Who We Are
At Wheels For Kids, we take used bicycles, refurbish them and then, free of charge, see that they get to youth who would otherwise be unable to afford the joy of riding their own bike. Our staff, most of them dedicated cyclists, all volunteer their time to make Wheels For Kids a success.
Wheels For Kids is a nonprofit organization incorporated in the state of Arizona and operating in the Tucson area. We started in 2007 and, since then, our staff of bicycle mechanics have acquired, refurbished and distributed over 1,200 bikes.
Kids at Ronald McDonald House Charities, Tu Nidito Children and Family Services, Youth On Their Own, Casa de Los Niños, El Grupo Youth Cycling and GAP Ministries have all benefited from our efforts.
Please visit our Donate Page and see how you can help.
What Refurbishing A Bike Entails
This little girl’s bike had certainly seen better days. By the time it was donated to us it was barely limping along. In addition to being dirty and marked up, neither wheel was spinning all that well, the handlebars weren’t turning smoothly, the pedals weren’t turning much at all, and the brakes weren’t so much braking as broken.
Some bikes we get are in better shape; some are worse. But as long as we can make them worthy of giving another kid the experience of biking, we take them. Beyond that, though, we also know that if we take a bike like this to refurbish then it isn’t going to end up in a landfill — or worse: given to a child in an unsafe condition.
We usually begin working on a bike by taking it apart. Pretty much everything that can come off the frame is removed so we can get to all the bearings and other various bike innards. Usually, just getting to the bearings (wherever they are), cleaning all the associated parts and reassembling them, “packed” with new grease, will fix whatever was ailing the bike.
For the most part this one was no exception. A lot of things were just gummed up with dirt and grease … a lot of grease. But once that was all cleaned out and things were put back together with the right amount of tightening things improved dramatically. Even the coaster brake pretty much just needed a good cleaning to get all the parts back into working order.
There were a few surprises along the way, of course. Like discovering that once all the grease was removed from the headtube there were more than a few ball bearings missing.
About the only things that no amount of cleaning was going to improve were the pedals — they were just too scraped up. In cases like that, what we do is replace the part. It’s not unusual that we will end up replacing a tire or a chain. We’ve also done our fair share of replacing broken spokes and rusted rims, putting on new brake pads, replacing handlebar grips, … You can see how the expense of getting our mission accomplished can add up over time.
What also adds up of course is the gratification of doing something worthwhile with something that could just as easily have been chucked into the trash as worthless. That’s certainly part of why Wheels For Kids has such a dedicated volunteer staff, as is the fact that all of us love cycling and believe it’s a perfect activity for all kids.
But all of our volunteer bike mechanics also have personal reasons for donating their time like they do. The mechanic who worked on this bike, for example, when asked what it’s like to fix up a bike for someone he doesn’t know and most likely will never meet, had this to say:
“The little girl who gets this bike, whoever she is, is somebody’s daughter; she’s somebody’s granddaughter. I have two granddaughters of my own, Gracie and Katelyn, 4 and 6 years old. When I’m working on a bike like this one, they’re very much on my mind. I just keep working on it until it’s something I’d feel good about giving to one of them.”
Do you have a bike to donate? We have several drop off locations throughout the Tucson area (or we’ll come pick it up). For more information, please visit our Donate Page.