Free Ride and Bike Pittsburgh Rejuvenate Pittsburgh’s Bicyclical Opportunities

By Tyler Baum – 12th Grade, K12 International Academy

In an alcove amidst a room in East Liberty filled with readers stood Scott Gibson, a staff member of Free Ride Recycled Bicycle Co-Op, prepared and eager to give teens a hands-on lesson in bicycle mechanics.  Mr. Gibson has been offering his mechanical and bicyclical expertise to teens and adults for six years as an instructor with Free Ride and Bike Pittsburgh.

Free Ride staff member Scott Gibson stands around the tools he will use for the Bike Pittsburgh Bike Maintenance Workshop on August 5, 2015.

Free Ride staff member Scott Gibson stands around the tools he used for Bike Pittsburgh’s Bike Maintenance Workshop on August 5, 2015.

On August 5th, I attended the Bike Maintenance Workshop sponsored by Bike Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – East Liberty, where I was granted the opportunity to interview Mr. Gibson, view his tools, and learn his approach to teaching.  This event was the third of four summer workshops run by Mr. Gibson, each focusing on distinct aspects of bicycle maintenance and basic mechanics, which took place at different Carnegie Libraries throughout the city.

Each session of the Bike Maintenance Workshops took a “drop-in” approach, which offered teens the chance to either participate in short, twenty-minute activities or spend up to two hours discussing bicyclical mechanics with Mr. Gibson.  On average, eight students attended each session of the workshop, learning various skills ranging from patching tires to rebuilding bearing systems and cleaning the axles of a bicycle.

According to Mr. Gibson, participants have benefited immensely from the Bike Maintenance Workshop’s mission of offering simple skill-building and exploratory activities to intrigued teens.  In the first two sessions of the summer workshop, teens were given a primer on the derailleurs of a bicycle (a bicycle’s transmission system that consists of a chain, sprockets, and a moving piece), as well as a lesson on how to overhaul and rebuild bearing systems, remove and clean the axles, find and patch a hole on a tire, and adjust the brakes.

The Bike Maintenance Workshop has been in existence for nearly six years, but the focus of the program has shifted each summer.  For example, teens often brought their own bikes to the library and repaired them under the guidance of Mr. Gibson during the 2014 Bike Maintenance Workshop series.   Although the 2015 series has focused on using tools provided by Free Ride and Bike Pittsburgh to repair given parts of a bicycle, participants are still permitted to bring personal bikes to the workshops.

The instruction that students receive at the Bike Maintenance Workshop prepares them for the plentiful amount of other bicyclical activities for teens and adults in the city of Pittsburgh.  For example, the Free Ride Recycled Bicycle Co-Op offers “Earn-A-Bike,” a program which allows adults and teens to repair and rehabilitate a donated bicycle at the Free Ride facility in Point Breeze.  Participants are rewarded with the bicycle to take home once it is fully repaired.  The most recent “Earn-A-Bike” program occurred last summer, but Free Ride conducted a follow-up session this summer in efforts to teach students how to conduct a tune-up for their bicycles.

In addition to Free Ride’s efforts to educate and reward local teens, Bike Pittsburgh operates “Positive Spin,” an after-school extracurricular club in which Bike Pittsburgh staff members lead neighborhood bike rides for interested Pittsburgh Public School students.  There are also various summer programs offered by Bike Pittsburgh, including an afternoon session with the Summer Dreamers Academy.  Mr. Gibson stated that Bike Pittsburgh usually takes their students on an annual bike ride to Ohio Pyle or Confluence on the Great Allegheny Passage.

From transportation to entertainment, the skill of riding a bicycle is important for all people to maintain.  Free Ride and Bike Pittsburgh do a marvelous job of educating youth and adults on the life-long skill of bicycle riding.  In addition, the programs are a reliable outlet for students in the summer, keeping them involved and active while learning and maintaining an essential skill.  Free Ride and Bike Pittsburgh plan to continue organizing more events throughout the future for teens and adults.


Tyler Baum 1Tyler Baum is a rising senior at the K12 International Academy and is an active contributor to the iGlobe Newspaper.  He hails from Irwin, PA and plays travel ice hockey and baseball, skis, and enjoys history and visiting national parks.  He lives with a host family in the Washington, D.C. metro area to play ice hockey.

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