By Tim Collins
Last year, when Rob Barron decided to return to Victoria, he moved in with his childhood friend Rob Keats and, together, they decided to embark upon a unique business venture from their home at 1330 Finlayson St.
“We knew that a lot of bikes are regularly tossed out, and that thousands of bikes were sitting, unused and forgotten in sheds and garages. We figured that, with a little bit of care, those bikes could be given a second life with people who wanted to have a reliable bike without having to spend a lot of money for it,” said Barron.
He and Keats had been friends for more than 28 years and spent their younger years repairing friends’ bikes.
“Even as kids, we actually got really good at it,” chuckled Barron.
The business plan was to take donated bikes, as well as bikes that had been discarded or, in some cases, abandoned in places like apartment building storage units, and refurbish them. The adult bikes would then be resold at a fraction of the cost of a new bike.
But it was what Barron, Keats, and their partner George Louie chose to do with the children’s bikes they’d collected that set them apart from most other bike businesses. They took the cycles with wheel diameters of under 20 inches, and they gave them away at no cost.
“We saw how outfitting kids with bikes can be expensive and, in some cases, cost prohibitive. We wanted all kids to be able to ride, so at first we made the decision to repair the children’s bikes we got and donated them to The Cridge Centre for the Family,” said Barron, adding they soon had far more bikes than the Cridge Centre could handle.
That’s when the business decided to take on the direct distribution of children’s bikes to the community.
They placed an ad with Usedvictoria.com in which they offered free children’s bikes to residents of greater Victoria. There were no strings attached and no purchases necessary and, in the beginning, the partners didn’t even ask for identification or keep a record of who received a bike. Children simply arrived at the business, selected their bike, and rode away.
Michell Popoff was the mother of those children. She’d seen the company’s ad online and she and her son went down to the shop on Finlayson to select a bike.
“It was fantastic,” said Popoff. “It’s a great service to the community and my son was very happy with the bike he got from the guys.”
The only thing the partners ask is for the bikes to be donated back to the business once the child outgrows the bike. Kids are then welcome to choose another, bigger bike (still free if the wheel diameter was under 20 inches) and the bike they’ve been using will be tuned up and given to another child in need of a ride.
The response, as one might expect, has been tremendous.
The three partners now have more than 70 children’s bikes on site, ready to be matched with children willing to give those bikes a new lease on life. The bikes range from tricycles and striders to fancy pink girls bikes and boys bikes emblazoned with superheros. They’re all road-worthy and safe, having been given a full tune up by the staff.
When it’s time to graduate to a larger bike, or if parents want a bike of their own to ride along-side their kids, the partners offer a wide selection of used bikes at a fraction of the price of a new bicycle.
“It’s just our way of helping out people while at the same time taking care of our environment,” said Barron. “With a little bit of work these bikes have years of use left in them. They don’t belong in the landfill or the scrap pile.”
The business has been growing so fast they are now considering a move to the West Shore where they hope to take on additional space to handle bikes. For more information visit rebuycycleshop.com.