By Leigh Mills, NBC 15 Evening News Anchor
“The Bicycle Guy!” It’s the friendly way Andy Quandt always answers his phone. Because cycling is now his life.
In the spring of 2016, Quandt started the BikeMobile, a mobile bike shop. And this year, he reopened Gib’s Bike Shop in Lake Mills and started the Madison chapter of Free Bikes 4 Kidz.
“It’s very important to me,” Quandt says about his new volunteer efforts. “When I started the BikeMobile, and I wrote out my intentions, a big intention was to get involved in the community. My personal mantra became ‘Bikes for everyone.’”
Free Bikes 4 Kidz started in the Minneapolis area 10 years ago. It’s a three-pronged idea: donate, volunteer and give to kids in need. During the Madison chapter’s pilot season in January, Quandt and his volunteers rehabbed and donated 390 bikes to the Dane County Boys & Girls Club.
“It gives kids some sense of ownership and something to be proud of,” says Quandt. “A lot of times it’s the first time they get to feel that way.”
As the nonprofit starts its second collection season, Quandt is hoping to create a sustainable effort that happens every year.
Here’s how it works. First, people in the community donate their used bikes at any of several locations.
The second step is a massive, two-month volunteer effort to rehab the bikes. They bring the bikes to a warehouse and set up workstations. And they need volunteers to sign up.
“Everyone loves giving kids a bike, but really the rehab part is really fun,” Quandt says. “You don’t need to have any skills. There are positions for cleaners, preppers and volunteer mechanics. We hire some mechanics to then act as the quality check, because we want the bikes to be safe, operational and as new as possible. They’re real, working bicycles.”
Quandt says it costs about $30 to process a bike through the system, so if you don’t have a bike to donate but you’d like to participate, the program can always use financial contributions.
The third and final step is donating the refurbished bikes. Quandt’s goal this year is to donate 1,000 bikes to kids in need.
“A bike becomes your first real ticket to freedom. It allows you to get outside of the neighborhood and go explore, especially in Madison with all of the bike paths,” says Quandt. “You can be just about anywhere and get to a bike path safely and go discover a whole new part of the city. I hope it gives kids the confidence to try that.”
Free Bikes 4 Kidz’s next collection is Jan. 13 at any SSM Health Dean clinic in the Madison area. For more collection dates, to volunteer or sign up your organization as a bike recipient, go to fb4kmadison.org.