Bike boom brought on by pandemic includes nonprofits that refurbish bikes

Like retailers scrambling to fill the demand for new bikes, nonprofit Gearin’Up Bicycles in Northeast D.C. was experiencing a sales boom of its own.

Keith Jackson is the operations manager of the nonprofit that gives young people a chance to get their hands dirty, get some employment training and engage in a variety of community programs.

He said back in March, the nonprofit, housed in a building near the Metropolitan Branch Trail, started seeing a surge in the number of people coming to take advantage of their weekly Saturday sales.

Jackson said his young participants, who train to fix donated bikes and prepare them for sale, were floored by the crowds they started seeing line up on Saturdays in the spring.

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“They literally turned around and looked at me, terrified,” Jackson said, and they asked what they were supposed to do.

“I just told them we’re just going to help them one at a time and do the best we can,” he said.

But as they were preparing for the bike sale Friday, Jackson said they discovered that the bikes they had prepped and ready to sell had been stolen. And, he added, they turned up for sale on the internet “in less than 48 hours” after they’d been taken.

Recovery of the stolen bikes is a long shot, Jackson said, since establishing ownership of the bikes — which had been donated before being refurbished — would be tricky.

Jackson added that the nonprofit is working to come up with a better system to document transfers of ownership should theft ever happen again.

In the meantime, he said, the staff, volunteers and young people who take part in rebuilding the bikes are back to work, planning on being able to hold their normal weekly sale on July 25.

And when they do open their doors for sales again, Jackson said, he’ll continue what has become a bit of a tradition. He’ll introduce his team to the people waiting in line.

“I’ll make sure they come out and get a round of applause for the work that they do.”

Jackson said Gearin’Up Bicycles welcome donations, and they often team up with other, similar organizations in the region for a sale at the Big Bear Café on First Street Northwest.

Other regional organizations include Phoenix Bikes and Velocity Bicycles.

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