This is one of a collection of stories about philanthropy in Snohomish County.
EVERETT — For many a cyclist, the road to freedom and convenience runs through a windowless shop off a back alleyway.
Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop rebuilds donated bicycles. Throughout the year, the nonprofit takes in unused mountain bikes and road bikes, BMXes and beach cruisers, even tricycles and tandems.
Flats get fixed, brakes changed. The inventory is resold.
“Our primary mission here is to be able to provide affordable, reliable transportation,” shop manager Josh Pfister said.
A fully overhauled ride generally fetches $225 to $300, though some bikes that haven’t been fully refurbished cost less. Cyclists in need of repairs can stop in and use tools for free.
Sharing Wheels also is known for sending bikes to Christmas House, an Everett charity where children can pick up gifts for the holiday. They aim to supply 100 this year. The shop each spring hosts the Kids Bike Swap, giving youngsters a chance to trade in an old bike and get credit toward a new one.
When there are more donated bikes than Sharing Wheels volunteers can fix, the overstock gets shipped to Africa through the Seattle-based Village Bicycle Project. Other programs include giving out free safety lights, hosting repair workshops and setting up bicycle parking at events around Everett to encourage people to arrive on two wheels.
“Sometimes people think of us as being about kids bikes,” said Kristin Kinnamon, who serves on Sharing Wheels’ board. “Year round, we are more about adult bikes. For us, bikes are for people of all ages. They’re for transportation, they’re for health and they’re for sustainable communities.”
The nonprofit has been running since 2002. Some pivotal changes took hold last year, when Sharing Wheels hired Pfister as its first paid employee. Until then, the community bike shop had relied solely on volunteer labor — which remains its driving force.
A grant from the city of Everett has allowed the shop to open for regular weekend hours. Through the winter, that will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Sunday hours are set to resume in the spring.
The nonprofit grew out of bike mechanic Ron Toppi’s work helping homeless people at Everett Gospel Mission with bicycles.
Kristi Knodell helped Toppi incorporate the nonprofit 15 years ago and later served as a long-time shop manager. Knodell, who is Kinnamon’s wife, stepped down from that position after Pfister joined the staff.
Kinnamon also is the president of B.I.K.E.S. Club of Snohomish County, an organized cycling group that provided Sharing Wheels with a $1,200 grant for Christmas House bike repairs. The cash helps cover up to $20 in replacement parts for each donated kids bike. An hour or two of labor goes into fixing each one.
“You can’t sell a kids bike to recoup that amount of resources so it’s definitely a labor of love,” Kinnamon said.
Pfister, 36, grew up in south Everett and graduated from Mariner High School. Bike-building has been a passion since childhood and a sometimes career since his teens.
“I’ve been doing this since I was in high school — about 20 years now,” he said. “I’ve almost always had my foot in a bicycle shop somewhere.”
As at other shops, Pfister is spending the slower winter months gearing up for crunch time when the weather improves and business gets brisk.
His office these days is in a commercial building at 2531 Broadway that once housed a dairy. The shop was the cooler — hence the 8-inch-thick entry door and lack of windows.
Inside, it’s a controlled jumble of metal, with Diamond Backs and Mongooses, Schwinns, Univegas and other brands. Stacks of milk crates brim with pedals, derailleurs and brakes.
“They’ve been in disuse, just hanging in someone’s garage,” Pfister said. “By the time we send a bike out, we try to make it as good as new if not better.”
Ways to help
Sharing wheels is looking for gently used bikes, a couple of board members and some elbow grease.
The shop accepts bike donations whenever they’re open — they’re also happy to accept cash or checks. The board that runs the nonprofit currently has up to two vacancies. Volunteers with bike-repair skills needed to help ongoing work on donated bikes and to staff special events.
Winter hours: Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
2531 Broadway, Everett, WA
More info: https://sharingwheels.wordpress.com