Free Ride helps to get cyclists on the road
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Jessica Woodstuff, a student from Morgantown, joined a bicycling club at West Virginia University. She was excited to start mountain and road biking with the club, but there was a problem: She didn't have a bike.
A friend told her about Free Ride, a nonprofit shop where she could get a used bike at a reasonable price. Ms. Woodstuff drove to Pittsburgh in August to find a bike.
Ms. Woodstuff, who said she has a limited income, found a mountain bike on the walls lined with bikes at Free Ride, a bicycle repair shop located inside Construction Junction in North Point Breeze. It is a project of Bike Pittsburgh, a bike safety and advocacy organization. The bike was in decent shape, but it had a cracked headset -- a ring of metal that ensures the bike can be steered.
Ned Schmidgal, a volunteer with Free Ride, offered to help her get started on fixing it. While acknowledging that the fix would be tricky, he said that Free Ride takes "a hands-off approach" and offered her a book that lays out the steps to overhaul the headset.
When Ms. Woodstuff said she had to get back to Morgantown -- she had class in the morning -- Mr. Schmidgal turned to Free Ride's single computer and found a bike repair shop in Morgantown. He advised her on the height of the bike to make sure it was a good fit, and she was all set.
Free Ride offers a variety of services to help people get a bike and get on the road. About 150 people a week use the shop, and more than 350 bikes a year are put on the road thanks to Free Ride, according to treasurer Rachel Dingfelder. The shop offers an earn-a-bike class for youths, in which students learn basic bike mechanics while fixing up used bikes they can keep. There's also a six-week course for adults on how to maintain bicycles. Anyone can use the materials and tools in the shop by becoming a member of Free Ride or making a donation, and there are new and used parts available for use.
Free Ride holds open shops from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Classes and other open shops are available throughout the week; check freeridepgh.org.
-- Annie Tubbs
First Published September 15, 2011 12:00 am