Community Bike Works: Helping the Lehigh Valley ride for 25 years

Written by on March 3, 2021

Community Bike Works: Helping the Lehigh Valley ride for 25 years

By Ben Stemrich

March 3, 2021

Photo | Ben Stemrich/ WLVR

Allentown natives may know the small bike shop on Madison Street in Center City. Community Bike Works is a non-profit that’s been keeping kids on bikes for 25 years.

WLVR Reporter Ben Stemrich remembers his first ride on two wheels. 

Listen to the story.

“I must have been only 4 or 5 in an Allentown alley with my dad,” he says.”It was about half a mile from where Community Bike Works is located now.”

But this special shop is also a place to learn more than just how to shed the training wheels.

“I feel like I accomplished something. Something new, and it feels really good,” says Siana Delgado of Allentown.

She says she was nervous at first, but now she feels confident.

Executive Director Kim Schaffer says Delgado isn’t the only one.

“Our students tell us that a bike helps them feel free,” Schaffer says.

The organization’s Earn-A-Bike Program teaches kids aged 7 and up to understand the mechanics of a bike, and how to fix one.

 But that’s just the start.

Photo courtesy of Ben Stemrich/ WLVR

“Learning how to fix every system on that bike learning how to ride safely, and at the same time learning a lot of life skills. Teamwork communication, perseverance. You’re not going to learn how to fix your brakes the very first time you try,” Schaffer says.

Delgado has been with the program since Spring of 2019.

“You learn how to do everything with the bike. The gears, the brakes, how to fix a tire, how to inflate a tire. All the basics,” Delgado says. 

She’s earned several bikes. Earn being the key word.

“It teaches you a lot of life lessons. Like not everything is free in life, you have to work for everything and have to actually earn it if I want it,” she says.

Adonis Cannon started with Earn-a-Bike as a kid and now is the Allentown program manager and cycling coordinator.

“You know the bikes pretty much get you here, but what keeps you here is the kids and the relationships that you build with the kids. So it’s kind of like a full circle almost going through the program as a kid and you know finding myself out doing other things in coming back to the program as an adult,” Cannon says. 

Bicycling Magazine’s latest issue showcases the program with a 10-page article and the cover. 

“I don’t know if you’ve seen the one story in the bike magazine about one of our students stopping during the race to help another kid that he didn’t know anything about. He stopped during the race to help him fix his bike,” Cannon says. 

Staff members at Community Bike Works say between the pandemic and transportation issues some kids can’t make it to the shop.

Photo courtesy of Ben Stemrich/ WLVR

But thanks to Emelie Aviles, Community Bike Works’ in-school program manager, there are other options.

“I do what we do here in the shops but I take it to the schools. So I go anywhere like Raub or South Mountain middle schools and I give them an opportunity to earn a bike there and not have to travel here,” Aviles says.

The non-profit has other programs like “Earn-A-Book” and “Youth Leadership” and more for cycling.

Though the pandemic has forced the Earn-a-Bike Program to go virtual, they are still doing group rides and are planning to begin outdoor, in-person classes this spring.

Community Bike Works also plans to open a new location in Easton along with the two in Allentown.

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