In Montco, Second Wind Bicycles repairs and delivers bikes to people who need them the most

The nonprofit distributed 650 bikes last year to people in need throughout Montgomery, Berks and Bucks counties.

Second Wind Bicycles provided 650 bikes to people in need in 2023. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

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A glittering sea of bikes stretches out in a backyard driveway in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania. The 500 sets of wheels shimmer in the midday heat, waiting to hit the road with their new owners.

Zac Gery started Second Wind Bicycles in 2021 after realizing that many residents throughout Montgomery, Berks and Bucks counties didn’t have access to bicycles.

“I started reaching out to local organizations and saying, ‘Is this something that you’re struggling with?’ And the answer universally was ‘yes,’” Gery said. “Every single person said no one’s doing this, this is a common problem.”

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The nonprofit, led by Gery and 14 other volunteers, has grown exponentially over time. In their first year of operation, they repaired and distributed 60 bikes. In 2023, they gave out 650 bikes. This year, Gery said they’re on track to deliver anywhere from 700 to 800 bikes.

Second Wind accepts donated and abandoned bikes and repairs them to distribute to the people who need them the most. The recipients include those experiencing homelessness, people in recovery programs and residents who are looking for a faster, better way to get to work and lack the resources to buy a car or bike. The organization also offers kids bikes and does several giveaway events throughout the year.

The organization keeps repair costs below $50 a bike to be able to help as many people as possible. When a bike is too far gone to repair, Second Wind strips all usable parts before sending the rest to a local scrapper.

Zac Gery Second Wind Bicycles
Zac Gery, executive director of Second Wind Bicycles, founded the organization in 2021 to repair bikes and distribute them to people in need of transportation. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

But Gery said it’s not just about “the cheapest way” to fix the bike. They make sure to incorporate all recipients’ feedback, and will regularly swap out certain kinds of seats or grips.  They also want to ensure that the bike will last for a while.

“We try to use this as our example all the time,” Gery said. “If I give this to somebody who’s homeless, who’s living in a tent outside, and therefore this bike is going to sit outside all the time, is that going to fail quickly?”

If the answer is yes, they’re going to replace what they need to to ensure it can be used.

“We’re not trying to give somebody a bike for a month,” he said. “We’re trying to give somebody a bike for hopefully a year or two that can help them down that journey.”

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Their overall goal is to be a “stepping stone,” Gery said, to help people move forward in their lives, whether they’re going through recovery from substance abuse, dealing with homelessness, or simply in need of a way to get around.

“I could just tell you how many times people ultimately are saying, ‘Look, I’m just barely making it by,’ and I think that’s the challenge, is that it’s hard to see a problem when it appears okay, when they’re just scraping by,” he said.

Second Wind Bicycles
Second Wind Bicycles provided 650 bikes to people in need in 2023. (Emily Neil/WHYY)

Inside the repair shop, each part is meticulously labeled and recorded for every bike that is triaged. Gery said the thank you letters and drawings from little kids that adorn the walls are a reminder to the volunteers about why the work matters.

He recalled a recent interaction with a bike recipient who was in desperate need of transportation for his daily commute to work. When Gery delivered the bike to him, the person immediately rode off without saying goodbye.

Fifteen minutes later, he called Gery.

“He’s like, ‘I’m so sorry,’” Gery said with a laugh. “He’s like, ‘I was so happy to have a bike that I just completely forgot you were there.’”

People interested in donating bikes, or receiving one, can contact Second Wind Bicycles by text at (484) 212-5160‬, or via email by writing to Gery said donors can also drop  off bicycles at: 1690 Swamp Pike Road, Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania.

Second Wind is hosting a kids bike, helmet and lock giveaway event Saturday, July 13 in Boyertown. More information can be found online.

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