned into artistic bike racks.

I wasn’t real sure what help I’d be able to provide at the event, given that my bicycle maintenance skills don’t extend much beyond inflating tires, but I found plenty to do, helping people unload bicycles, piling stripped bikes onto the recycle trailer, prying rotted tires from wheel rims, torquing rusted bolts, and salvaging seats, reflectors, kick stands, and chain guards to replace broken or missing parts on still-functional bicycles.

I’m annoyed that I did not give in to my journalistic instinct and run around taking pictures and recording anecdotes, too.

There were a lot of great images to capture, but here is the only picture I took, of Bugman working on stripping down a bike:

bugman workingThe stories of the people who came to drop off bikes were pretty great, too. There was the guy who walked quite a distance pushing two bikes with additional wheel rims hung from the handlebars, who, when thanked, said “thank you for taking them off my hands.” There was the little girl who got a new bike for Easter and was giving up her old bike for another kid to enjoy. There were multiple people who took the time to pull bikes out of neighborhood trash bins to prevent them from winding up in the landfill. And there were a few people who dropped off like-new bikes that were merely a little dusty; they probably could have gotten money for those bikes, but chose to donate them instead.

Working at the event was fun, too. You have to have a little fun.

Me, wheelin' on a kiddie bike. Photo by Susan Wiedeman for Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful

Me, wheelin’ on a kiddie bike.
Photo by Susan Wiedeman for Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful

The super-heavy chopper bike, which had coaster brakes, was the hands-down WNBC favorite. People kept taking breaks from working to ride around the parking lot. Photo by Bugman

Me, on the super-heavy chopper bike, which had coaster brakes. It was the hands-down WNBC favorite. People kept taking breaks from working to ride around the parking lot.
Photo by Bugman

The what-the-heck bike. I had fun imagining how this Frankenstein of a bike might have functioned. Photo by Susan Wiedeman for Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful

The what-the-heck bike. I had fun imagining how this Frankenstein of a bike might have functioned.
Photo by Susan Wiedeman for Keep Scottsbluff-Gering Beautiful

By the end of the four-hour volunteer gig, Bugman and I were pretty worn out and a little bit scuffed up.

Me, soliciting sympathy for my scratched arm, standing in front of the pile of stripped bicycle carcasses destined for recycling / repurposing. Photo by Bugman

Me, soliciting sympathy for my scratched arm, standing in front of the pile of stripped bicycle carcasses destined for recycling / repurposing.
Photo by Bugman

Everybody had a banged-up knuckle or two, but I think we were all satisfied that we had managed to make a positive contribution to the community. The Potter’s Wheel van that came to collect the refurbished bicycles for redistribution was completely filled with nearly 30 functional bicycles.

The event probably could have refurbished more bicycles if we’d had more resources, including time, skilled bike mechanics and replacement parts. We didn’t have money to spend on parts, nor a cache of stored parts to draw upon, so we were limited to what we could do with parts stripped from other bicycles received that day. Replacement tires and especially inner tubes were a major need, since the puncturevine in this area tends to do a number on bicycle tires. A triage system was in effect, with only the bikes in the best condition getting the TLC needed to make it to a new owner.

If you have bicycles you’d like to donate to the community or, better yet, skills or materials to donate to the cause, RYC will continue next spring in a new location – keep an eye on local media for details!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

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