MANCHESTER, NH – It’s around 5 p.m. on a recent Thursday, and if the jumble of kids with bikes on the corner of Spruce and Union doesn’t give away the location of QC Bike Collective, the lady with the bike pump surely will.
Abby Easterly can usually be found solving bike problems during the twice-weekly open shop hours along with shop manager Tyler Glodt – Tuesday and Thursdays from 5-8 p.m., and every other Saturday, although it’s best practice to check the calendar on their website. For instance a car accident in March forced the shop to close temporarily for window repairs. But not for long. Their mission, serving inner-city bike riders, is too important.
After two years at its current location at 373 Uni0n St., Easterly says the group is so successful, it’s outgrown its space, and is seeking a larger building.
“We’d like to stay in center city. Neighborworks Southern New Hampshire is helping us, but if anyone has a great space for sale, tell them to let us know,” Easterly says, while checking the tires on a bike brought in by Amos Thomas, 14.
“These aren’t the greatest tires,” she says, confirming what he already knows: He needs two new tires. But for now, Easterly can get him rolling again. He says he’ll be back Saturday with some money earned from chores to get the tires, and someone from the shop will guide him through the process of changing the tires.
That is a big part of the Bike Collective’s mission, to empower residents to ride more bikes and learn how to maintain them in the process. They provide space, tools, equipment, and expertise, so that community members can repair their bicycles at minimal cost and get a helping hand, as needed.
They also accept donated bicycles from which they salvage useful parts and recycle them. Bikes in better shape can be revived and sold at affordable prices from the shop, although right now they’re just about at capacity for bike donations.
“I hate to say that, because we hate to turn a bike away, but you can see we’re pretty much out of space,” she says.
Easterly is also always looking for ways to increase bike ridership, and came up with a new idea after speaking to a mom who was born outside of the U.S., who stopped by the shop. She shyly admitted that she’d never had the opportunity to learn to ride.
“We’re planning a special program, especially for women and girls who never learned to ride, because we’ve learned that there are a lot of them around the city who’d like to learn,” says Easterly.
“I’m not sure when, but we’re going to do it probably end of summer or early fall,” Easterly says, stepping inside the building to look for a pair of training wheels for a 16-inch bike for a dad in distress, who just popped by. He says he will come back on Saturday, his day off, because the normal open shop hours don’t leave him enough time to get the bike there after work.
“Sure, see you Saturday,” Easterly says, heading back to the bike triage waiting for her on Spruce Street.
What started in July 2014 as a handful of community bike clinics has expanded to a full-service shop with regular hours, which Easterly would like to expand as well.
Abdi Hassan,11, is there on his Outlook Diamondback waiting for a friend – it is his replacement bike, after one he earned during the annual Earn-a-Bike initiative, in partnership with the city Health Department at Beech Street and Gossler Park schools, got stolen. The program awarded about 180 bikes this year to kids who hit benchmarks including healthy lifestyle changes, grades, homework, and attendance.
Abdi says he loves having a bike, that it gives him not only a fun activity, but allows him freedom. He’s also learned through his bad experience of losing a bike, to take better care of his replacement bike.
“I lock it up all the time,” he says of his bike. “Riding feels cool. I love it,” he says.
Luul Osman, 11, also earned a bike, a light blue Magna. She and her friend, Ashley Yussuf, 9, say they also love riding bikes around the city, and that they appreciate having the bike shop so close to home.
“It’s a good feeling to be on my bike,” Luul says.
Brian Carton of Pelham has arrived for his volunteer shift, and there’s plenty to do inside the shop. Carton, an avid bicyclist, says when he found out about the Manchester bike collective he wanted to get involved.
“Anything that helps more people get on bikes is something I want to get behind,” says Carton, who also designated the bike collective to receive automatic donations through a payroll deduction with his employer.
“Many companies offer payroll deductions. It’s easy, and it’s a great way to directly help organizations you believe in. For me, the work they do here is so important, and I’m really proud to help,” Carton says.
Also there to help is Bernie Fournier, another volunteer and avid bike rider.
“This is the place for those who need a bike and are usually in financial need themselves. Abby sells great bikes at affordable prices, and also every viable product to go with, from safety lights and helmets to locks,” says Fournier.
Always wanted: Volunteers who have a little know-how and a heart for community, or donations in the form of bicycles, parts, and cash which are all tax deductible if made through their fiscal agent – NeighborWorksSNH. Just use the “designation” pull-down menu and select QC Bike Collective, or mail a check to NWSNH with “QC Bike” in the memo line, and mail to PO Box 3968, Manchester, NH 03105.