Tinkering and giving back motivation for a new venture

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Above: Alex Smith with his free bike giveaway for August.

by Stephen Dafoe

Alex Smith tinkers away in his Morinville garage, a wrench in one hand, the other spinning the wheel of a bicycle. Around him are sprockets, chains, pedals, and frames – parts he has acquired through donations from residents and contributions from Roseridge Landfill’s Recycle a Bicycle program.

He spruces up good bikes and makes not so good bikes rideable again, all part of his new business venture Pedal Power.

“I’m a tinker by heart. I love working on cars and small engines. I love working on bikes,” he said, adding there are enough garages and small engine repair places in town that there was nothing much for him to do at that end of his passion. “When it comes to bikes, I found there were two older gentlemen that had bikes shops, but they retired. So Morinville hasn’t had a bike shop in a long time. I figured I like to tinker, have got lots of spare time and lots of bikes. Why don’t I build some bikes and give back to the community?”

Smith’s venture puts rebuilt and refurbished bikes in the hands of those looking for an affordable set of wheels. None of his bikes are over $100 and his toddler bikes (under 18-inch wheels) are serviced and given away for free.

“It’s for families that have a need for it,” he said of the free wheels for toddlers. “Kids grow so fast at that age. within a year – nine times out of ten – they need another bike.”

Larger bikes – 18- to 20-inch wheels – max out at $40, and non-trick BMX bikes are $50, a little more for those with trick capability. Teen bikes are $40 to $80, and adult bikes are $60 to $100.

“Sales are really good,” Smith said of his new venture. “Lots of people are really loving what’s going on. People like seeing the posts on Rant and Rave [a popular Morinville Facebook page]. I’ve got lots of comments, and people really like what’s going on.”

Smith says his ability to fix bikes comes from being part of a multi-generation family of mechanics and a knack for building bikes from humble beginnings.

“I developed a knack for building bikes when I was eight years old and built my own bikes,” he said. “My family was lower middle class. We had some finances but not enough to buy things like a brand new bike every couple of years.”

When spring clean up came around, Smith would grab still usable parts and frames and assemble them into a bike he could ride for as long as he could ride it, upgrading or repairing every spring clean up when parts were cast off.

Today he is using those skills to help others in similar circumstances.

His sense of giving back to the community for the generosity he has received in being donated parts for the venture is doing a monthly bike giveaway through his Facebook page Pedal Power.

Smith says he takes pleasure in taking something someone wanted to get rid of and giving it new life.

“I’m one of those people that like to repurpose things,” he said. “Doing this something like this goes right down my alley.”

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