[TheThinkTank] Earn A Bike Programs

Dylan Horne dylanrosshorne at gmail.com
Wed Feb 2 03:13:47 PST 2022

Hi Y'all,

At The Pedal Factory in Salisbury, NC, we developed a worksheet for
Earn-A-Bike folks to work through (attached). The worksheet guides them
through our shop mission, basic bike maintenance skills, how to select a
bike, learning the parts of the bike and common tools, as well as safe
riding techniques. They also complete 3 volunteer tasks around the shop, as
their sweat equity contribution. Depending on the need for that day, it
could be cleaning up, sorting parts, unloading the trailer, moving bikes,
or whatever special task might need to be done. They also breakdown one
bike, usually a junker, to get salvageable parts for our used parts
inventory, and to introduce them to turning wrenches. It's much easier to
have people take bikes apart than to try and teach each of them the ins and
outs of fixing up whole bikes.

We have volunteers prepare bikes that are potential earn-a-bikes, usually
department store bikes that we value around $100. More expensive bikes can
be earned, but the participant must volunteer additional hours/tasks to
make up the difference, or pay the difference. The volunteers get the bikes
to 90-95% ready to go, so that we can check over the bike with the
Earn-A-Bike participant and fix a thing or two and get them on their way.
Once the worksheet is completed, the participant earns their chosen bike, a
helmet, lights and a lock. We take each person on a safety ride to insure
safe riding techniques and to answer additional questions.

Folks must sign up for Earn-A-Bikes and we have two slots each open shop
day for Earn-A-Bikes. About 60% of people actually come back for their
allotted time. Having folks sign up helps us to manage our time, as well as
reducing the amount of folks that just want to walk in and get a free bike.
We tell folks that it takes 6-8 hours to complete (2 shop days), but some
folks are really proficient and can finish it in 4 hours or so.

Before this, we had a set amount of volunteer hours that must be
completed to earn a bike. We decided to switch to the worksheet to keep
folks focused on what they needed to accomplish, increasing most folks'
ability to work independently. We also created some reference materials
that contain the answers to the worksheets, so folks have a nice laminated
guide to go by.  When we had an hour based system, a lot of staff and
volunteer time was spent trying to get people focused on productive things
instead of just waiting to get the hours.

We have a similar program for youth, with a similar worksheet that they
work through. We don't require youth to complete volunteer tasks or
breakdown bikes, but some participate in these ways voluntarily.

In 2021, 88 people completed earn-a-bikes. The worksheet system was really
helpful in delivering uniform requirements and expectations for all
participants. It also provides a great way for us to track the demographics
and how many people utilize this service.


Dylan Horne, Ph.D.
They / Them
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