Bernie's bikes still delighting kids
With Halloween upon us, it’s only a matter of days before the world will be overrun with twinkle lights and Christmas music. Pretty soon there will be no good way to avoid the approaching holiday season, which means it’s time for youngsters to start filling out those Christmas lists as they finish off the last of their Halloween candy.
For some, those lists might include a new bicycle. Buying bikes can be expensive, especially for young children who will likely outgrow it before spring, that’s where Sparta’s Bernie Becker comes in.
For the last six years or so, Becker has salvaged and repurposed hundreds of used children’s bikes and given them away for free to those in need of a new bike.
“Originally I started with the bigger bikes, but I kept finding all of these little ones,” Becker said, adding a neighbor told him he could sell the bikes for cheap. “I’d rather just donate them. It makes me feel good.”
A lot of times, Becker finds the bikes, which oftentimes look brand new, discarded on the curb in random places, but on numerous occasions he has walked out his front door to find bikes as well as random parts and accessories on the curb in front of his apartment building.
“If they’re in bad shape and I can’t fix them, I take them apart and use them for parts,” he said, adding it keeps waste out of the landfill. “I take the tires off of them and the seats. I typically don’t let anything go to waste.”
By the grace of his landlord, Becker has a space in the basement of his building where he can work on the bikes and store spare bike parts, including rows of tires and boxes of training wheels and bike seats.
Local kids will even come to him for help repairing their bikes. A few weeks ago, a young man came to Becker needing a new chain and tire on his bike.
“I made him put it on himself and that way he learned how to do it,” Becker said. “I watched him if he needed help and he got it back together himself. Now he knows how to do it.”
He’s also seen some of his bikes come back to him when the kids have outgrown their bikes and are ready for bigger ones.
Currently, Becker has 19 bikes of varying sizes he would like to give away. “This year it seems like people have been throwing them away left and right,” he said he has fixed more bikes this year than in years past.
Becker often donates the bikes to Mary Morrow’s Attic where they are sold and the profits go toward the Morrow Home Community. Becker’s bikes are also available at Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry downtown where individuals can pick them up for free.
“We’re getting close to Christmas and a bike always makes a nice gift,” Becker said.
For individuals looking for a new bike, Becker is happy to help. He can be contacted by phone at (608) 269-3426 or individuals can visit him at 301 N. Water Street.