Many inner city kids don’t have safe places to ride. On top of that they often have no bikes to ride. In Syracruse, New York, this was the case until part time blogger, part-time community volunteer, Alexandre Leclercq, took his passion for old bikes and turned it into a way to help his community’s kids.
“The program started with my blog,” said Leclercq. “I love repairing old bikes. I love customizing them. I love certain old fashioned looks. I love riding for style and pleasure, rather than for performance, and I felt there was a certain bike culture missing in Syracuse.”
Leclercq told BikeRadar that the local bike shops sold high-end performance oriented bicycles that were beyond the cost most kids today could afford. And the big-box retailers only sell low-end mass-produced bikes. “So I thought I would experiment with a blog that would promote repairing and customizing old bicycles and bicycling in style,” said Leclercq, who went on to create Syracuse Bicycle Works. “Through that blog I try to push forward a certain aesthetic and ethos that's been missing so far.”
Leclercq then took his blog from the digital world to the real world in his community. At the time he started the website, he was volunteering in on the west side of Syracuse. “It's the Latino district,” Leclercq added. “One of the poorest neighborhood in the nation.
“There, kids and adults ride bikes all the time,” said Leclercq, who runs a workshop, which now meets at the local Mundy Branch Library every other Saturday.
This program allows for kids come and use his tools to fix up their bikes. “I give them tutorials on how to do certain repairs or customizations,” said Leclercq. “We work on specific projects together, like the West Side Art Council's bike show last year. We go on rides together, like on Syracuse' Creek walk.”
He also now encourages the kids to ride more, and this often just requires showing them how to maintain their bikes, which would otherwise be crippled by flat tires, loose chains, defective brakes, or a general lack of tuning.
A lot of the club’s worth work centers on making bikes easier for youthful hands to maintain; such as opting for coaster brakes, and building up single-speeds that need little maintenance. “I also push them to opt for bigger bikes, rather than the usual BMX, so that they can go further with them and discover other neighborhoods or landmarks in the city of Syracuse.”